African Game Development
March 31, 2015 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Aurion looks to be a standard and mechanically unremarkable retro action RPG with heavy Japanese design influences. But its design and feel are unmistakably fresh, offering a bold color palette and interesting unit designs. Its fiction is rooted in stories of exploitation and division, and in a desire for harmony.
This review of Cameroon's Kiro’o Games latest release is just one of the increasingly visible ways Africa's game developers are beginning to gain traction in their domestic and international markets. Last fall, Lagos hosted the inaugural West African Gaming Expo, bringing together startups, gamers, developers and investors for the first time. Games range from mobile only, extremely local - smash the mosquito or drive your matatu like a maniac - to educational - to full fledged RPG like Kiro'o's Aurion. Women are as much a part of this nascent industry, breaking barriers and encouraging others to join. Watch this space.
posted by infini (7 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Fascinating stuff. Aurion isn't my preferred genre or aesthetic, but I'll buy it just to support a team of people who are crazy and dedicated enough to try to start a new industry (and to get a look at something new and unique).
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:52 AM on March 31, 2015

I know nothing about games or gaming but I just want to give infini a huge shoutout for interesting posts about parts of the world pretty much ignored by MSM (and metafilter) except when it involves blood and gore. You go Girl.
posted by adamvasco at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

In a _ROLE_ playing game, a new role is definitionally remarkable.

And they're entirely right about JRPG's being about the Hiroshima trauma. I realized that rather strongly after playing Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy 6, and Lufia in quick progression.
posted by effugas at 12:23 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great stuff, excellent and informative post. I'm ashamed that I'm an American I.T. professional that hasn't really kept up with African countries info tech progress as well as I should have. I did visit a friend in the Peace Corp in Cameroon in early 2000. When I visited I brought a then current Compaq Presario laptop with current francophone software/OS and power adapters to a very small village just 20 km west of Chad. No kidding - local kids started using Excel for functions and formulas just after a few days! Computing/DevOps/etc. needs to have more of a world focus, and this is an encouraging story.
posted by mctsonic at 12:56 PM on March 31, 2015

A great deal of current game related research is trying to break out of studying games as isolated texts, and trying instead to understand the larger culture of play and production that surrounds them. The major development and player markets that some of the articles mention (the USA, Euro-games / Slavic Games, and Japanese markets) all have existed in varying forms since the 70s, and have grown out of the various economic realities of both those local economies and the larger global game market.

This is a great post, since I think it captures one of the typical blindspots of game culture, which is development for and by cultures that exist outside of the major dominate markets. You typically find production being situated in these areas (to reduce hardware costs), or you find tertiary markets (like gold farmers), but very seldom do you see anything other than identity tourism (like the RE5 example in one of the articles) and general ignorance of what these players desire. It will be interesting to see how the scenes develop in Africa... getting any sort of new perspectives into global game culture is definitely welcome.

One thing that the first article brings up is the uncertainty of electricity. The hardware capabilities of their audiences seems like it's going to influence the games that are developed. The interview with the CEO of Kiro'o gets at this idea a bit,
“The platforms that we have targeted – namely PC and XBOX360 – will enable to boost the African video game industry. Till today, studios operating on the continent are mostly specialized in mobile games and games for tablets. Yet, PC and console games are very profitable markets,”

posted by codacorolla at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

effugas, I've been watching many of them for a while now and Kiro'o definitely stands out for their deeply evolved philosophy underlying their narratives, as compared to the 'sprinkled local flavour' of the other named studios. For instance, from this interview:

Nonetheless, Madiba says it was his self-imposed literary study which really prepared him for game-developing.

“To realise the game Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, I self-educated myself. First, I started writing. I have never been in a literature, letters or arts academy. But I started writing because since the age of 14, I dreamed of working in a video games studio,” Madiba told Disrupt Africa.

“Writing would then help me come up with a good scenario for my games. I therefore wrote articles and a book titled “Jour et Nuit”; this enabled me to learn how to write scenarios and dialogues,” he explains.

And this from the first link,

"The artists didn't know at the start how to use a graphics tablet," explains Meli. "We drew on paper and scanned into GIMP [an open source graphics program]. So, you can imagine the training work done to get to the level you see in the game trailers."

Its the equivalent of because I want to sell you a box of table salt, I walk 200 miles to the sea, then I build salt pans, dry the salt, prepare it for the table, box and brand and package it, haul it back to town, build a store and then sell you a damn pinch for your kitchen table.

Damn, but if it isn't impressive!
posted by infini at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Kiro'o Games, la jeune entreprise camerounaise qui s'est lancée dans la production d'un jeu vidéo à partir d'un studio local, a annoncé le closing de son capital d'investissement à 182 504 euros (120 millions de francs Cfa), deux ans après son lancement. «Le projet a généré suffisamment de garanties et de visibilité mondiale. Cela s’est ressenti par un effet «dynamite» en générant plus de concrétisations que de souscriptions», a confié à l'agence Ecofin, Olivier Madiba (photo), le jeune DG de l'entreprise, visiblement satisfait.
posted by infini at 2:47 AM on April 13, 2015

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