Inuit Video Game Foxtales: Insights Beyond Igloos and PowWows

“Every game has a moment—a moment that not only crystallizes your mission, but that lets you know why you’re playing at all. In Foxtales, that moment happens almost immediately. Nuna, a young Inuit girl, and her Arctic fox are overjoyed when the spring thaw begins in her village; but when that enthusiasm leads them to act thoughtlessly, it sets off a chain of events that endanger their lives. It’s a mistake, says Ishmael Hope, borne of exuberance without consideration.” C. Locke, Wired.com

Foxtales features the return of Nuna and Fox and will be available July 28 on PS4, Xbox One and Steam.

Foxtales features the return of Nuna and Fox and will be available July 28 on PS4, Xbox One and Steam.

Excerpt: Foxtales shows Game Dev How to Get a Sensitive Story Right-Charley Locke-Wired.com

“It’s an amazing feeling to see the light after so many months in the darkness—instead of an endless blizzard, you have the light and vitality of the tundra coming alive in springtime, says Hope, the game’s writer. But that relief isn’t without responsibility: If you forget to respect the world around you, there will be consequences. 

Ishmael Hope tells a story at the Alaska Native storytelling event at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Photo- Alaska Dispatch News

Ishmael Hope tells a story at the Alaska Native storytelling event at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Photo- Alaska Dispatch News

Released July 28, 2015 for Xbox One, PS4, and Steam, Foxtales builds on the world of last year’s Never Alone, which first introduced players to Nuna, Fox, and the tundra above the Arctic Circle.  Hope’s moral, however, doesn’t just inform the game’s plot; it also holds true for game developers looking to portray native culture—an effort that too often results in overused stereotypes. Usually, we just hope the games aren’t horribly offensive, says Hope, a member of Alaska’s Iñupiat tribe. And so Foxtales, like Never Alone, presents native culture far beyond igloos and powwows—in large part because Iñupiat elders provided feedback on the game throughout the development process.

From left, Minnie Gray and Sean Vesce. Photo: Brian Alspache: E-Line Media

From left, Minnie Gray and Sean Vesce. Photo: Brian Alspache: E-Line Media

Both Foxtales and Never Alone were developed by Upper One Games, a collaboration between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (C.I.T.C.), a nonprofit serving natives in Alaska, and game developer E-Line Media. This kind of cultural collaboration is unprecedented, says Sean Vesce, creative director at E-Line Media.

If you forget to respect the world around you, there will be consequences.

If you forget to respect the world around you, there will be consequences.

And the elders spoke their minds. As Vesce explains, when he introduced the concept of dimension switching from the real world to the spirit world, one elder informed him, “Our spirituality isn’t on demand. You can’t just hit a button and suddenly hey, you’re surrounded by helpful spirits.”

“Now young people can see interest from outside, and get a sense of self-worth from their culture.” ~ Ishmael Hope~Alaskan Iñupiat

Category: Culture