Indigenous Alaskans Developing Indie Platformer NEVER ALONE
By Charles Webb on May 11, 2014
Never Alone is a rarity among games: a project being developed by indigenous peoples who aren’t shy about relating their stories and cultural experiences.
According to a profile of Never Alone on Eurogamer, players are put in the role of a little girl named Nuna, as she attempts to save her people from a never-ending blizzard. If you feel like you’d rather Nuna not go out alone, the game will offer a co-op option where a partner can play as her pet fox (you can switch between the two in the single-player mode).
The platformer is being developed by the team at Upper One Games, a team described by its official site as being made up of “world class game developers with Alaska Native storytellers and elders.” These storytellers are actually members of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage, who’ve partnered with E-Line Media to bring Never Alone to consoles and the PC this fall.
Never Alone is a little bit of a departure for E-Line Media, the company publishing Never Alone. They’ve typically associated with learning software – I had a look at their Gamestar Mechanic in its infancy a few years back, which was very much about using games to teach kids how to actually make games themselves. This would be their first narrative-focused commercial release.
This kind of mission statement for a game (and deliberate focus on an indigenous team) is unique in an industry that constantly pushes for something that is culturally accessible to a global audience. Making an indie title, of course, offers some flexibility there. You can’t expect Activision, for instance, to pour a couple of hundred millions of dollars into a rich, culturally-specific title that might not play well in, for example, Brisbane.
At the same time, you kind of wonder what kind of games we’d get if more minorities had a chance to tell their stories. Papo y Yo got to explore alcoholism and trauma in a pretty damned solid puzzle action game, and Gone Home offered a snapshot of the 90’s alongside a look at being closeted in a tense family. Both were games first, but had something meaningful to say beyond retreating into power fantasies.
Never Alone will be out this fall for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.