When I first heard about “Dinkum”, I thought that it was just another Life Sim in the vein of Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing – “but it’s Australian”!
I didn’t see a reason for me to write about it given that it’s doing really well (currently 5,538 reviews, with 95% of those being positive), so I just shrugged it off and did my thing…
Well, turns out, there is a lot of stuff wrong with Dinkum, apparently, and I just wasn’t aware because I didn’t play the game.
After reading a thread by Picto (lovely streamer btw), I was made aware of issues that the game has that go far beyond the under-representation of Native Australians/Indigenous People.
From what I’ve seen, the main critique points are best summarised in this thread by Alex Massey on Twitter who was initially keen on the game – but who then noticed some uncriticized colonialist tendencies that the game has.
One of the points that Alex mentions here is that they encountered a very insensitive “joke” about children being traded for antique cutlery.
This is something that the British tried to do: Trade a hat or other goods for indigenous kids – and other jarring stories.
In their thread, Alex goes further into detail about what else is wrong with the game, so I highly recommend checking that out.
Given the amount of research they have done, I don’t want to simply “rip” everything they said and post it on here – I mean, I really want you to read their thread!
Jiggsy on Twitter also made a similar thread talking about how this isn’t “cancellation” but rather an opportunity for the developer in question!
According to Jiggy, the developer has the chance to “reach out to a cultural consultant and you know, actually pay them, learn about what’s missing, wrong, prejudiced or misrepresented, and work to improve it”.
And well, I believe that if you work with a certain setting, timeframe, place or culture, you’ll need to do the research as well to make sure that you’re not harming people.
A lot of the tweets I linked to here have been reasonable and kind but there are many voices on Twitter (and Steam) that are not so lenient in their phrasing.
When you hurt people, you can’t decide on what tone they take, after all. Hence, I truly hope that the developer takes this feedback truly to heart and that he learns from it and corrects the issues present in his game.
After finishing this post’s initial write-up, I googled “Dinkum Colonialism” and found a great article.
A few days ago on GamesHub, Nich Richie (here’s their Twitter btw!) talked about a lot more things than what was mentioned in the threads above.
Nich Richie mentions in their article on “Dinkum and the erasure of First Nations People in Australian video games” that “Dinkum presents ‘terra nullius’ [in its premise]”, “a term used by the British to justify the colonisation and settlement of what would become known as Australia”.
You set up camp in post-apocalyptic Australia and make the land your own, digging up “relics” and setting up camp in various spots – which in itself is very bad because of how sacred a lot of Australia’s land is.
They also go into detail about how other aspects of Dinkum’s core gameplay are problematic due to the implications and references… and also about how the problematic line has silently been removed – which is not addressed at all in any of the patch notes, something that indicates to me that James Brendon wants to sweep this under the rug.
I highly recommend giving Nich Richie’s article up there a read! It’s very insightful and taught me a lot about genocide attempts, “The Stolen Generation”, and other topics that I didn’t quite learn enough about. Great article!
I think that people have a responsibility to know some things or to at least try to do the research before they put any “jokes” into the game. I mean, there has yet to come out a statement regarding that one line, let alone any of the other allegations.
Dinkum’s developer claims that the game is set in a “fictional” version of Australia but it doesn’t quite make sense when one considers the references and that one “joke”.
Personally, I will avoid supporting the game in any way. I figured that after learning about this and after having yet to find a statement regarding the issue at hand, I should try and use this little platform that I have here to bring awareness to those that may have not known about this.
Being vocal about these things is important in my opinion – after all, we can’t just erase history. We can’t undo what has happened. What we can do, however, is to learn from past mistakes and make sure that past atrocities don’t occur again.
We have a responsibility to learn about and teach what has occurred in the past, no matter how gruesome that is.