How African Video Games Are Taking On The World
  • How African Video Games Are Taking On The World

    Admin 0 0 1539 Date: 20 Jan 2017
  • The video games industry is worth billions to companies all around the world.

    However, one continent where gaming has struggled to find its feet is Africa.

    With relatively poor access to the latest technology, and broadband provision often lagging far behind, the resources available to developers in African nations have often been lacking.

    But things are slowly changing.

    And Madiba Olivier – founder of Cameroon’s first ever games studio – is reaping the rewards.

    Note: Madiba Olivier is not a native English speaker. His responses have been edited for clarity.

    Olivier holds an extraordinary distinction within the African gaming industry.

    Not only is he the founder of Cameroon’s first game studio, Kiro’o Games, he is also the brains behind Aurion: The Legacy of the Kori-Odan – Africa’s first ever fantasy RPG.

    Work on the game can be traced back 13 years, when Olivier was fresh out of high school and had lofty ambitions.

    Namely, he wanted to make the perfect RPG for legendary Japanese developer Square Enix.

    “I told myself that if I make a good game from Cameroon, one day they will discover me and hire me,” he says.

    Initially working with the rudimentary RPG Maker, Olivier was mostly self-trained.

    “There was no [gaming] community, just players scattered in really tiny groups, mainly getting their games through piracy.”

    It wouldn’t be until around 2012 when work on Aurion would really pick up, with crowd-funding site Kickstarter giving Olivier a new lease of life and the ability to launch his studio. But there was still a problem.

    “As a Cameroonian studio, we didn’t have the right to publish our project on Kickstarter. That was a slap in the face.”

    Working around power cuts

    Olivier persevered, recruiting a team of volunteers to work on the title.

    Kickstarter complications were the least of his worries, however. Power outages, and an unstable internet connection due to Cameroon’s developing infrastructure, led to some innovative solutions.

    “We decided to turn [the power outages] into brainstorming sessions to polish our game concept, and get feedback from the team.

    “The most epic part was uploading the game [to Steam] using my smartphone as a modem because our internet provider was not stable enough.”

    Olivier was determined to make a game that could be taken seriously on the world stage.

    “We had to deal with old stereotypes about African and black people,” he says.

    “We knew it would never just be ‘a studio failure’. [The World would be saying] ‘we knew they couldn’t make it.’

    “We were also focused on showing our own people that we can do it. And do it without just copying success from others and putting it in ‘African colours’.”

    Even once the game had been developed, Olivier says they still faced an uphill battle with digital games distribution platform Steam.

    “When we tried to register the game we were asked for a lot of obscure administrative papers since we were not in the Western world.”

    Africa rising

    Games like Aurion are certainly raising the profile of Africa’s gaming industry, with the RPG garnering mainstream attention from sites such as Kotaku last year.

    That said, there’s still a long way to go.

    Though Nigeria is Africa’s biggest gaming nation, bringing in around £150 million in revenue last year, it still sits at number 40 in the world rankings for video game revenues.

    But things are looking up.

    “We now have better access to the internet and good computing equipment across the continent,” says Olivier.

    “Also, we are now the adults of our country, so gaming is a major part of our way of living. There’s a difference of vision between me at 30 and a Cameroonian of 60.

    “The industry in the continent will surely rise a lot in the next ten years.”

    The ‘Silicon Savannah’

    With gaming gaining a substantial footing in Africa, governments are slowly seizing the business opportunities.

    Its largely under-25 population, and the rapidly growing mobile internet usage of Nigeria, has seen that country’s gaming industry grow swiftly in recent years.

    Kenya, meanwhile, has an ongoing plan to transform itself into a globally competitive technology base, including the development of a so-called ‘Silicon Savannah’.

    “Investment is the key,” says Olivier. “But we are doing in 60 years in Africa what everywhere else has done in 200.

    “We have to build from scratch with the worst investment system. But we are revealing ourselves to the outside world now.”

    Article courtesy of Alex Nelson

    How African video games are taking on the world

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