An Alaska Native group decided to make a video game. It's like nothing you've ever played before.

One of the most groundbreaking, critically acclaimed, and delightful video games of 2014 began in a highly unlikely place — Anchorage, Alaska.

A scene from "Never Alone." Photos by North One Games/E-Line Media.


It's called "Never Alone" (or "Kisima Ingitchuna"). And it wasn't developed by Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or any of the other big game studios.

It was the brainchild of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) — a nonprofit community support organization for Alaska Natives and their families.

Many Alaska Native communities are struggling to hold on to their identities in the 21st century.

As more and more Alaska Natives move out of traditional communities and into urban areas, indigenous languages are disappearing — and with them, traditional knowledge. Many don't have a choice because climate change threatens to erode and, in some cases, even destroy native towns and villages around the state.

For many, life in Alaska's cities is hardly easy. According to Amy Fredeen, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the CITC, Alaska Native youth in Anchorage are plagued by high dropout and suicide rates. Passing traditional knowledge down under these conditions becomes all the more challenging.

The council saw "Never Alone" as both a way of becoming more financially self-sufficient and a necessary new method of transferring cultural knowledge from one generation to the next.

"We saw video games as a way to connect to our youth in a place where they're already at," Fredeen told Upworthy. The group also hoped that sales of the video game would help reduce their dependence on federal grant money.

There was a problem, however: No one on the CITC had ever made a video game before.

Undaunted, the council cold-called E-Line Media, a Seattle-based entertainment and video game development company with a message: "Come to Anchorage."

"What was funny is they actually came up and tried to talk us out of it."

According to Fredeen, E-Line urged the council to approach the project with caution: Video game development is a highly risky business and particularly challenging for a nonprofit with limited cash supplies.

But the group was determined — and the developers were impressed.

E-Line signed on. And off they went.

The team started by analyzing how indigenous characters were typically portrayed in video games. What they found was upsetting — and unsurprising.

"It ran the gamut from being terrible stereotypes to just appropriation," Fredeen said.

The group found that not only were native video game characters exceedingly rare, but when they did appear, it was often as sidekicks exhibiting a mishmash of cultural signifiers cobbled together from various and unrelated communities or, worse, as one-dimensional villains.

"Some of them were really almost obscene," Fredeen said.

In contrast, "Never Alone" features an Alaska Native main character and is based largely on a traditional Iñupiaq story.

E-Line chief creative officer Sean Vesce teaches Minnie Gray, an Alaska Native elder, storyteller, and consultant on the game, how to play.

Nuna, the game's hero, teams up with an arctic fox to find the source of the blizzard that's threatening her community. Players explore themes of resourcefulness, cooperation, and the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next through the beautifully rendered gameplay.

"When I saw that come to life on screen, when they were using the scrimshaw in an animated way to tell a story, it brought tears to my eyes." — Amy Fredeen

E-Line credits the game's part-Iñupiaq lead writer, Ishmael Hope, for helping ensure that Alaska Native voices were front and center in the development process.

“We want to be culturally appropriate without cultural appropriation," Matt Swanson, one of the game's producers told Upworthy.

That meant checking their egos at the door and questioning some assumptions they didn't even realize they had.

According to Swanson, the original villain of the game was slated to be a raven before their collaborators pointed out that wouldn't make sense in an Alaska Native context.

"As Westerners, we have lots of stories where [the raven] is a trickster character, and things like that. And they pushed back on that and said, 'Look, that's not really culturally appropriate. The raven in our culture is a much more sort of sacred character.'"

It was a surprise to the E-Line team, which highlighted the importance of listening and their role as students in the story development process.

In addition to the main game, "Never Alone" features hours of documentary footage of Alaska Native elders and community members sharing traditional stories, explaining customs, and passing down knowledge.

The team was initially worried that the footage — which the player has the option of watching — would disrupt the gameplay but later received tons of positive feedback on the feature.

For Fredeen, the moment she knew "Never Alone" was going to be something special was when she saw the first cutscene — rendered entirely in serialized scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw is a traditional form of bone or ivory carving. According to Fredeen, while scrimshaw today is most often done in single panel, it was traditionally used in Alaska Native communities as a multi-panel, serial storytelling device.

"When I saw that come to life on screen, when they were using the scrimshaw in an animated way to tell a story, it brought tears to my eyes," Fredeen said. "The instant I saw that, I knew the team was listening to who we were as a people and how we really connected with each other."

The game debuted to terrific reviews and has since won some very big awards.

Minnie Gray in the recording studio.

Its effects are being felt far beyond Alaska's borders as well.

"After the game launched, we've been getting this incredible response from people of all different backgrounds on how getting to see an indigenous main character in a game, and seeing cultural representation in a game has resonated with them," Swanson said.

For Fredeen, the importance of that representation can't be overstated and was evident from the first time she saw a group of Alaska Native youth encounter the game.

"When they saw the video game on the screen, and when they saw a character that looked like them and the dress was familiar to them, and they saw their community members on the video with the video game, you could just see the pride on their faces."

The game is expected to make money — a big deal in the video game world — and the team continues to be impressed with its success.

“It's been amazing all around," Fredeen said.

"People just get excited in Alaska," she added. "... They're excited to see something that was made with Alaskans."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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