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Video Game Seeks to Preserve Native Alaskan Culture

Technology has been blamed for eroding tradition and culture, but a new video game seeks to preserve some of the stories and language of the Iñupiat people of Alaska. The Iñupiat use stories to define and preserve their identity, but their oral tradition is at risk since advances in technology have created new ways for stories to be told. To help share its culture with the younger generation, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), a nonprofit group that serves the Iñupiat and other Alaska Natives, teamed up with E-Line Media, a publisher of educational video games, to form Upper One Games, the first indigenous-owned video game company in the US. The development team worked with Iñupiat elders, storytellers, and artists of all ages to produce Never Alone, which is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Narration for the game features voiceover from Iñupiat elders, and players take on the roles of a girl named Nuna and her pet arctic fox in a journey based on the story of Kunuuksaayuka, in which a child must identify the source of a blizzard to save the community. The developers relied heavily on collaboration with the community to create the game so that it would reflect the culture. James (Mumiġan) Nageak, who provided translation and voiceover for the game, stated: “I believe that through this game, somebody might get interested in the language. It could give them a spark of the possibilities in the Iñupiat language—in any language.” (The New Yorker)(Never Alone)

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