Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kisima Inŋitchuŋa: “Never Alone”

The “first indigenous-owned game developer” Upper One Games, launched by the Anchorage-based Cook Inlet Tribal Council in conjunction with publishing/development partner E-Line Media, is going to roll out its inaugural puzzle-adventure game Kisima Inŋitchuŋa: “Never Alone.” The game, along with this lush and wonderful trailer, features “a young Iñupiaq protagonist and her arctic fox companion.”

The project aims to “ … help share Alaska Native culture while contributing to the digital games medium. Upper One Games taps into the storytelling abilities and cultural heritage of the Alaska Native people in an authentic manner, giving us the ability to share Alaska Native philosophy and values with the world.” Presumably this won't be launched in any platform I can use on my Mac, and doubtful I'll buy an Xbox for just one game... but that just means I'll be dropping in on some gamer friends sooner or later with my own copy to play with and share.
One sincerely hopes that this endeavor will enlist and promote the skills of at least local artists, if not Alaska Native artists, as opposed to simply importing the talent and pulling a superficial corporate shell-game so it's in name only. Seems they've invested some good-faith effort in researching the cultural backstory and earn props for legitimacy, but I suspect - irony of ironies - they might not qualify for the official Silver Hand designation on account of there maybe not being enough animators etc. on the ground right here in Alaska. The value of employing actual, skilled craftspeople to create the work who are actually from the place and people being used as a marketing tool...  now that would truly "demolish stereotypes." Either way, this will make for an inspirational tool (see Trickster review here) in the classroom to show aspiring talents the possibilities that are out there, and inside us all - as in, it's your people, your way of life, your culture, history etc. ... you tell your story.
Case in point being how much the short reminded me of the work of Inuit artist Alootook Ipellie (read bios here and here), who besides being an incredibly inspiring illustrator, editor, writer - and especially cartoonist - also had a hand (and voice) in the production of several stop-motion animations, such as this one:

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