A Leader in Serious Games and Indigenous Game Design

portrait of a woman with blue eyes and glasses Elizabeth LaPensee, Assistant Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and the Department of Media and Information, has received the 2017 Serious Games Community Leadership Award from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Serious Games Special Interest Group. The award is presented to a member of the game community who displays exceptional commitment to advocacy and reaching new communities through serious games.

LaPensee also is one of the keynote speakers at this week’s Global Digital Humanities Symposium at Michigan State University. The symposium, scheduled for March 16-17 at the MSU Union, is organized by the College of Arts & Letter’s Digital Humanities Steering Committee and is primarily supported by the College of Arts & Letters.  

A designer, artist, and writer for games, comics and animations, LaPensee is known for her work with Indigenous communities. Her work is designed to have a social impact and to pass along the language, history, and culture of the Indigenous communities she works with. 

She is the founder of the Inclusive Game Development Collborative, an initiative for increasing diversity in game development.

Her work is designed to have a social impact and to pass along the language, history, and culture of the Indigenous communities she works with. 

Most recently, she designed two games “Manoominike” and “Mikan” for the Duluth Children’s Museum in Minnesota. Launched at the museum on Jan. 13, these motion and mobile games teach users about the practices and phrases of wild ricing in the Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe) language. Other recent work includes “Honour Water,” an Anichinaabe singing game that brings attention to threats to water and which uses singing as a way of healing, and “Coyote Quest,” a point-and-click game for sharing indigenous science teachings.

LaPensee received her Serious Games Community Leadership Award on March 1 during the 2017 Game Developers Conference hosted by the International Game Developers Association in San Francisco, California. During the conference, she also delivered three presentations, including “It’s Not All About Unicorns: Sustainable Diversity in the Classroom” and a segment of the Indigenous Games Lightning Talks.