Oil lobbyists accuse game of promoting "eco-terrorism"

Thunderbird Strike “an eco-terrorist version of Angry Birds," says Republican senator

By Haydn Taylor.Published Tuesday 31st October 2017, 9:15am GMT

An indie game about a mythical bird destroying oil pipelines and restoring wildlife has been described as "an eco-terrorist version of Angry Birds" by the state senator for Minnesota.

Senator David Osmek said that Thunderbird Strike "promotes eco-terrorism" and that $3,290 in state funding provided by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in Duluth should be investigated.

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"When the Legacy Amendment to our constitution was approved, no voter could have imagined that our taxpayer dollars would be used to fund video games that blow up pipelines," said republican senator Osmek.

The game was developed by Elizabeth LaPensée, formerly of Minnesota, but now an assistant professor at Michigan State University. It recently won the award for best digital media at the ImagineNATIVE festival in Toronto.

Toby Mack, president of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, a Washington D.C. based energy organisation that advocates for pipelines, told the Associated Press that the game was "designed to encourage eco-terrorism."

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It may be just a game, but could lead to disaster if even one user is inspired to vandalise an actual pipeline, said Mack who admits he hasn't played the game.

LaPensée previously told Motherboard that Thunderbird Strike advocates the removal of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, though she said it is not intended to encourage violence.

Speaking with the New York Times, she said that Thunderbird Strike is intended as a work of art and a tool for educating people about how oil development has damaged the environment.

"It certainly is not encouraging anyone to commit eco-terrorism," she said.

LePensée also refutes any allegations that the public funding she received was misappropriated. Osmek said that the money was supposed to be spent on Minnesota projects, but that LePensée lives and works in Michigan.

"As a resident of Duluth, Minnesota, I applied for and received the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Artist Fellowship Grant, which provides support to assist artists with setting aside time to pursue activities that will allow them to pursue their artistic goals," she told Motherboard. "I completed all assets of the game outlined in the grant proposal while living in Minnesota. The game art textures were created from photos taken in the region. The game reflects the importance of the well being of the waters in Minnesota."

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