“The last thing we wanted was this game to be kind of a cultural appropriation. We didn’t want this to be an outsider’s view of what the Inupiaq culture was. We wanted it to come from the people themselves,” Fredeen says.
One connection Fredeen made was with Jana Harcharek, who works in the Barrow school district to promote and preserve Inupiaq culture. Harcharek says when the students learned that the developers wanted to hear from them, the kids began telling their own stories.
“The ideas just started coming out. They were like ‘well, are you going to be able to maybe do this, because I’m a whaler and I’m a hunter and I have this experience and it would be really cool if we could make this happen or that happen.’ There was a lot of excitement right from the start,” she says.
Harcharek has had her own doubts about videogames. She doesn’t allow her kids to play them. She says most are just too violent. But she was intrigued by Never Alone.
“We need to ground our children to who they are in whatever medium we can find to be able to do that,” Harcharek says, noting that she’s going to let her grandkids play this game.
Harcharek helped the development team meet members of the Barrow community.
“When I was privy to having a conversation with some of the folks that were interviewed there were expressions of things like ‘that is really cool. This game is going to be so awesome. That was—‘and they’ll just start shaking their heads in some cases because what a concept, putting traditional stories together with gaming. Whoever would have thought of that,” she says.