Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Never Alone" Models A New Way to Bring Back Old Tales

It doesn't matter if you don't play video games, don't like video games or don't care about video games. None of that is relevant when you understand what is really happening with Never Alone. (If it bugs you, just call it an educational tool". That's also a correct description.)
"What good are the old stories... if their wisdom is not shared with anyone?"
Note: If you only look at one thing in this post, please watch the video below. It will amaze you with regard to the tales being used, how they're used and how beautifully it has all come together. You can scroll down to view.... (and if you want to read more the text will still be here afterward. ;)
I posted on Never Alone initially when it was released (you can read that HERE, along with lots of beautiful pictures and many more resources about the tales, which I won't repeat in this post), but this week, they've just come out with a host of game improvements/upgrades, are releasing a soundtrack this week (yes, it's become that popular!) and are expanding the systems you can play it on, to include Macs (Apple computers), starting this Thursday, February 26th (currently available for XBOX ONE, PS4 and Steam), The soundtrack will be available through the Steam store at the same link.

Never Alone's mission is to bring the old and fading indigenous tales (of the Iñupiat people) back into circulation and popularity among current and future generations. That sounds ridiculously lofty - like an idea that would ultimately gather dust in some enthusiastic, but sadly naive paper somewhere, but here it's actually happened.

Correction: IS HAPPENING.
Not only has this video game educational tool been created, it has been done in the best way possible, with the combination of young, intelligent, technologically-savvy young people who among the best in their field, in conjunction and under continuous consultation with tribal elders. Yes. 70, 80+ year old traditional tribal elders are not just talking with, but working with hip (and geeky) youngsters who think in RAM, terrabytes and all things digital. Not only that, it draws on old traditions to inform the design style and the development of the storytelling!
We paired world class game makers with Alaska Native storytellers and elders to create a game which delves deeply into the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people to present an experience like no other.
Never Alone is our first title in an exciting new genre of “World Games” that draw fully upon the richness of unique cultures to create complex and fascinating game worlds for a global audience.
The best of the old meets the best of the new. And it's a beautiful thing.

The result is a stunning, gorgeous and unique interactive storytelling-puzzle-and-platform game that leads the player through discovery of characters from tales, challenges from stories and triumphs via ingenuity and putting learned principles (and game skills) to good use.
Contrary to what you might think, this little indie game isn't just waiting to be noticed. It's out there making waves with it's approach, style and beauty of both storytelling and game design, as the developers confidently take it to all the leading game conventions and meetings. As a result, it's quickly earning worldwide recognition AND garnering some coveted awards along the way.
Before I write any more, take a look at the behind-the-scenes video and see behind some of the tales (and the people and process) of Never Alone:

I feel like this is exactly the sort of thing we need to be aiming to do to get old stories back in circulation. We need to meet the influential (often young) people (the trend setters, the most influential demographics) on "their" territory, speaking their language (technology, social media and video games) and give them reasons to want to tell and retell these tales themselves

That's the only surefire way old tales will make it back into common knowledge and that's the way the wisdom and knowledge in these tales will be passed on to benefit people now and in the future.

Creating a widely respected and loved video game is a wonderful way of doing exactly that.

I'm so moved that the vision for Never Alone has been made real and is proving to be exactly what they set out to be: influential. Not only that, it's enriching the lives of the developers, the creation team, the communities supporting them AND the gamers and the industry professionals that are coming into contact with it (ie. inward and outward).

It's nothing short of magic.

It's the sort of difference I want to make, to be a part of - where the tales are alive and vital in ways that connect us to our past and pave the way for a (hopefully better) future.

The best thing? This is just the first game. They've only just begun...
~  Here's the trailer, in case you haven't seen it yet.  ~
Just sit back and enjoy:

Additional note:
From their newsletter this week, below is a summary of the current awards to date.
Never Alone received an Editor's Choice designation at E3 and PAX from Destructoid and Polygon, respectively.  We were also a finalist at IndieCade 2014.  After the game's launch, we received even more award nominations: The Game Awards.  The DICE Awards.  The Game Developer's Choice Awards.  The SXSW Gaming Awards.  And most recently, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts(BAFTA).  It's truly an honor to be nominated alongside our peers — it inspires us to make even better games and tell stories in new ways.
Congratulations to the unique and wonderful team at both E-Line Media and the Alaskan Native Cook Inlet Tribal Council!
We cannot wait to see what you do next.


  1. Wow! This looks beautiful. It makes me wish I were into video games:)

  2. It's too bad this one isn't on Wii U. I'd snap it up in a minute. I wonder if I could get the Steam version to work on my laptop. I've never downloaded a PC game before.

    I understand where they're coming with here in terms of using the newer media to bring about awareness of their stories. Much of my knowledge of Japanese folk tales actually comes from my awareness of anime and manga.