Preserving Inuit culture with the videogame “Never Alone”

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Never Alone was developed by Upper One Games in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Along with a team of developers and programmers, Iñupiat storytellers and elders joined together in a atypical creative process to make an atypical game.

For Vesce and the rest of the game’s development team, partnering with amateur game makers was unusually challenging. “To make Never Alone, we had to break from some traditional and fundamental ways of making games and bring the community into the creative process—a community that knew very little about the medium but that had strong thoughts on what they wanted to see in a game based on their culture,” Vesce said. He called this kind of collaboration “inclusive development,” in which each group is a student of the other’s world. “While it’s extremely rewarding, it also requires a huge commitment from all sides to build a foundation of mutual trust and respect.”

Despite the importance of keeping the Iñupiats’ vision for the project, there was no formal approval process during development. “It was more subtle, involving conversations with many different people, soliciting and gauging reactions to ideas, and finding creative solutions to meet both the community’s goals and our goals as game developers,” Vesce said. “When we encountered things that sounded great to us as game developers but didn’t resonate with our community partners, they would often present alternatives that ended up being much more interesting and often more challenging to incorporate.”

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