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Post date: Saturday, 7 October 2017

Exploring and extending culture through games: Amy Fredeen on Never Alone

By Rachel Bolstad

This post is part of a short series to share highlights from NZCER's 2017 Games for Learning conference.

Amy Fredeen was the second featured speaker on the first day of the 2017 Games for Learning conference. Following on from Harko Brown’s talk on ngā taonga tākaro,  Amy’s talk brought further riches to the morning’s theme of indigenous perspectives on games for learning.

If you’ve never heard of this highly acclaimed, beautiful, award-winning digital game Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna), then I urge you to watch this video of Amy’s full talk.

For Alaskan natives, we’ve been using games for aeons to teach survival skills... we know that learning is where life happens and that’s why we made this game (Amy Fredeen)

The story behind Never Alone is quite remarkable. The short version is that it emerged from a collaborative partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council of Alaska, and E-Line Media, a game development company. The longer version is... well... watch the video, I’m sure you will be totally inspired!

I know there are a number Māori game developers around Aotearoa working on innovative digital game projects.  Amy’s talk certainly showed how far an indigenous game can go in terms of quality and impact. I find it very exciting to consider the possible future of indigenous digital games here in New Zealand, and in the wider Pacific.

Some key points that have stayed with me from Amy’s talk include:

  • The depth of the collaborative, community-involved process that underpinned the development of Never Alone.

  • Learning about the Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s commitment to partnership and collaboration as a means to becoming a sustainable organisation, able to  operate programmes that make a difference for their people.

  • The sensitivity and respect around whose stories were being told in the game, and seeking permission and involvement of the people to whom the stories belong.

  • The multi-faceted approach they have taken to evaluate the ongoing impact of Never Alone.

What did conference participants think?

We received some great feedback about Amy’s talk from conference participants:

“Never Alone blew my mind!”

“There is a huge opportunity in NZ to make culturally significant games. Amy and Never Alone are an inspiration”

“Some real gems of advice from Amy and Alan around Never Alone that were inspirational and enlightening”


Does this talk inspire you too? Watch the video, then leave us a comment to share your thoughts!

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