For many in the United States of America, this week is known as “Spring Break,” a time when students of all levels take a week off from their studies to “recuperate” by going to more tropical locations and consuming massive amounts of alcohol while attempting to woo and entice sexual partners. At least, that is the dream for many students during this time. Most will be unable to participate in the traditionally, stereotypical debauchery of the week for many reasons and will instead be at home drinking, burning through their Netflix queue, and attempting to beat their highest score on their favorite video game. In consideration of this, I thought that a video game lesson discussion was in order especially since I have been leaning heavily on films. So, today’s examination will focus on Never Alone by Upper One Games.
Never Alone is a platformer game revolving around Nuna, an Inupiaq girl, and her arctic fox. These two work in conjunction solving puzzles through a harsh frozen landscape in order to restore balance to the land. The game is split into eight chapters (levels) based on Alaskan indigenous folklore stories. Nuna traverses these chapters gaining wisdom from the narratives she is involved in to get closer to the source of the terrible winter and bring back harmony to it.
While admittedly the game mechanics and play are pretty simplistic and at times ill responsive, the narrative and artwork are incredible and worth the price alone, particularly because the few bugs are nothing game breaking and pretty insignificant bearing in mind it was produced by a new independent studio on a budget in conjunction with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Beyond this small consideration, the new stories and perspectives the game provides and explores are worth the price of admission alone, which brings us to the first of two lessons: Stories matter.
I know I have stated this before in some context, but it bares repeating. Stories, tales, narratives, prose, poems, letters, and every other form of storytelling are of the utmost importance. It is the way we learn and teach about everything. We are nothing without our stories. They inspire us to dream beyond our means and achieve greatness regardless of the foolishness of the endeavor. We use stories to understand the unknowable and glimpse at the veils of immortality and omnipotence. We do not follow regulations and rules simply because they are there. No, we obey them because the heroes of our stories do and because we have heard the tales of what happens to those who dare go outside the boundaries of law and order.
Stories are needed in every age and culture because it is how we transfer knowledge and identity and presence and understanding. Without the power of storytelling, humanity would be nothing. This leads to the next lesson: people should be allowed to tell their own stories. This game is of particular importance because it is Alaskan indigenous people telling their own stories in their own way. Yes, they are using modern technology and media, but those are just tools that allow them to express their tales to larger, younger, and more modern audiences.
Think of the legends and myths that still permeate popular culture today and the vast influence they hold. For millions of people, ancient Roman and Greek civilizations are a mixture of various white people with differing British accents. It may sound ridiculous, but it is no less true. When you have a specific group primarily telling and shaping the stories that everyone reads, listens to, and sees, you are stuck with a narrow view that ignores the vibrant richness and worth of so many cultures. After decades of being spoken for, don’t people have the right to use their own voice for once?
Thus endeth today’s lesson.