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Innovators Launch First Indigenous-owned Video Game Company

Unique partnership aligns traditional knowledge with contemporary expertise

NEW YORK—Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), along with development and publishing partner E-Line Media, announced today the launch of the first indigenous-owned video game company in the U.S.—Upper One Games, LLC—during the 10th Annual Games For Change Festival.

CITC is the leading educational, workforce development and social service provider for Alaska Native and American Indian people residing in Alaska’s largest urban area. For thousands of years, Alaska Native people have lived and worked together in challenging environments, learning and passing down knowledge, skills and values that have kept communities viable and self-sufficient over time. Through Upper One Games, CITC is embracing technology and new media to preserve and share Alaska Native culture, giving new meaning to the oral tradition of storytelling, and offering exciting new ways to engage and motivate youth throughout the world.                 

The drive for sustainability and empowerment of Alaska Native youth are at the core of what led CITC to invest in video games. “As an organization we want to be able to chart our own destiny,” said Gloria O’Neill, President and CEO of CITC. “This isn’t about the status quo; this is about pioneering a new approach to sustainability, as well as meaningful and scalable impact by creating a global video game brand infused with our values and culture.” 

CITC will partner with New York’s E-Line Media, a pioneering developer and publisher of game-based learning products and services that engage, educate and empower, helping to prepare young people for meaningful, successful lives and careers in the 21st Century.  E-Line partners with foundations, researchers and government agencies to develop and publish games for learning, health and social impact.

“CITC brings a deep commitment and powerful, new perspective to the games and impact sector,” said E-Line Media Co-Founder and President Alan Gershenfeld. “We are very excited to partner with them to help pioneer new models of game-based-learning that truly inspire youth throughout the world.”

In this unique partnership with E-Line Media, Upper One Games will co-develop and publish a variety of innovative, impact-focused commercial games that cross both the formal and informal learning channels. The partnership includes mutual investments to help ensure both companies are aligned across their impact and financial goals. 

Projects currently in development include a groundbreaking game for the consumer market based on traditional Alaskan stories, which will introduce a new approach to game-based cultural storytelling; a game-infused history curriculum slated for middle school students; and a new game-infused strategy for delivery of social services at CITC, which could have a broad influence on non-profit organizations and their service delivery nationwide.

“To create sustainable impact at scale in the sector requires talented, experienced, interdisciplinary teams,” said E-Line Co-Founder and CEO Michael Angst. “Together, with CITC, we are building a long-term partnership around shared values and objectives to achieve both impact and financial returns.”

The projects are being developed by world-class game designers with leadership and development experience on many of the industry’s top games, including Tomb Raider, Madden NFL, NHL 2K, MLB 2K, Tony Hawk Skateboarding and FrontierVille.  All team members are committed to working with Alaskan Native elders, cultural storytellers and social entrepreneurs, along with leading learning scientists, to harness the power of games to engage youth.

The combined energies of both companies have growing momentum and encompass a large network of strategic partners. “Not only do we expect Upper One Games to provide additional financial flexibility to deepen and expand our educational investment, through our partnership with E-Line and the impact-focused games we are jointly developing, we aim to fire the imaginations of a broad global audience and be part of pioneering new approaches to highly engaged learning in the U.S. and throughout the world,” said O’Neill.

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