Inspired by media interest in a game about Alaska Natives, indigenous groups around the world are seeking ways to bring their own cultures to video games.
E-Line Media, Upper One Games and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council are putting the finishing touches to Never Alone, a game that draws heavily on the Inupiat culture of rural Alaska. Following heavy publicity for the game, including NPR and the Los Angeles Times, other groups that represent indigenous communities are looking to tell their stories through games.
Both E-Line and CITC have set up a new operation called World Games that will release games based on cultures that have hitherto struggled to find a voice. Interest has so far come from Hawaii, Azerbaijan and Siberia.
"It's really resonating to the point where other cultures are approaching us," said Never Alone developer Sean Vesce. "From a creative perspective, to be able to work on something that has that kind of effect on people outside of games is really special."
Never Alone is due to be released in October for Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One digital, at $14.99. The game is narrated by an Alaska Native storyteller and is based on myths and legends from indigenous Alaska culture.
It's a sideways scroller with basic puzzle elements, and a distinctive art and audio style. The game featured in Polygon's E3 Editor's Choice Awards.
Vesce said that future World Games releases would likely seek to explore different genres. "It's really surprising to see how many people are interested in indigenous themes," he said. "We want to try some other genres. Using a tried and true genre for our first game made sense."
Amy Fredeen, CFO at CITC said that the game is doing a great job of promoting and honoring Alaska Native culture. "There are so many negative images [of Alaska Natives] but this is something we can be proud of," she told Polygon. "This is who we are as a people. We have been able to build this rich cultural history. If you listen and reflect on the stories in the game, everyone can understand the meaning."