Never Alone’s designer wants to send players to meet Alaska’s native people

Never Alone’s designer wants to send players to meet Alaska’s native people

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2014 show floor. We picked four of our favorites (and carried over one from last year’s batch); those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.

Michael Gi is a designer of Never Alone, a cooperative puzzle game from Upper One Games. The small studio claims that this is the United States’ first-ever game by a development company owned and operated by indigenous people. Inspired by the real folklore of the Iñupiaq people in Alaska, Never Alone stars a young female character named Nuna and a fox companion as they attempt to escape an all-consuming blizzard in the harsh Arctic north. 

The A.V. Club: If you had the power to add an extra button to the controller that served a single function specific to your game, what would it do? 

Michael Gi: Probably something related to spirits, the spirit world. We haven’t talked too much about it, but it’s a big part of the Iñupiaq culture, the spirit world and everything involved. So probably something related to that. I’d probably have to think about that some more for an exact answer. 

AVC: If my résumé included a whole summer spent just playing your game, how should I spin it as valuable experience?

MG: Probably insight into an entire new culture. Being able to see the new kind of culture and insight into the environment that Alaskan natives live in. How it’s very different and how their values like interdependence, resilience, and intergenerational connections are really important to them. Hopefully that comes across really strong in the game. 

AVC: What’s the most fun glitch or bug that has come up in development so far?

MG: There was one we saw the other day where we were playtesting one of our earlier E3 builds. After you did a certain fall off an edge, Nuna, the main character, would come back and look like as if she was doing a dance walk. It was definitely pretty hilarious. It breaks the mood of this tense blizzard when your main character is dancing around. 

AVC: How do you feel about the current trend of games being released in early access? 

MG: That’s a tough one. I like it because it gives players a chance to see games that maybe aren’t quite done, or get more faith before they might invest in it, for like a Kickstarter. On the other hand, I’m not too sure about some games. They might charge a lot for early access, and that depends on how far the game is in progressing. I don’t know. It’s a mixed bag. Fortunately, we’re not doing that, so we don’t have to worry about it too much. 

AVC: If your game had a super-deluxe version that cost $1,000, what would be in the box?

MG: A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska to spend a week with the Iñupiaq Tribe and experience their culture and storytelling.

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