NAIROBI – What’s unsuitable with being a plucky hero operating from demon monkeys or a glamorous mannequin in gown up video games? Gamers too typically get sucked into worlds filled with violence and unhealthy physique photos, in keeping with Jay Shapiro, co-founder of Kenya-based Usiku Video games.

The Canadian entrepreneur hopes to shake up the video games market in Kenya — and Africa — by providing not solely the “adrenaline rush” of competing to win, but additionally delicate messaging on relatable themes like conservation, local weather change and tradition.

“When was the final time you noticed an African hero in a online game?” Shapiro requested forward of the Dec. 14 official opening of Usiku Video games workplaces and the Nairobi Sport Improvement Heart, a high-tech co-working area additionally created by Shapiro.

“We checked out how can we make video games which can be in contrast to what’s on the market in the meanwhile. Which might be made in Africa, for Africa, with African heroes in African environments … in order that when someone performs it, they see themselves mirrored within the recreation.”

"Turkana," a video game by Usiku Games, allows players to direct water from Kawalasee River to a farm.
“Turkana,” a online game by Usiku Video games, permits gamers to direct water from Kawalasee River to a farm.

10 video games up to now

Usiku Video games has up to now developed 10 brain-teasing and trivia video games for Africa’s cell phone customers geared toward fostering a #GamingForGood tradition, with eventualities the place the participant has to avoid wasting lions from poachers or remedy site visitors congestion.

The sport “Turkana” — named after Kenya’s arid northwestern county — permits gamers to direct water from the Kawalasee River to a farm whereas in “Jam Noma” they get to drive a neighborhood matatu minibus and navigate congestion to finish the journey.

The corporate, which has 16 workers, additionally employs youths from Nairobi’s Kibera, a sprawling casual settlement housing greater than 200,000 folks, to supply the voices and produce the rap music for the video games in English, Swahili and native slang, Sheng.

"Jam Noma," a video game from Usiku Games allows players to drive a local matatu minibus and navigate congestion.
“Jam Noma,” a online game from Usiku Video games permits gamers to drive a neighborhood matatu minibus and navigate congestion.

Optimistic messages

Different video games the corporate is growing together with “Seedballs” a reforestation recreation the place the participant has to drop seeds at targets on the bottom, and “BeYOUtiful,” which is a gown up recreation for women with African characters.

“These gown up video games for preteen women are very {popular}, however everybody in them has a white girl in her 20s with ‘Barbiesque’ curves which can be unattainable to achieve,” stated Shapiro.

“If I’m a bit Kenyan woman taking part in this recreation, the sport is subliminally telling me that the usual for magnificence is that this blonde, white, skinny girl. We expect that’s unsuitable.”

The video games are at the moment free however Usiku Video games plans to cost customers about 10 shillings ($0.10) to play a recreation in future, with the winner incomes cash, a few of which might be transformed to money in a cellular financial savings account to pay college or medical charges.

“It’s nice Usiku Video games is specializing in socially accountable bite-sized video games,” stated Gautam Shah, founding father of Web of Elephants, which makes conservation video games, including that almost all {popular} video games deal with subject material that’s removed from Africa.

“I feel their success will depend on how relatable these video games are to native customers.”


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