"Never Alone" video game brings Alaska Native culture to the masses
Let’s face it, video games are
from the OG days of console gaming to the present, when games can be found on your phone, computer, watch!
But all jokes aside, there are plenty of games out there catching the eyes of gamers. From first-person shooters like Call of Duty to role-playing games like Skyrim, The Witcher, and Pokémon. There are even games that let you be a goat! No, we are not joking.
But if the title of this article caught your attention, you probably want to know more about “Never Alone” right?
was released on November 18, 2014 in partnership with E-Line media, Cook In let Tribal Council, Alaska Native elders and others.
The game is a two-player, cooperative puzzle platform game reinforcing the core themes of interdependence, intergenerational wisdom, and resiliency, according to designers.
Since launching the game has been featured in over 1000 publications, downloaded by over 3.5 million players, selected for over 75 Best of Year' Game Lists and won multiple awards including a recent BAFTA (British Academy Award.) The game has been released across nearly every major gaming platform including PC, Mac, X-Box One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo WiiU, NVidea Shield and Android and IOS mobile devices.
Talking to those behind the game
Channel 2 caught up with Amy Fredeen, Chief Financial Officer with CITC, to talk about the game and what its development means to not just the Alaska Native community, but indigenous people everywhere.
“The most amazing thing about 'Never Alone' - it’s set the stage for games of this type. There have been impact games for a long time, but there haven’t been impact games really centered on celebrating and sharing cultures.”
Fredeen was also the lead cultural ambassador for the “Never Alone” Project.
“This set the bar high, this means that someone doesn’t go in and make a story about people, they have to make a game with the people. Making it meaningful and impactful.”
Aside from the monetary fulfillment of the popularity of “Never Alone” generated for CITC and E-Line Media, the game’s impact also hit close to home, literally, with Fredeen.
“Having growing-up in Alaska, when I was young, it wasn’t easy being Alaskan Native. There wasn’t a lot out there in the media. There are more and more indigenous media out there today, but seeing my kids take part in the testing of the game, and talking about how we came up with some of the storylines based on reoccurring themes in our traditional stories, I think was amazing to me,” Fedeen expressed, “having in popular media, where kids want to be anyways, having our stories and our people reflected in the game was so amazing for me and I think it’s something that can continue to live on.”
Fredeen did point out that the game isn’t just about going from level to level, but about learning about the Alaska Native culture. Throughout the game there are short video clips that pop up, giving the user a chance to learn more about the Alaska Native culture and the stories they are being immersed into.
Channel 2 also reached out and talked with President, Co-Founder of E-Line Media Alan Gershenfeld.
He shared what it was like making the game and what challenges his team faced.
“We really tried to talk them [CITC] out of making a big investment in one game, in that it’s very risky,” said Gershenfeld, “It’s a relatively high-risk investment.”
So why move forward with a game that had some risks before coding even started?
“As we got to know [CITC], and as they got to know us, it was clear we shared a lot of goals. Even though we came from very different perspectives, we have very much an aligned interest.”
E-Line Media’s team spent months in Alaska working with CITC and Alaska Native elders to make the game as fun as they can, but also true to the storytelling of the Native people.
“Every aspect of this game had to be developed inclusively with our Alaskan Native partners. And that’s genuinely different,” said Gershenfeld. "Most people who make games about another culture and history they may have one or two consultants, sometimes they don’t have any, they’ll just read some books or they’ll just co-opt what they think represents a culture. We didn’t want to do any of that. We wanted to make it a game with our Alaska Native partners, not about the Alaska Native Community.”
And if you played Never Alone and can’t get enough, Gershenfeld did confirm they are working on a sequel to “Never Alone.”
He says E-Line Media may change up the play style of the game to give users a new genre.
If you are interested in playing the game, you can buy it for either $4.99 or $14.99, depending on the platform you'll play it on.