Gaming Gains: The Tech Tapping Into African History

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes Africa | Tamsin Mackay
Khumo Moerane; image supplied
Khumo Moerane; image supplied

There’s mythology and mystery in the mix as gaming developers tap into the rich history of Africa telling stories that go way back in time.

The African gaming market sits on the cusp of global potential as studios shake up Western foundations with mythology, mystery and inclusivity.

In Nigeria, Maliyo Games has partnered with Disney to create a mobile game for an animated series called Iwájú. Mekan Games in Kenya launched a hypercasual game called The President which became the number one mobile game in the United States in 2022 with more than 10 million downloads. Kiro’o Games from Cameroon is a thriving studio producing games, animations and applications.

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And, in South Africa, there’s Khumo Moerane who collaborated with Leti Arts from Ghana to create a game demo called Karmzah Run about a superheroine archaeologist with cerebral palsy. Leti Arts’ game Sweave was recently accepted into the Gameloft platform. Moerane’s parent company is ITTHYNK Gaming and his studio is called Disputed People.

They are also developing an entirely new gaming franchise in South

Africa called PRYDE: The Lion of Africa which is based on African gods and mythology, and is still in development.

“Folklore and mythology are the cultural artifacts of our ancestors. They tell us what our ancient cultures valued and what lessons and morals were so important to them; they wanted to pass them on to future generations,” says Moerane to FORBES AFRICA. “These mythologies give us insight into how our ancestors saw themselves in relation to other people, the land and their spirituality, alongside the flora and fauna of Africa.

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“The game taps into the stories that comprise the rich history of Africa as part of the studio’s commitment to celebrating the continent. “We want to reignite the awesome that is Africa.

Remember the wonder and joy of the epic godly powers within us and, in the process, awaken the world to the real magic that sits here, in Africa. These stories have survived despite all the turmoil that has befallen the continent and we want to carry them forward.”

The game is an ambitious one but it has energized Moerane and the people he’s collaborating with to create it because it is Africa- centric. The world is starting to pay attention to African games and the talented people creating them. There’s an energy in the sector that may yet shift the narrative away from Africa being a place where big companies come to sell their games.

“The value has traditionally been concentrated in Europe, America and China as companies do what they can to create games that appeal to those markets,” says Moerane . “I think that’s the tricky part for Africa – how can gaming within this market gain traction and visibility?”

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For gamers in Africa, it’s a question most would like answered. Other than South Africans used as ‘bad guys’ in games like Uncharted, or locations across Africa used to enhance the thrill of a game filled with American accents, there are few games that connect directly with the local gamer. Since the first monsters stepped through a portal (Half-Life) or the first space marine battled the forces of hell in space (Doom), gamers in Africa have had little representation.

“I’ve been gaming for years, and it hit me that I’ve never actually played a game with an African hero or set with African mythology. This was an awakening for me,” says Moerane . “It has inspired my work on PRYDE: The Lion of Africa.

“It has been a challenge – we’ve had to find the right talent to help us. We’ve collaborated with students and with people who want a chance to use their skills to create a game because they love gaming. We’ve also connected with people at game jams, like the one in Kenya. But what we really need is business people who have the acumen to run a studio. Corporate-minded people to support the creatives so this industry can soar,” hopes Moerane.

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