Gloria O'Neill from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) and Alan Gershenfeld from E-Line Media gave us an insight into how Never Alone - a platform game based on Iñupiat (Alaskan native people) oral traditions came to be.
"We've been working on this project for a couple of years in partnership with E-Line Media," says O'Neill. "CITC provides social services to Alaskan native people and our main priority is to connect Alaskan native people to their potential. We do this through investment and education, helping people find jobs, helping people find meaningful careers, helping families succeed."
The project is what's called a double bottom line one, meaning the idea is for profits to be both on the financial side of things as well as helping spread culture and awareness.
"We honestly tried to talk them out of it," says now partner Alan Gershenfeld of his first meeting with the CITC. "I have a background in the commercial video games industry. I used to run the studios at Activision, worked on a lot of AAA titles. I've seen a thousand game companies come and go over the years and this is their hard earned money. We were like 'really, you want to start a video game as a double bottom line, make profit, make impact, sustainability venture?' But they were incredibly thoughtful.
The game itself is a co-operative platformer where a young girl Nuna and her companion an arctic fox set out to end a neverending blizzard.
"This is a story that comes to us from an elder, her name is Minnie Gray, she's in her eighties. And it's about an endless blizzard," says O'Neill. "The protagonist in the game is a young Iñupiat girl, her name is Nuna which means land in English, and she has a companion fox. The challenge of this game is to find the source of this endless blizzard and restore balance in the environment. It was really important to us to remain true to the storyline and as a result we were able to integrate several different stories into the frame of the main story."
The plans of this new partnerships doesn't stop at Never Alone, but the idea is to create more games based on indigenous cultures and establish something akin to "world music" in games.