Never Alone is a puzzle platformer based on the lore of the Alaskan indigenous Iñupiaq people. Players take control of Nuna, a young Iñupiaq girl and her arctic fox companion as they struggle to make it through an epic blizzard and restore balance to the land. The gameplay is interspersed with opportunities to learn more about the Iñupiaqs through videos and pictures — their history and beliefs as well as their modern day existence. While the game’s characters and story will appeal to audiences much younger than 10, the platforming is quite sophisticated and parts of the narrative are spoken in Iñupiaq, requiring players to have strong reading skills in order to follow along using the subtitles. Never Alone is rated E10+ by the ESRB, and we also recommend this game to players 10 and older.
Adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and expectations.
The complexity of the platforming in Never Alone is excellent practice for for a number of skills. Kids will find their flexibility skills in particular put to the test as they’re presented with changing mechanisms, rules, and circumstances -- with very little warning. But they shouldn't be too overwhelmed or frustrated; though player death is greeted by immediate mourning from the surviving member of the duo, resurrection and reinsertion into the game is swift and merciful.
Getting started and then maintaining attention and effort to tasks.
In the same way that Never Alone’s hero Nuna must buckle down and persist in finding her way through the snow and wind, so must players. Learning in the game is relatively self-directed, so a player needs to focus and keep moving forward. It’s important to stay tuned in to prevent the wind from knocking a player too far off their path or a wild animal doesn't get the best of them. There are times when gameplay is not easy, and the child will encounter minor setbacks. However, their desire to uncover the root of the mysterious weather and odd malevolent creatures and see Nuna reunited with her people will likely be a compelling goal that helps them focus on their journey.
Understanding our own actions, thoughts and feelings and empathizing with others.
The things that make Never Alone unique are also what make the game a robust tool for teaching self-awareness. Not only is Nuna a sympathetic character due to her personal plight as a child separated from her village and lost in a blizzard, but also simply for being a Native girl. And because Never Alone was developed in collaboration with the Iñupiaq people, it has a large archive of pictures, videos, stories, and insights into the history of this Alaskan Native culture. By taking the controls as Nuna, kids will be challenged with other perspectives and beliefs at the same time that they are assuming them, helping them develop important social skills like empathy and maybe even helping them understand a little more about themselves.
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