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    dkirschner's Never Alone (PC)

    [June 22, 2016 02:08:41 PM]
    I've been wanting to use Never Alone in my intro to sociology class to introduce culture for a while now, and I finally got around to playing it. Took about 3 pages of notes while doing so, basically analyzing the accompanying "cultural insight" videos. If you don't know about this, it's a game based on stories of the Inupiak people of Alaska. Upper One Games (an indigenous game development company) and E-Line Media collaborated with elders and other Inupiak people to do the artwork, tell the stories, and talk about their culture. It's extremely authentic, and this is a serious strength.

    The game is about a blizzard and a destroyed village. A village girl, Nuna, sets off to find out what's causing the blizzard, where it's coming from, and along with a fox she meets along the way, they also find why and how her village was destroyed. Sometimes you will hear an owl hooting, and if you can find the owl, then you unlock a short video clip of Inupiak people talking about some aspect of their culture. This is always placed just right in the game such that whatever just happened or whatever happened next has something to do with the interviews. I cannot explain how cool these clips are. You learn about cultural norms and values, about figures in their mythology, about their relationship to the environment, about family structure and relationships, about the value of local knowledge, climate change, all kinds of stuff in 24 videos (and 5 more videos in the Foxtales DLC).

    My plan for class is to basically demo Never Alone for 20 minutes or so, getting through the beginning of the game and several of the videos that demonstrate concepts related to culture that I usually lecture over, and queue up several other relevant videos for later in the lecture. I've written discussion/short answer questions for each video clip. Actually my ideal is to have students in my class who own the game. I'll ask and we'll see. Also I'd like a student or students to play instead of me, and if possible have another student bring a second controller so they can demo co-op, as interdependence and mutual reliance is an important part of Inupiak culture. I was also thinking of just buying a handful of copies (Steam sale begins tomorrow after all) and putting them on my research accounts, but then I'd have to have students with Steam bring laptops's getting complicated. Maybe I'll just buy some cheap copies, try out the lesson in the first place, and iterate next semester.

    So, Never Alone is only a decent game without the rich cultural layer, very Limbo-esque. You control two characters, Nuna and the Fox, and can switch back and forth between them. Nuna can push and pick up things, row a boat, and generally do human things. The Fox is more agile and can jump up higher walls, as well as interact with spirits who help Nuna and the Fox get around. There's an odd reliance on trial and error to proceed, and you will die a lot, especially as the end gets rather absurdly difficult. I was repeating segments 15-20 times and getting irritated at the mediocre platforming and imprecise controls. For a game whose objective is to spread cultural awareness and appreciation, you'd think it would be a little easier. And it mostly is, just toward the end it spikes.

    I am definitely interested in seeing what else these developers are cooking up. I welcome more games like Never Alone because I feel like I learned something, that this game is positively impacting the world.
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    dkirschner's Never Alone (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 20 June, 2016

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 21 June, 2016

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Wonderful game. Totally using it for class to teach culture.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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