Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Never Alone" - A Truly Stunning Video Game Based On Alaskan Native Folklore (Genius!)

“Our stories help us understand how the world is ordered and our place within it,” a man who narrates the trailer says in Inupiat. “What good are old stories if their wisdom can’t be shared?”

This. I want this. I want to play it now. I want to learn all the tales. I want my son to play it. And I'm seriously considering investing in another game platform so we can do it together...

Less than a week ago, a trailer was released for an indie puzzle platformer game and it's been making headlines in gaming and geek communities - not only for it's gorgeous visuals and animation but for the premise behind it: Never Alone's inspiration comes from the centuries-old stories and folklore of the Iñupiat people and was created to assist in imparting the thousands of years old Alaskan native tales and folklore to the next generation.

Take a look:
This is truly a genius way to pass the legends and stories on to the next generation.
As someone deeply interested in both folklore and games, I think it’s wonderful to see a very old storytelling tradition join hands with a new one. (The Mary Sue)
While other games have tapped into this to a small extent with their cultural mythology and legends, like Folklore (based on Celtic tales & myth, which no one seems to have heard of) and Okami (using Japanese myth, legend & folklore, which is fairly well known, award winning and critically acclaimed and incredibly amazing but hard for younger kids to play and get into), there has been nothing quite like this. On top of this Never Alone is beautiful to behold. I really hope it's as wonderful to play and explore as it looks.
Here's the description from Upper One Games, who created it, and are incidentally, the first indigenous-owned game company in history, though their products are for people everywhere. Their mission? To provide games with an educational edge:
Welcome to the top of the world. Where nature challenges life in the extreme. Where death lies waiting in the cold. Where you must explore the fantastical world of Iñupiaq stories to help a young girl save her people from an endless blizzard.
You must succeed or all is lost. This is the first in a new category of games — games which draw fully upon the richness of unique cultures to create complex and fascinating game worlds. Upper One Games paired world class game developers with Alaskan Native storytellers and elders to create Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a game based on stories that have been handed down for thousands of years. A game which delves deeply into the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people to present an exprience like no other. An atmospheric puzzle platformer of wondrous adventure. A game of survival in a place where survival shouldn't be possible. A game that opens the gateway to explore what it means to be human. 
“We’re extremely proud and excited to be building a truly unique game,” said Gloria O’Neill, president and CEO of Upper One Games. “We’d like to think we’re creating one of the most authentic – and fun – games of the year. Video games are powerful tools for making the history, tradition and culture of indigenous peoples relevant to both the next generation of Native people and the rest of the world.
Here are the gaming details:
Top Level Features of Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) include: 
• 1- and 2-player modes, both involving cooperative play (in single-player mode, the player can switch between the roles of Nuna and Fox at any time);
• 8 sweeping chapters that take players across treacherous ice floes, Arctic tundra, ice caves, boreal forests, cliff-built coastal villages, and more;
• Game story, settings, characters and gameplay inspired by traditional Iñupiaq folklore, including the story of Kunuuksaayuka (Koo-nook-sah-yoo-ka) that has been handed down for generations among the Iñupiaq people;
• Encounters with traditional Alaska Native folklore characters such as Manslayer, Blizzard Man, Sky People, the Little People and the Rolling Heads;
• Exclusive unlockable insights into the Iñupiaq way of life, told by both Alaska Native elders and youth.
Upper One Games is an initiative launched by Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) in Anchorage, Alaska and its development and publishing partner E-Line Media of New York. The goal of the partnership is to create unique and innovate game experiences that explore and extend global cultures in fresh, vibrant ways by weaving timeless living stories into dynamic and fun games.
While we're on Upper One Games, check out Historia as well; teaching history through interactive play and created to integrate with most social studies standards. I really like the way this company thinks!

Additional sources: HERE, HERE & HERE

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