Alaska’s indigenous game Never Alone teaches co-operation through stories
Never Alone is the first game developed with an indigenous community, using traditional native stories in a beautiful and compelling educational game
Hannah Jane Parkinson. THE GUARDIAN. 29/9/2014
Kids these days, eh? They’re lazy and devoid of imagination. They take no interest in learning, have short attention spans and maintain zero respect for their elders. All they do is play video games which encourage aggression, antisocial behaviour and obesity.
Never Alone, a new co-operative puzzle platformer based on native Alaskan myths and stories, is about to blow this particular tired but frequent narrative apart.
The title, which is released on 18 November, is released by Upper One Games, the world’s first indigenous-owned video game company, which was established by Cook Intel Tribal Council (CITC), a tribal nonprofit organisation based in Anchorage, Alaska.
The story of how Upper One Games came to be is almost as exciting and inspiring as the stories represented in its debut title.
CITC serves the 12,000 strong Alaskan native population, helping to tackle issues as wide-ranging as unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction, youth engagement and education. The foundation is funded by the US government, but several years ago CITC realised that to continue its work it would also have to find income from elsewhere. (…)
The result is Never Alone, or Kisima Inŋitchuŋa, to give it its native title. A two person cooperative puzzle platformer, Never Alone is based around Kunuuksaayuka, a traditional Iñupiat tale in which a girl fights against a great blizzard which threatens the community’s survival.
In Never Alone’s eight-chapter version, the young girl, Nuna, is helped by her companion, an impossibly cute arctic fox. One of the game’s key themes is friendship – in particular, cooperation and codependency. To succeed in the game, Nuna and fox must work together, utilising their different skill sets. (…)
But as well being incredibly handsome; Never Alone is fun. It even has a level set inside a whale. Evoking the game play of previous popular platform puzzlers such as Mario Brothers or Limbo. The fun element is important in making a game which also aims to be educational. (…)
Never Alone will be released at first in ten different languages and on PS4, Xbox One and PC, with more platforms to come in the Spring. But with the creation of Upper One Games, it won’t be the first and last title to explore and share indigenous culture.
“People think video games have disconnected youth from their heritage, from their storytelling and their culture. But why not use this incredibly powerful medium to fire imagination and reconnect youth with other cultures, with their own cultures and with their elders?” asks Gershenfeld.
“This is the start of a worldwide games movement.”
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