Never Alone is a videogame released in 2014 by E-line Media and Upper One Games. It’s currently available on PS4, Xbox, Steam, both PC and Mac. I played it on PS4, it took a few hours and it was awesome! The protagonist of the story is an Iñupiat girl, who has to find out the source of a big storm and try to save her village from a villain. But she has a cute little helper, an arctic fox! The plot seems to be simple, but, in fact, the story is based on the Iñupiat culture. Every element, every character, every detail from the game is based on the history and customs of the Alaskan native people.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is the first game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members contributed to the development of the game. (source: neveralonegame.com)
What is interesting about this project is that during gameplay, you unlock 24 different short videos. You can watch them as you play, which is an interesting structure that the creators developed. Of course, every video is about a specific object, element or character that you just encountered in the game. The documentary feel of the project is what I enjoyed most about this game. Being interested in documentary film, I found it to be a creative way of getting people to learn about a culture and come in close contact with it.
From the docu-bits, as I like to call them, we learn that the Iñupiat people is a hunting society, which values the close relationship with nature. They teach their children to love and respect nature, but also one another, especially the elders. The elders are usually those who tell stories, storytelling being a big part of their tradition: it’s a way of creating strong links between the members of the community, it’s a form of entertainment and, more importantly, it’s the way of passing traditional knowledge to the young. The game was inspired by the scrinshaw, which is a method of art used to tell stories, either by carving or sketching. Think of it as a kind of storyboard. The caribou clothing is another cultural aspect. The Iñupiat people used caribou clothing in order to survive in the harsh weather conditions. The Iñupiat believe that there is no hierarchy, but equality between man and animal. They also believe that animals have or can be seen in a human form, and they can teach people. This is where the arctic fox sidekick comes in. It was believed that if one had an arctic fox as a companion, then when they encountered trouble, the fox would help them keep the evil away. The foxes are also playful creatures, which made them perfect companions. An important element in the story are the spirits which help the girl and the fox run away from threats. Silla is to the Iñupiat people the atmosphere, everything between earth and the sky, the stars. It’s a spirit helper that can take different forms and control one’s life. The girl is the typical humble protagonist of the Iñupiat stories, which helps her village, and therefore the community. The artwork is beautiful and the overall atmosphere of the game is eerie. You really feel like you are living inside a tale. Never Alone is a puzzle platform game in which you have two options: you can control both characters, the Iñupiat girl and the arctic fox, or you can play with a friend, in which case each of you controls one of the two characters. Since it’s my boyfriend’s PS4 and he showed me the game, we played the game in co-op mode. We definitely enjoyed it, but there were several bugs which sometimes ruined the gameplay for us. Other than that, it was interesting to find out in such a unique way about the Iñupiat customs, values and beliefs. Their love and respect for nature is inspiring.