In Never Alone, a video game expected later this year, a young Alaska Native girl and an Arctic fox must navigate a world based on ancient Indigenous stories and the Alaskan environment.
The game is being developed by Upper One Games, which is a project of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. It's a platform game, or "platformer" — a popular genre that tends to feature a lot of jumping and some puzzle-solving, and that includes such mammoth hits as Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog.
"Welcome to the top of the world," reads the description at neveralonegame.com. "Where nature challenges life in the extreme. Where death lies waiting in the cold. Where you must explore the fantastical world of Iñupiaq stories to help a young girl save her people from an endless blizzard."
The game's heroine, Nuna, must survive and solve scenarios that are taken from stories in Inupiat and other Alaska Native cultures. But unlike some games we've seen in recent years (Assassin's Creed III and Infamous: Second Son come to mind), this isn't another case of a game studio dabbling in Native culture. Upper One Games is the first Indigenous-owned video game company in the United States. Gloria O'Neill is president and CEO of Upper One Games and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit that represents eight recognized Tribes in an area of Southcentral Alaska that includes the city of Anchorage.
Here's the trailer for Never Alone, which is will also be known as by its Inupiaq title, Kisima Ingitchuna:
"We'd like to think we're creating one of the most authentic — and fun — games of the year," O'Neill says. "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."
Never Alone is being created for XBox One, PlayStation4, and PC, and is set for a fall 2014 release and a $14.99 suggested retail price.