Leveling Up! with Waylon Wilson

Waylon Wilson, Tuscarora Nation

MDes Student, Master of Design Program

Department of Design and Computation Arts

Waylon Wilson at Concordia University, 2018

It was in the last few years of my Bachelor of Arts at the University at Buffalo (UB) that I really began exploring interactive forms of media. I discovered the digital world of 3D environments, video games, mobile applications, 3D printing, and even dabbled in wearable electronics. I come from a vast digital media background, but before UB I mainly focused on digital video and audio production. Now that I’m entering my second semester as a Master of Design student here at Concordia University, I’ve really begun to  focus on experimental game development and to explore the outcomes of designing for this technology as Indigenous people.

Gameplay Screenshot of Cawak, 2016

My work aims to embed critical Indigenous thought into interactive media by exploring various realms of technology and what these tools have to offer us as Indigenous media makers and consumers. The digital flood of technology immerses us daily in wave after wave of new gadgets and applications and it is up to us whether we want to embrace this technology or not. Indigenous people often have stigmas associated with using digital technology, especially when it comes to our more traditional knowledge and practices. I’m exploring how these technologies can enhance our ways of thinking as Indigenous people. My goal is to find useful ways to integrate this technology into our lives to as an ongoing practice of our traditional knowledge rather than have it act as an intrusion or hindrance to these ways of knowing.

Character Design for Ekwehewe The Real People, 2017
Gameplay Screenshot of Ekwehewe The Real People, 2017

In order to better understand where Indigenous-determined uses of technology can take us, I look to the ways Indigenous peoples have always engaged with media and technology. As a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, I draw on the visual and interactive designs in our Haudenosaunee beadwork, wampum, carvings, and other objects used to embed our stories and teachings. The media we use to document our teachings are never only media objects, but are used on a daily basis and meant to be interacted with. Some of these designs are kept with us on a daily basis such as the beadwork we wear or etchings carved into pottery. Other media forms such as wampum belts include more complicated interactive designs and can be interacted with in different ways; they can be read from the front, the back, upside down, and even looped around to connect back to itself in an infinite cycle.

Gameplay Screenshot of Nuya! NuYa! A Tuscarora Exploratory Game, 2018

Our grandmothers and grandfathers were intuitive visual and interactive designers. I often find myself referencing their complex work and the ongoing critical thinking and practices of our Indigenous peoples to ground myself and inspire my thinking as well. Working as a Research Assistant for the Initiative for Indigenous Futures has been a big help in directing my recent work. I hope that all of us as Indigenous media makers across Turtle Island can begin to level up this digital era we live in together.

Find more information on Waylon and his practice at www.waylonwilson.com

Waylon Wilson at Meaningful Play Conference, Michigan State University, 2018

Introducing Graduate Research Assistant Waylon Wilson!

Waylon Wilson is from the Tuscarora Nation, Deer clan. Raised in the Nyučirhę’e (Tuscarora Nation Territory), Waylon’s culture and nationhood are a critical influence to his research as an experimental game developer, artist, designer, and scholar; to that end, he utilizes his lens as a Tuscarora man to address critical Indigenous and environmental issues.

He is a Master of Design student at Concordia University and recently graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from University at Buffalo, majoring in production and Game Studies. He is a Co-coordinator and Media Instructor for the Indigenous youth program, Skarùrę’ Awękwehstá:θe:’.

Waylon’s media work centers on encoding critical Indigneous thought and perspectives into interactive forms of media towards education, both on- and off-screen.

You can find more information on Waylon and his portfolio here.