Pass It On: Never Alone’s Cultural History

Hey buddy!

I was pretty excited about getting to discover the folklore of the Iñupiat people from coldest Alaska in Never Alone, tales and fables with such heavy metal names as Manslayer and the Rolling Heads. But the puzzle-platformer’s important for their own culture too, an elder explains in a new video. It’ll help them relate their tales and ideals to that most stubborn and aloof of beings: the Young Person.

Iñupiat elder Ron Brower explains that while their “historic knowledge” was passed down to his generation, it “has not bridged to the younger Xbox generation.” Enter video games:

“I think this should give them an insight as to the way Iñupiat think. We think quite differently because of our isolation and the kind of beliefs and self-sufficiency that we develop. I think it’s important: how to be independent, and how to think outside of the box, and how to be innovative.”

It helps that the game’s looking pretty flipping lovely. It’s one child’s trek through the snow and ice, accompanied by a fox, meeting all sorts of strange figures. The fox is playable as a co-op character too, if you fancy. The whole thing’s got a beautiful eerie vibe.

Never Alone’s being made by Upper One Games, a studio founded by a tribal council representing Alaska Native groups in a corner of Alaska. They’re planning to release it this autumn.

14 Comments

  1. Melody says:

    The concept and spirit behind this game was incredibly refreshing and uplifting to read (and hear) about. Which is weird, considering it’s about handing down traditions, which I generally dislike in other forms, but it’s a side of things that’s missing from the gamescape. I will probably buy it just because of that, even if it turns out to be bad.

    I hope it doesn’t get caught into another debate about their supposed pretentiousness just because they’re trying to say something with their game, like Tale Of Tales games do.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I agree. I was a little skeptical of the use of the culture, assuming it would be superficial, but it looks like there’s at least some community involvement.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        Well, the community started the project and set up the studio, so yeah, I’d think there would be some involvement. ;)

    • Eight Rooks says:

      The thing about any supposed pretentiousness is whether or not you like your games to Say Things, these guys are giving a fairly clear explanation of what parts of the game are supposed to say what, and why. I mean you could still probably argue they were over-reaching etc., etc., but they’re already defending themselves against any accusations of that sort much more thoroughly than most studios ever do.

    • Utsunomiya says:

      I don’t know, lately I’d really like games’ auteurs to at least “pretend” they’re about something.
      Instead of making yet another shoot-bullets-at-faces game thing with nothing to say.

      Although I do recognise that these messages can easily be ham-fisted, or banal, or whatever, but at least it’s a step up. We’ll work it out from there!

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        On the contrary, I often feel like there is a big amount of prestige in pretending that your game isn’t just a bunch of game mechanics that’s been done a thousand times before. “We have this rich universe and amazing lore that tells a compelling story” they all say and I’m like “Umm, what? Can you be more pretentious?”. Ambition is fine, but don’t act like your game is a masterpiece in every possible way. I look forward to a time when game developers can sometimes admit that they’re *not* doing anything other than a game that is fun.

        • JFS says:

          Such an attitude isn’t exactly mainstream in music, film or literature, so I wouldn’t count on it happening in games anytime soon.

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          SuddenSight says:

          This kind of thing cuts both ways. I know of plenty of examples where the developers took a boring old shooty-face game and wove a web of PR buzz around it’s supposed “meaning,” but I also get annoyed at developers who try to wipe away any critique of the setting or the story by saying “its just a game.”

          I want every developer to spend some time thinking about how their game fits into modern society, but I don’t want them to let their artistic aspirations over-inflate their ego.

  2. padger says:

    Games really are incredible this year. Even if I don’t have time to play them all.

  3. Donjo says:

    Very excited for this :) Maybe Never Alone could be part of a further development in how games can be used as cultural tools.

  4. charmed23 says:

    for sure bookmarking this game. I’m excited!