June 17, 2015

Never Alone: An excerpt from DEATH BY VIDEO GAME


neveraloneIn Never Alone, players switch between the role of a girl named Nuna and her pet Arctic fox. Each character has a different set of skills, and the pair must work together to overcome obstacles on a journey that mirrors the one taken by Kunuuksaayuka, the blizzard investigator. This theme of interdependence is central to Iñupiat stories, no doubt born of the need to help one another in order to survive the harsh Alaskan conditions. It’s a message Never Alone seeks to impart through both its spoken narration (which has been recorded in Iñupiat) and the unspoken story communicated by its rules and mechanics.

For Sean 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 says. He calls 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.”

Read the rest in Death By Video Game—available for purchase here, at your neighborhood independent bookstore, at Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.

Simon Parkin is a journalist whose writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, the Guardian, ESPN, and a number of other publications. DEATH BY VIDEO GAME is his first book.