In September and October of 2013, Pinnguaq started to examine Inuit representation as it has appeared in gaming to date. Inspired by the fact that we’re embarking on our own, Nunavut made, game as well as a recent exhibit by the Museum of Inuit Art entitled, “The Art of Play”, we were, quite honestly, surprised at how many attempts there had been to include “eskimos” in games, although entirely unsurprised at how poor that representation has been to date.
Expanding upon our twitter posts, we hope you find this analysis of Inuit/Eskimo representation in gaming to be information, somewhat funny and push you to demand more out of cultural representation in gaming and other forms of media.
Part 2: Enuk The Eskimo (The iOs Game)
Enuk The Eskimo, as it’s known in game, or “Little Angry Eskimo: Ice Block Smasher Cave Digger Gold Rush Hunter” as it’s known on the App Store was created by company called “Webstone Oy” a Finish gaming company based out of Oulu.
The game is fairly straight forward. You, the ice blocking smashing cave digging gold rushing hunter Eskimo named Enuk, stand in what appears to be an underground cave throwing your trusting mallet into an incoming wave of coloured ice blocks. By throwing your mallet into matching colours, you shatter the blocks and must continue to do so before the line of ice blocks reaches you. At the same time you have access to “torches” which can be used to melt problematic blocks that cannot otherwise be removed.
The game itself is actually quite fun. The animation is minimal and you don’t get much more than what you see, but on a whole there is a solid base of game play in Enuk that you’ll be instantly comfortable with.
From what I can tell, we never do learn why Enuk is an angry Eskimo but one would assume that a lifetime spent underground hurling a hammer at a never ending wave of coloured ice blocks would do that to anyone, Eskimo or not. Of all of the Stereotypes used to represent Eskimos in games, the “Angry” Eskimo is not one you see to often, so points for creativity there. In fairness to Webstone, puzzle games like this rarely scratch more than the surface of a character and it’s clear here that Enuk is in place to as he fits best with the advancing cold and ice. It is unimaginative a setting as one could conjure for a game, and so uninteresting that I’m not even motivated to finish this sent…
The use of the word "little" to describe him in the title reinforces the Stereotype of Inuit as "less than". He is pointlessly angry and little. You know who else gets pointlessly angry and is quite little? My 4 year old. The "Eskimo as a Child" trope has been used since contact to reinforce the idea that Inuit need our help and parental guidance. I am sure the game maker did not even connect this, but it shows how pervasive this language is in our culture and game titles like this only serve to reinforce these subconscious ideas.
Yup, you will!
Enuk is one dimensional and pointlessly angry. He represents the “one dimensional” Eskimo that relegates Inuit to cartoon characters that fit as uniformly into the setting as the ice and snow. Enuk won’t inspire a revolution against Inuit representation in games, nor will he suddenly have everyone believing all Inuit are angry, underground mallet tossers. But he does represent a weird world in which Inuit are our characters to play with and as real as Bjorn from Peggle.