Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut November 15, 2012 - 6:23 am

Nunavut firm to bring Inuktitut gaming to mobile devices

“[We] provide a useful tool for Nunavut and Nunavik parents, daycares and schools"

Play online games on Pinnguaq and practice your Inuktitut: that's the premise behind a project now under development by a new start-up company based in Pangnirtung.
Play online games on Pinnguaq and practice your Inuktitut: that's the premise behind a project now under development by a new start-up company based in Pangnirtung.

(updated, 11:30 a.m.)

A new, Inuktitut-first gaming provider, based in Pangnirtung, plans to bring popular computer games to Inuit and other aboriginal Canadians.

Pinnguaq — which means “game” in Inuktitut — launched its website Nov. 9 and is in the process of providing two mobile-app, or app games for Inuktitut-speakers.

“I started the company for the purpose of seeing gaming available in indigenous languages,” said Pinnguaq’s project manager Ryan Oliver, who has lived in Nunavut for seven years. “Being in Nunavut and surrounded by Inuktitut, it was a no-brainer to start with a few Inuktitut projects, but my hope is to expand these type of ideas to all indigenous languages.”

Ryan said the original incentive for Pinnguaq came from his two young children, aged three and one, who both are learning and speaking Inuktitut. 

“I wanted to ensure they, as well as their friends, had gaming experiences in Inuktitut,” said Oliver, who works on Pinnguaq in his spare time when he’s not at his job with Government of Nunavut’s economic and transportation department.

The first app (short for “application software”), called “SongBird,” is an original game made by Pinnguaq to help users learn traditional and original songs by Inuit musicians.

In the application, users can practice songs in Inuktitut. After recording a “final performance” gamers can share their songs with friends.

Oliver said he obtained copyright permission to use some Inuktitut songs specifically for “Songbird”. 

“The songs we’re using are from a group called Nukariik out of Nunavik,” Oliver said.

Pinnguaq plans to issue formal press release towards the end of December which will link to samples of the songs, he said.

Oliver’s hope is that SongBird will help schools in helping and encouraging kids in learning Inuktitut.

“[We] provide a useful tool for Nunavut and Nunavik parents, daycares and schools who wish to complement their Inuktitut and cultural lessons with an interactive element,” Oliver said on Pinnguaq’s website.

This app will be released on March 31, 2013 and will be available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

Pinnguaq’s second ongoing project is the already popular mobile app game called “Osmos.”

Osmos, which received Apple’s Game of the Year honour for the iPad in 2010, is set to launch in the spring of 2013 in Inuktitut.

Osmos is a game similar to that of the 1980s arcade sensation, “Asteroids.” The game is created by Hemisphere Games — a Canadian based firm that produces apps and is working with Pinnguaq on the Inuktitut version.

“We believe that translating quality games like Osmos is an important first step in building capacity and market for indigenous languages gaming,” said Oliver on Pinnguaq’s website.

Pinnguaq isn’t translating this game alone, however.

The company is also encouraging Inuktitut speakers to help translate the game.

Inuktitut speakers can log on and take a quiz.

Then, you’ll be asked to translate 15 random terms from the game, but you don’t need to be familiar with the game or computer gaming to do that.

You can complete the quiz as many times as you want, and, for each time you complete the quiz, you’ll be entered into a draw to win an Osmos Prize Pack (composed of iPad versions of a variety of Canadian iOs games), and the grand prize, the new iPad Mini.

“Together we are going to build all of the necessary translations so that people in Nunavut can enjoy this award winning game in our own language,” Pinnguaq’s website says.

As for issues with bandwidth in Nunavut and other Inuit regions in Canada, once an app is downloaded, there are no bandwidth requirements.

“It’s on the iPad/iPod and can be accessed at any time,” Oliver said. “Having said that, Osmos does have a multiplayer mode that we are translating, and that would require a constant internet connection.”

Oliver said he’s tried the multiplayer Osmos in Pangnirtung and never run into any problems with lag.

“It is not a bandwidth intensive game,” he said.

Pinnguaq is also looking for artists and programmers to join its team.

The project, supported by the Nunavut Literacy Council, is an attempt “to make the world seem a little bit smaller,” Oliver said.

“Making high-quality experiences available in your home language opens up new doors and new possibilities that may not have even been considered before. The gaming industry in Canada is at unprecedented heights and this is an opportunity to open that door to Nunavummiut,” he said.

To contact Pinnguaq, click here.

with files from David Murphy

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