In the ever-growing world of video games, there are a variety of genres for gamers to enjoy.
From fantasy adventures and sports, to war and post-apocalyptic worlds, there is something for just about everyone. And one Redmond-based company is working to add one more genre: world games.
Colabee Studios is a video game developer that specializes in celebrating and sharing world cultures through its games.
The company is currently working on developing its first game, “The Forest Song.” According to the Colabee website, the game is a first-person adventure that “explores the connections and conflict between humans, nature and supernatural world.” It is an adaptation of Lisova Pisnya, a classic Ukrainian drama in which players assume the role of a peasant who encounters an elusive and powerful Forest Spirit. Their connection opens the player to a spirit world and sparks a clash between the forest’s supernatural inhabitants and humans.
While this will be Colabee’s first game, co-founders Sean Vesce and Dima Veryovka previously worked on “Never Alone,” which received a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Games award for Best Debut Game in 2015. The game was developed by Upper One in partnership with the Iñupiat, a native Alaskan people living in the northernmost part of the United States, to tell some of that culture’s story.
Veryovka (left), Colabee’s creative director, said for “The Forest Song,” they were inspired by the Polesia region of Eastern Europe. This area — which shares borders with Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia — is home to the largest forest in the continent and the people share an extraordinary relationship with nature and believe they can speak to the trees, he said.
In developing “The Forest Song,” Colabee is going through a similar process as Upper One did for “Never Alone.”
They are working closely with the Ukrainian community. Veryovka said they traveled to Ukraine and with the help of the National University of Kyiv, went on a cultural expedition to the Polesia region to learn more about the culture and people. He added that this region is home to one of the biggest manmade disasters in history — the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 — and they spoke to survivors and heard some of their stories.
Veryovka said they learned about these people’s past and their culture’s mythology and are trying to bring “their voice” to life.
Vesce, the company’s development director, said there is a lot of wisdom to be gained by speaking with cultural elders, but the education also goes both ways. While the game developers become students of the culture, the community learns about game culture and how video games can be used to educate and understand in addition to entertaining.
“The Forest Song” is still in its early development and Veryovka said they are looking at a late 2018 release date.
Vesce (left) said following this game, there will be more to come and they are committed to continuing their work in creating games as a collective effort.
Colabee is not sure which culture they will highlight next but Veryovka said it is important for them to find people who are passionate about their culture and committed to putting in the work, as it takes about two years to create and develop a game.
Vesce said members of any community want the ability to portray their culture in a way that is not stereotypical and the genre of world games presents this and youth with role models, allowing them to reconnect with their culture.
After “Never Alone,” was released, the game developers said they received a tremendous response, including hundreds of letters from indigenous communities. They also received feedback from gamers who said their game made them happy to be Alaska natives and proud of their heritage and who they are.
In addition to cultural communities wanting to see themselves represented in a thoughtful and accurate way, Vesce said gamers are looking for games with deeper content that inspire them to think differently about the world.