Never Alone / Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (2014)
Never Alone is an epic story of survival and cooperation, passed down orally through the generations. Based on “Kunuuksaayuka,” a traditional Alaskan Iñupiat tale, it follows a young girl, Nuna, who fights against an eternal winter storm threatening her community’s survival. For the 2014 atmospheric puzzle-platformer Never Alone, this epic journey has been adapted by writer, storyteller, and poet Ishmael Hope (Iñupiaq and Tlingit) into an artful and accessible educational game that can be played in different ways, by one or two players, and on multiple platforms, including mobile.
Players of Never Alone can co-play with a friend or parent, or can play alone and switch at any time between the two central characters, Nuna or her adorable companion Arctic fox, as they traverse across an awe-inspiring Arctic landscape, confronting physical challenges, puzzles to solve, legendary Iñupiat mythical figures, and, of course, fierce winds. Nuna and the Artic fox must work cooperatively, relying on the unique skills of each character to succeed in the quest.
Throughout the game, players encounter powerful video vignettes of interviews with 40 Iñupiat Elders who share legends, cultural practices, and traditional world-views. The vignettes, together with the gameplay, illuminate Iñupiat principles of coexistence between humans and wildlife; respect for nature, one another, and communal life; and a spiritual understanding of the land.
Importantly, the project originated with Upper One Games, a for-profit subsidiary of Cook Inlet Tribal Council established in 2012 as the first Indigenous-owned commercial game company in the United States. Upper One Games co-produced the game with E-Line Media and the two companies merged in 2014.
For co-creating an enchanting cooperative game through an Indigenous-led process and company, the first of its kind in the United States, by exquisitely translating a traditional Iñupiat story into an artful digital, interactive experience, Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) wins a Peabody.