Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe (Bay Mills descendant), Métis, and settler-Irish. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University. She is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.
Most recently, she designed When Rivers Were Trails (2019), a 2D educational adventure game that follows a displaced Anishinaabe traveler during the impact of allotment acts in the 1890’s. She designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game which won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. She also designed and created art for Honour Water (2016), an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water. Her work also includes designing analog games, such as The Gift of Food (2014), a board game about Northwest Native traditional foods.
She is co-editor of the comic collections Deer Woman: An Anthology (2017) and Sovereign Traces Volume 1: Not (Just) (An)Other (2018), MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection Volume 3 (forthcoming), and editor of Sovereign Traces Volume 2: Relational Constellation (2019).
Her ongoing contributions have been recognized with the Serious Games Community Leadership Award (2017). She was a Research Assistant for Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and continues to collaborate as a Research Affiliate in the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. Her dissertation in Interactive Arts and Technology from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia shares experiences from the Indigenous social impact game Survivance (2011). She was a Postdoctoral Associate for the University of Minnesota's Research for Indigenous Community Health Center where she continued community-led work.
She runs hands-on workshops in an effort to build capacity for Indigenous-led game development. She created curriculum for the award-winning Skins Workshops developed by Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. For over ten years, she has offered workshops to partners including the United Indian Students in Higher Education Youth Day in Portland, Oregon; Aboriginal Youth Science Exchange Camp in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Urban Native Youth Association in Vancouver, British Columbia; Native Girls Code for Gen7 in Seattle, Washington; Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Salish Kootenai College in Polson, Montana; and the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program in Lansing, Michigan.