If you’re feeling all cooped up at home to avoid the cold and snow, I would like to suggest to you a new way of looking at winter and invite you to learn about the majesty that arctic stories and medicine hold.
There is a new game in town that I would like to introduce you to and hopefully you’ll get to know and fall in love with her just as I did.
Oh ya, and by new game in town, I mean that literally.
The new game in town, called Never Alone, features an Alaskan Native girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox whose challenge it is to rescue her homeland from an endless blizzard. The title is translated from Kisima Inŋitchuŋa in the Iñupiat language.
“You play as a young Iñupiaq girl and her adorable Arctic fox companion as the two embark on a quest in the Arctic and beyond. You can see the pair helping one another get around obstacles in the trailer in familiar, puzzle-solving gameplay, but it's really the presentation the stands out. The frigid, sparse, Alaskan environments are beautifully rendered, and Upper One Games says some of the more fantastical imagery is drawing on stories that have been handed down for thousands of years.”
The pairing of the young girl with the arctic fox in itself easily highlights the necessity of interdependence for survival.
You can watch the game trailer at this link.
In this new way of storytelling, tradition gets transmitted in stunning imagery that draws the player into a beautifully rendered arctic landscape.
"The Iñupiat’s oral tradition, however, is at risk. Over the past few decades, advances in technology and communication have opened up the community to a flood of other stories delivered in new ways. 'As is common for indigenous peoples who are also part of a modern nation, it’s been increasingly difficult to maintain our traditions and cultural heritage,' Amy Fredeen, the C.F.O. of E-Line Media, a publisher of educational video games, and of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (C.I.T.C.), a nonprofit group that serves the Iñupiat and other Alaska Natives, said. 'Our people have passed down knowledge and wisdom through stories for thousands of years—almost all of this orally—and storytellers are incredibly respected members of society. But as our society modernizes it’s become harder to keep these traditions alive.'”
While traditionalists might question the use of a video game as a storytelling platform – especially one replicated in a visual, as opposed to oral tradition, perhaps the ability to be creative and flexible will help foster a new sense of wonder in Innu traditions and a desire to learn more – to reach out to a new, younger generation willing to embark on an adventure story seeped in the mythology of the arctic.
It's important to note that the storytelling in this game is Indigenous based as Upper One Games calls itself the first indigenous-owned video game company in the United States.
In Never Alone, not only is Nuna’s challenge to survive – with the help of an actic fox – the harsh landscape of the arctic, but it shows that within the public’s imagination that the arctic is a barren wasteland, cultures such as the Saami, Innu and Greenlander are able to exist with a unique identity and badge of honour that comes with being able to survive not only the harsh weather but also retain and cherish its own culture and resiliency in the face of colonization.
Colonization within itself could be seen in the metaphor for the challenges peoples face daily living in the arctic.
"When Amy Fredeen, the C.F.O. of E-Line Media, speaks of the game and its development, she uses the intimate first person that describes her personal resiliency as well as her culture’s ability to thrive despite the harsh effects of the climate. In so much so that Nuna will warm your hearts. She said, 'People were skeptical that the project would turn out like these other examples, all appropriation and Westernization.' To reassure them, the development team assembled a group of Iñupiat elders, storytellers, and artists to become partners in the game’s development and lend their ideas and voices to the venture. 'As it became clear to the community that this project was only going to move forward with their active participation, that hesitancy quickly evaporated,' Fredeen said. 'We’ve had everybody from eighty-five-year-old elders who live most of the year in remote villages to kids in Barrow High School involved in the project.'”
For more info on the game, please visit Never Alone's website.
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