Never Alone: An atmospheric platformer embedded in Alaskan folklore
For years, Alaskan Iñupiaq lore has been passed down by oral tradition. But now Iñupiat developers are using the gaming medium to share these stories with the world.
Never Alone is a game with immense charm. You play as a young Iñupiat girl; a native Alaskan, and your mission is to restore balance in a world of eternal blizzard, with a white fox to keep you company. This is a folk tale called Kunuuksaayuka, and for the first time in video game history, the game will be narrated in the Iñupiaq language. It’s something definitely worth getting excited over, as the mesmerising trailer shows.
The game seems to have a sort of Journey-like quality to it – which isn’t surprising, as Journey was reportedly created in both story structure and visual style to mirror the cross-cultural folk narrative of the ‘Hero’s Journey’. There’s that shift away from gun-blazing action and a greater focus on atmosphere and flow.
“We think quite differently because of our isolation, and the kind of beliefs and self-sufficiently that we develop.”
~Ron Brower, Iñupiat Elder.
Never Alone, called Kisima Innitchuna in Iñupiaq, treads into mythological territory as you encounter gods and spirits of the wild. It is inescapably connected to Iñupiat ways of life – the challenge of surviving in an inhospitable wilderness is ever present. But rather than focusing on a survival-horror approach, it explores the human aspect of this issue. This is a story of survival that has spanned ten thousand years in Northwest Alaska, and with that comes a huge amount of cultural knowledge.
The game is being made by Upper One Games in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. The game’s writer is an Alaskan native, and every aspect of the folklore is consulted upon to ensure the wisdom and spirit of the stories are maintained. Even better, it is labelled the first in a self-proclaimed genre of ‘World Games’ (and you really should read their manifesto on the issue), that seek to create fantasy universes based on cultural fictions rather than fictional cultures.
Videogames are artifacts of the technological age, and often include rehashes or modern interpretations of old myths. Never Alone is more than that – not a rehash and not a modern interpretation, it’s a cultural artifact demonstrating the continuation of a civilisation’s storytelling tradition that still thrives today. It’s part of history not just for the gaming world but for an entire people. And that makes it all the more enticing.
Come November 18th of this year, Never Alone will be released on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam. You can find out more on their official website. It’s not long to wait, and after trying this game out when we visited EGX earlier this year, we’re certainly looking forward to playing this stunning and significant game.
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