A Minnesota state legislator has proposed new restrictions on state funding of the arts after learning of a video game created by an indigenous artist who has since moved out of state.
The game, “Thunderbird Strike,” by Elizabeth LaPensée, depicts a bird flying over oil fields and animals and at the player’s direction either destroys oil pipelines or revives wolf, buffalo and caribou. The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund awarded $3,290 in July last year to LaPensée to create the game.
State Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, said Thunderbird Strike promotes violence and that it has “zero benefit to Minnesota.”
“Common sense would tell you our arts dollars should be spent on programs that serve some purpose to the State of Minnesota, not on an out-of-state video game that blows up oil pipelines.”
He’s proposing that Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund projects be completed in state and that they be consistent with the constitutional purpose of the ACHF.
On her webpage, LaPensée describes herself as a writer, designer and artist of games, comics and animation. She worked at the University of Minnesota’s Research for Indigenous Community Health Center in Duluth when she was awarded the grant.
She said Friday that she finished substantial elements of the game before moving to Michigan in August last year to take an assistant professor position at Michigan State University. The game reflects the importance of water quality in Minnesota and the Great Lakes, she added.
A petroleum industry group said this week that Thunderbird Strike incites “ecoterrorism” because players can zap oil field equipment, but LaPensée said the game is a work of art meant to show how oil development has damaged the environment.