The Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition developers worked with cultural experts to amend historically inaccurate depictions of native peoples.
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition developers Tantalus Media and Xbox Game Studios’ internal studio World’s Edge have taken the chance to make improvements beyond the game’s graphics and user interface.
Citing their core value ‘Gaming for Everyone’, the team collaborated with cultural consultant Anthony Brave, a Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) and Chippewa-Cree descendant, to amend some features in the original game that could be generously described as insensitive.
In an interview between World’s Edge and Brave, they discuss the reasons and causes behind a number of changes. For instance, to the names of the tribes depicted in the original games.
“We didn’t know that the names Sioux and Iroquois were given to them by European settlers; so we have changed those civ names in the DE to their Indigenous names – Lakota (Sioux) and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).”
Substantial changes have also been made to elements of gameplay. Depictions of native peoples dancing around a fire pit have been removed, as have mechanics that involved them mining.
“Mining is pretty antithetical to Native values in general,” Brave said. “We are taught to respect the land as our mother and be in good relations with it. Mining is a form of exploitation of the land, and we would never treat our mother like that.”
Upon first launch, Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition presents a note to players explaining the developers’ motives and intentions for these changes.
Transcribed, the note reads as follows: “To learn from the power of our own stories is uniquely human. At World’s Edge, we value authenticity and respectful representations grounded in truth.
The original release of Age of Empires III took liberties with the depiction of Indigenous civilisations, as well as the depiction of events and personages from American history. As we developed the Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, we collaborated with Native American and First Nations consultants to correct these errors.
We are immensely grateful for the time, patience and faith shown to us by the members of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee Nations. We have replaced inaccurate or stereotypical depictions, created new voiceover using authentic speakers, and addressed problematic and harmful mechanics and storylines.
We hope that you, the Age III DE player, will join us in celebrating the rich and vibrant cultures represented in the game. We have increased our resolve going forward to live out the values of “Gaming for Everyone” — a commitment to a journey, not a destination.”
A touching message from a developer that could have easily ignored these problematic inclusions in the source material or maintained them in the name of fidelity.
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition launches Friday October 16 for Australian audiences, and is currently available for pre-purchase. Check out the Steam store page here.