Techno Medicine Wheel: An Indigenous Alternate Reality Game

Posted on December 9, 2009, 10:59 pm, by Elizabeth LaPensée, under Games.
Techno Medicine Wheel (TMW), inspired by the work of T’Uty’Tanat-Cease Wyss, is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) from the Aboriginal Media Lab that puts players in the role of healing themselves and the traditional Indigenous territories in and around Vancouver, British Columbia by experiencing Aboriginal values of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.
Medicine Wheel
An ARG is an interactive narrative, which takes place in real world settings and through multimedia, in this case, such as web sites, web games, pre-recorded audio, digital photographs, and short films. The Aboriginal History Media Arts Lab is running the TMW ARG as a demonstration project to show the possibilities of the ARG model as a tool for Aboriginal communities for various needs, including education, economic development, and health. The TMW ARG will demonstrate how to bring community together around making healthy choices, learning about the plants in their lives, and changing their attitudes towards the environment.
Players are acknowledged as members of a community in traditional Coast Salish territory. In the game, the Little People have been following the players and plan for them to be an integral part of renewing the city through plants and trees and themselves through herbal medicines and good food. By finding good words and messages from the Little People, the players are guided on a path of healing in mind, body, and spirit that involves self-empowerment through participating in events and performing Random Acts of Indianness.

Players will trace messages from The Little People to the web site and get prompted to be involved in self-improvement and community development through Random Acts of Indianness and participating in events. When they perform designated Random Acts or participate in events, they are awarded digital or real world rewards such as medicinal herbs. The activities culminate in a final feast to renew the city of Vancouver, British Columbia—the traditional Coast Salish territory.

Little People Messages – Messages will be left in various locations, such as hanging from tree branches or on sidewalks in different forms to be puzzled out. Messages are written in the form of poems.
Random Acts of Indianness – Examples will be put up online and players will participate in the form of short films or photos on the web site, YouTube, or Facebook.
Rewards –
• Paddles: Everyone will receive a paddle as an initial reward for participating in the ARG on any level. The paddle will the text of the web URL on the back.
• Medicinal Herbs: Cease’s herb packages will be awarded to players who perform Random Acts of Indianness.
• Baby Trees: Players who participate in the first event will receive a tree to be planted with follow-up in mapping where all of the trees have been placed.
Tracker – The progress of players is tracked through the representation of the medicine wheel

• Discovering messages from The Little People
• Learning about plants, gardening, medicines, healthy food, traditional uses, healthy living in mind, body, and spirit during events and online
• Supporting public health related efforts through donations to and participation in organizations such as the Good Food Box
• Representing self in performing Random Acts of Indianness and posting them on YouTube, Facebook, or the web site, such as: wearing regalia in public places, gardening in public spaces, planting trees, harvesting berries and making jams
The Little People – Mischievous but out planning good, The Little People are determined to reinvigorate land torn apart by constant development in the wrong direction. The Little People remind us of traditional self and community development.
Plants and TeasRosehips, Burdock Roots, Dandelion Roots, Oregon Grape Roots & Berries, Kinnick Kinnick Leaves, Arbutus Bark, Blackberry Leaves, Valerian Roots, Willow Bark, and Alfalfa Leaves. Teas include Blood Cleanser, Heart & Blood Pressure Regulator, Women’s Moon, Sleepy Time, and Energizer.
• Development and documentation of an interactive game that fuses virtual environments with the physical world
• Academic research and enquiry contextualizing TMW based on Aboriginal research principles
• Demonstrate how diverse communities—non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal—can come together to dialog about healthy practices
• Dialogue and interaction with organizations such as the First Nations Technology Council and other facilitators and end-users of new media
• Explore how individuals can develop a greater awareness of traditional plants in urban environments—specifically in Vancouver, a rich traditional territory of plants and animals
• Explore how ARGs have potential application in other areas of public health and education around Aboriginal knowledge and well-being
• Hands-on presentation of the demonstration project in small gatherings, providing participants with map of how to implement similar projects in their communities
The Aboriginal History Media Arts Lab (Aboriginal Media Lab) is a place where filmmakers, artists, community people, academics and educators gather to heighten understanding of Aboriginal history, art, culture and knowledge. The AML is a place of exchange and investigation that enhances the quality Aboriginal media and builds Aboriginal media capacity. Through creative environments, such as think tanks and demonstration projects, the AML encourages the advancement of Aboriginal-based ideas, research methodologies and technological tools to communicate Aboriginal knowledge in all forms of media.
T’Uty’Tanat-Cease Wyss is from the Squamish village of Ela7an, in North Vancouver. She has been creating Media Art for close to fifteen years, and has dedicated many years to Outreach Training with many communities throughout BC. She currently resides in the village of Sunaq’, with her daughter Senaqwila, who is an art student entering Windermere High School’s Athena Arts program. She has resided in the downtown eastside for a number of years, and continues to learn more about its rich history, with the many communities who have co-existed over the past century together. In AML, she heads up the Techno Medicine Wheel project, which shares Aboriginal values of physical and spiritual wellness, food and medicine, and ways to merge technology and nature.
Beth Aileen Dillon (update: now known by her mother’s maiden name LaPensée) is an Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish border-crossing writer and producer whose work addresses indigenous representations in media and the development of media such as video games, films, and comic books with indigenous content. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts and Letters with emphases in Native American studies, creative writing, and technical communication, she went on to complete the Center for Excellence in Writing’s Master of Arts in Writing at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. A candidate for the PhD in Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, she is completing her doctoral dissertation on looking at traditional indigenous oral storytelling to inform the design of Indigenously determined interactive media.
Special thanks to:
Loretta Todd, creator of the Aboriginal Media Lab
Leonard George, head of the Chief Dan George Centre and a true believer in innovation and ideas.
Linc Kesler at UBC’s First Nations Studies Department
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