Inuit art comes to life with Art Alive iPad game

Pangnirtung-based Pinnguaq uses Inuit art prints as basis for iPad game that is scheduled for launch next spring.

Pangnirtung-based Pinnguaq uses Inuit art prints as basis for new game

Inuit art comes to life with iPad game

9 years ago
Duration 1:12
Inuit art comes to life with iPad game

Imagine being able to immerse yourself into the world of an Inuit print. A Pangnirtung, Nunavut, video game developer is hoping to do just that.

In one level of Art Alive, the game being developed by Pinnguaq, characters leap from platform to platform and an igloo starts to form in the background. Swipe your finger across a qulliq and it sparks to life.

That section is based on the print Shaman's Domain by Pauloosie Karpik from the 1986 Pangnirtung print collection.

"At the same time as you're interacting through these prints and putting them all together, you'll be learning about the artists who did them, the print style, the art itself," said Ryan Oliver, the company's founder.

"As much as you're having fun, you'll also be getting quite a lesson out of it."

Pinnguaq and Art Alive is also getting some help from a $3.5 million project called "Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage" at York University in Toronto.

The project's leader Anna Hudson said it started with digitizing Cape Dorset prints. But Hudson realized one problem was the difficulty accessing the online database using Nunavut's bandwidth

Oliver's plan to incorporate those prints into a game would not need so much resources in terms of connectivity, said Hudson.

"It was both dynamic, interesting to children, interesting to anybody, so you're sort of tricked into spending time looking at that artwork," she said.

The game is in production and as work continues, Oliver hopes to add prints from Baker Lake and Cape Dorset.

Pinnguaq in Germany

Oliver is just back from a trip to Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, the largest video game convention in the world with more than 300,000 people in attendance this year.

He says North American game developers can't believe there is a company based in Canada's Arctic, because they understand the challenges of Nunavut's connectivity. But European developers aren't too fazed.

"The Nordic countries are some of the most prominent game developers in the world. When they learn that we're based in the Canadian Arctic, on the international scale, that groundwork has already been set. Angry Birds was developed in a circumpolar country."

The popular video game was created in Finland. Oliver says his company is the only one in the circumpolar world to be incorporating Inuit culture.

The Pangnirtung-based game development company was one of 20 Canadian companies at the trade show. Oliver was able to attend the trade show because of the Canadian government. He says the Department of Foreign Affairs put a call out to any tech companies who wanted to attend. He says it was the first time he was able to get international input on their work.

Art Alive should be released for iPad next spring.