Updating Centuries-Old Folklore With Puzzles And Power-Ups

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Updating Centuries-Old Folklore With Puzzles And Power-Ups

November 30, 2014 6:50 AM ET
The story in Never Alone is based on a Native Alaskan legend about a quest to end a never-ending blizzard. i

The story in Never Alone is based on a Native Alaskan legend about a quest to end a never-ending blizzard.

E-Line Media

Never Alone, a new video game by E-Line Media, has been generating a lot of buzz in recent months. Its developers teamed up with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit that works with Native Alaskans, creating Never Alone as a way to help transmit traditional tribal stories to younger indigenous kids.

Interview Highlights

AMY FREDEEN: As a tribal nonprofit, we tend to rely heavily on government funding, and that funding ebbs and flows, and so the opportunities we can offer people ebb and flow. We were looking for a way to sustain what we do. We looked at many businesses — anywhere from child care to burial services — and none of them really resonated with us. And one day we were sitting around the lunch table, and all of a sudden Gloria [O’Neill, who heads the tribal council] said, “Well, why not video games?”

SEAN VESCE: When we originally started speaking with Gloria and her team, we really tried to talk her out of doing a game because of the inherent risk — of development, cost, how competitive [the industry] is.

My career path led me to work on some kind of large-scale action games, like the Tomb Raider series based on fictional universes. I got really disillusioned with the state of the video game universe on a large scale — we tended to be pretty insular in our references, we tend to lean on gratuitous violence and other kinds of things to attract players. And as a new father I was looking for projects where I could invest my time and skill and energy into something that could have some kind of lasting impact. That was a hard search. It took maybe two years before I met Gloria. I was really struck by her vision of using games.

Read More

So far, reviews for the game have been strong. I spoke to Amy Fredeen of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Sean Vesce of E-Line Media about this unlikely collaboration, about representation in games, and whether video games can have a larger purpose and still be fun to play. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

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