A student from Kotzebue received a special gift on her birthday: she became the first person off the road network to win the Alaska 529 scholarship. This victory will help her continue to fulfill her dream of becoming a game developer who can inspire players with unique characters, a space to connect with each other, and a chance to build their own stories.
Alaska 529, the education savings program, announced last Wednesday that Kiana Norton, 23, had won her annual scholarship account of $ 25,000, funded by the Education Trust of Alaska. The fund’s 14,000 permanent dividend seekers who chose to pay half of their dividend into an Alaska 529 account were entered into the contest, according to the press release.
Norton learned of the victory in a surprise Zoom session, and for a student taking a year off, that was big news.
“I was going through a really tough time in my current college and winning it took a huge load off me and opened up a lot more options,” Norton said.
Norton is studying computer science at the University of Washington and wants to use his degree to create games that allow others to take the reins of story building.
“With video games, it’s not just about telling a story; there are so many little interactions that you can fit into it that make it a story for someone else to make up,” he said. she declared. “It’s just a lot more immersive.”
She explained that in one of her favorite games, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, you can “get your friends together on the same screen” and “it’s just you and your friends walking around in a trailer and exploring. together. The fun part of this is the story you make with your friends. “
Norton started playing games as a child and learned to draw even before that. Her mother works as a schoolteacher and their house has always had “tons and tons of art supplies.”
“I was always doing art and playing with paint or crayons because that’s the house I grew up in,” Norton said.
In third grade, she remembers working with a large piece of paper that she glued to cardboard “to make it a little more chic” and drew “ladies in very chic dresses, maybe princesses. “.
“This would probably be the first time and I seriously started drawing,” Norton said. She also remembers math class where she completed advanced tasks faster than other students and spent her free time filling entire sheets of printer paper with colorful artwork. “Drawing has always been fun for me, just because it was always so rewarding to look at the paper and see something cool.”
For Norton, drawing is also an act of mediation and reflection on his stories and his characters. She described one of her inspirations, the flying book character in the game Drakengard. Norton explained that this floating and omniscient talking book Grimoire Weiss doesn’t have the most heroic role but is memorable and lovable. Without any facial features, he conveys so much charisma and character through the way he moves and gestures that the book could do.
As for the characters Norton creates, they reflect what Norton thinks about or what she goes through in her life.
“The characters I like to focus on kind of reflect how I felt at the time,” she said.
Norton was born and raised in Kotzebue and this is where she currently lives. When the pandemic found her at the University of Washington, she said she was happy to put her life on campus on hiatus. Her move from Alaska to Washington didn’t go well, she explained, and she missed the cold and calm of her Kotzebue home.
“My room (dorm) was on the corner of the seventh floor, on the side of the building that received sunlight most of the day, so it was very hot in there and it attracted ladybugs and flies every day,” said she remembers. . “Even when I was all alone in my room and just wanted to enjoy a moment of calm, I could hear cars just in the distance and a low hum that sounded almost as loud as the plane taking off at Kotzebue.”
Norton is unsure whether she wants to return to the University of Washington or choose another university to complete her studies. Fortunately, she can use her scholarship to pay for any college, university, vocational or technical school that accepts federal financial aid.
“I’m always thinking about my options,” Norton said. Her story still seems open and it’s up to her to write.