Coming off the high of Child of Light, I didn’t really expect to see another indie-like game that would catch my interest for a while. Especially with E3 just around the corner, gamers and companies alike are rearing up to either bask in the light of Triple A titles and gimmicks that’ll become more lame after the hype train leaves the station, or huddle in a corner waiting for this all the pomp and circumstance to blow over. I’m incredibly pleased, however, that Never Alone managed to break through right before all the E3 buzz.
Drawing upon the folk stories and culture of Native Alaskans, Never Alone looks to be taking its audience through a story of a young girl’s journey in growing up—albeit probably not as literally as Child of Light—as well as the importance of learning about, retaining, and sharing one’s cultural history. In the words of the CEO, Gloria O’Neill, 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. (x)
From what’s been shown in the trailer, I think O’Neill and her crew are definitely on the right track.
What I find especially important about Never Alone is that not only is the game giving the spotlight to a culture rarely talked about outside of stereotypes, but by supporting this game, we’re also supporting a company comprised of the very people this game is about. Upper One Games was created by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, which looks to promote the growth of Native Alaskans. It’s a stroke of brilliance that they chose to use video games as a medium for their outreach. Anyone can see how large an impact video games have on society these days—outside of parents and other special interest groups complaining about how violent they are, the storytelling potential and the cultural impact of the gaming community (see: World of Warcraft) cannot be denied. With such a huge audience combined with the ease of marketing a racially diverse game—as compared to, say, getting a racially diverse television show on a major network—it’s an incredible strategy to get Upper One’s story out there.
In terms of gameplay, Never Alone appears to be a puzzle-platformer that utilizes the aesthetics of indigenous tribes. I’m wondering, however, if players also get to play as the fox sidekick, or if the animal is more like Navi from Legend of Zelda. In any case, I look forward to hearing and seeing more about this game as it gets closer to its release date (which, unfortunately, is slated as just “this year”). This is a story that deserves to be told, and I more than hope the gaming community at large is willing to hear it.