I Can Play a Video Game at the Denver Art Museum?

Yes, you can! The video game Never Alone is part of the Denver Art Museum exhibition Stampede: Animals in Art.

What is Never Alone?

In Never Alone (also known as Kisima Inŋitchuŋa in the Alaska Native Iñupiaq language), players take on the roles of a young Iñupiaq girl and an arctic fox in an atmospheric puzzle platformer that combines traditional stories, settings, and characters that have been handed down over generations by Alaska Native people whose roots and heritage date back millennia.

Featuring imagery and themes drawn directly from Iñupiaq and other Alaska Native cultures, Never Alone contains striking visuals that emphasize the sensibilities and perspective of these indigenous Arctic people, and allows players to work cooperatively to succeed in challenging and harsh environments.

How do I play?

The video game is located near the Transformed section of Stampede. You are met with a large projection of either the game in play or a trailer introducing the game. There are four gaming stations where visitors may play as single-player, as Nuna, an Iñupiaq girl, or two-player co-op, as Nuna and the arctic fox.

One of the gaming stations is connected to a projector, so other visitors are able to watch the game in play. There are two versions of the game: the kiosk version is a 10-minute adaptation that allows you to get a good sense of the overall story of the game. The full-play version of the game would take a skilled gamer about three hours to play, although you don’t need to play the entire game to have a good experience.

There is also a place to sit down and use an iPad to watch a selection of cultural insight videos included with the game that are beautifully produced and very informative.

How'd the DAM get involved?

In one of our planning meetings for Stampede: Animals in Art, John Lukavic, curator of Native arts and co-curator of Stampede, mentioned that he was aware of a really well-produced video game that was co-developed with an Alaska Native community. We talked about what a different experience it would be to play a video game in an art exhibition. I went home, downloaded the game, and played with my husband and daughter. I was immediately taken by the inspiring storytelling and stunning graphics. We found that we learned so much about the Iñupiaq culture through playing the game.

I came back to the team recommending that we include Never Alone in the exhibition because it opened understanding into a culture and way of life through a very unique lens. As we were planning to display Native Alaskan art and explore the concept of animal/human transformations, we were excited to integrate this experience into the exhibition.

From there, I contacted E-Line Media and reached their CEO, Michael Angst, who immediately welcomed the idea of collaborating with us to include Never Alone in Stampede. The E-Line Media team played an important consulting role in helping us integrate and install the video game in the exhibition.

How was Never Alone developed?

We were very interested in the way Never Alone was created through a partnership with E-Line Media and Alaska Native storytellers and elders. We have a mural on one wall in the Stampede exhibition which explains and illustrates some of the creative collaboration to create this engaging video game.

"I think visitors will have fun, and I think they will walk away with an appreciation of a culture they would have never likely encountered," said Brian Alspach, the executive vice president of product management at E-Line Media. "Players will go from hearing a story to becoming the storyteller throughout the game, taking them on an incredible journey where they hear the voices of the Iñupiaq people while engaging in gameplay that reflects our traditional value of interdependence."

Learn more about the collaboration between the developer and Native peoples in Brian Alspach's guest blog post.

Never Alone and Stampede: Animals in Art are included with general admission, which is free for youth 18 and under and DAM members.

Video courtesy of E-Line Media.