A video game was released last month, perhaps the first one set around Bethel, Alaska. Game creator Wyatt White, who was raised in Bethel, demonstrated the game.
ThreeStep starts out with the main character dropped into the frozen tundra around Bethel.
“I love how it makes footpaths in the snow when you run around, and they go away too, so you can't quite follow your old path,” said KYUK DJ Grady Deaton, who was also watching the demo.
Wind blows constantly during the game, covering your tracks. Pensive piano strokes and a lonely guitar let you know that this will be a solitary adventure. The game’s graphics are pretty basic and two-dimensional. Wyatt White admits that when he started this project, he was not the game developer he is now.
“Whether it's good or not, it doesn't really matter. It's true to me, and it's true to what I wanted to do, and I feel like on some level, it's true to Bethel,” White said.
The main character, Sadie Kalasrade, has to scavenge for scrap metal to keep her snowmachine running, as well as hunt and forage for food to survive. On top of that, she’s struggling to move on from her son’s drug overdose. White says that in some ways, ThreeStep is about his own life.
“My family, having lost a brother. I mean, he wasn't flesh and blood, but we considered him, you know, one of us,” White said.
White says that at first, it was great to write about feelings he hadn’t really addressed until then.
“And then it became very difficult to keep working on it just because there's so much emotion wrapped up in it,” White said.
At times, he would worry that if the game wasn’t good, he’d be failing his family.
“Because part of this is my mom's story, and part of it's my brother's story, you know, it's not just mine,” White explained.
The game features other elements of White, like his thoughts on guns and alcohol.
“I'm not a writer or a musician or anything, so my opinions have to come out in the form of a piece of software, you know,” White said.
ThreeStep has been a solo form of expression for White. His brother, Michael White, helped create the music, but other than that, it’s been just him. He says that there isn’t really a network of game developers around town to talk to.
“In Bethel, no there are zero. There are, like, three in Alaska,” White quipped.
Despite the lonely work, he likes that he made something by himself. He says that he taught himself how to make games just using the Internet.
“Uh, Google. Lots of Google,” White said. “I use a software called Gamemaker Studio.”
He says that with that software, anyone can create a game just by clicking and dragging boxes.
Now, after sharing such a personal story in ThreeStep, White says that his next game will be lighter.
“Like punk rock, and driving faster cars, and big guns, like, I need something like that after this,” White said.
You can find White’s game, ThreeStep, on the game distribution platform Steam.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Wyatt White was born in Bethel. He actually moved to Bethel with his family when he was 9 years old.