Preserving Mexico’s Tarahumara Tribal Culture Through Video Games

The Rarámuri tribe, one of Mexico’s oldest, sees its culture and mythology digitized in a forthcoming video game.

image via kickstarter video screen capture

It’s estimated that there are just under 100,000 Tarahumara, or as they’re alternately known, Rarámuri peoples left on Earth. One of Mexico’s oldest surviving native tribes, the Tarahumara are primarily known for their incredible prowess at long distance running. Less commonly known is the Rarámuri’s unique cultural history, rich belief system, and robust mythology. While some Tarahumara have integrated into city life, most still live their tribe’s traditionally agrarian, largely insular lifestyle, in spite of threats to their ancestral Sierra Madre home from mining, deforestation, and Mexico’s ongoing drug wars. It might seem odd, then, that video games would be the appropriate platform for learning more about these incredible people, but it’s that very medium a team of game designers has chosen for sharing ancient Rarámuri culture with the wider world.

As reports, Lienzo Studio, a small game development firm in the Tarahumara’s Mexican home state of Chihuahua is currently crowdfunding a new video game that seeks to honor the tribe’s history and expose a new generation of gamers to the world of Rarámuri beliefs and legends.

Mulaka concept art via kickstarter

The game’s Kickstarter page explains:

Mulaka is a 3D game inspired by the Rarámuri, or Tarahumara, mythology. It aims to communicate great insight about this amazing tribe that is commonly misunderstood and ignored. We want to achieve this through great combat and puzzle mechanics surrounded by a great story full of powerful deities, enemies, and mysteries.

Players become the titular Mulaka, a Tarahumara shaman, who interacts with the tribe’s pantheon of gods and other mythological creatures as he grows in spiritual power. The game strives for authenticity, taking place entirely in the Rarámuri's native language, and using the real geologic landscapes of the Sierra Madre as gameplay locales. As the Kickstarter states: “We believe games can be tools to change society for good, and want to raise awareness of the beauty and colors of the Rarámuri culture through our game."

Kickstarter backers of the game have the option of receiving authentic Rarámuri crafts, coordinated through the fair-trade organization Cedain. Once the game is fully funded and marketed, Lienzo plans to invest a portion of the game’s proceeds back into the Tarahumara tribe through a number of local NGOs.

Here's a look at Mulaka:

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