By Andrew Dodson on August 25, 2014 at 8:58am
It's common to see in a lot of video games and movies these days: The native people of a setting are never really the centerpiece; they always need to be saved or are there just as merchants or faceless enemies. They are never really alive. There aren't a lot of games that actually try to tell a story from the perspective of the natives. Now, that is happening in a game called "Never Alone."
Game developer Sean Vesce, responsible for some of the "Tomb Raider" games, is currently working on the project, a project which was inspired by traditional Alaskan stories that he had been researching.
This is the most personally rewarding project I’ve worked on in 20 years of designing video games. Alaska Native mythology and culture is incredibly rich and translates remarkably well to making an amazingly fun experience for all audiences.
"Never Alone" tells the story of Kunuuksaayuka, following the story of a little Inupiaq girl named Nuna and an arctic fox as they try to stop a never-ending blizzard and save her village. The game is an atmospheric puzzle platformer with a tremendous focus on the Alaskan storytelling tradition. The game can be one or two-players with the players taking control of either Nuna or the fox. There will be plenty of unlockables hidden within the game that will offer insight into the Inupiaq way of life.
The whole idea for "Never Alone" came from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) in Anchorage, which two years ago, sought to find ways to preserve their traditional stories. In order to save these ageless stories, they had to focus on using a more modern medium and the idea of using video games came to the table. Even in the most remote parts of the arctic, kids love to play video games.
We started thinking about the future because our board also said to us 'never forget who we are and where we come from, but think about how we can connect with our young people in the future.
Gloria O'Neill, CITC President and CEO
Serving as an ambassador between game developers and the native storytellers is Amy Fredeen, who is also an Inupiaq. To her, one of the most important parts of this endeavor is the idea that in the native culture, everyone depends on one another. She also does not want "Never Alone" to be seen as an attempt at cultural appropriation.
We didn't want this to be an outsider's view of what the Inupiaq culture was. We wanted it to come from the people themselves.
"Never Alone" is the first video game to be created in partnership with the natives of Alaska. It is being developed in a partnership between The Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media and is due out later this year as a downloadable title for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The trailer for "Never Alone" can found below. Like the game, the trailer is narrated in the Inupiaq language.
Never Alone Website NPR Weekend Edition - Never Alone