If you’re just joining us… as I come across material that I think would make good fodder for films, I’m sharing them here – from my Jackie Ormes piece, to The Black Count, to Ikire Jones: Lagos 2081 A.D., and most recently, the seemingly fantastical stage production titled Roots of Liberty: The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War.
Today, I learned about Ghanaian gaming and comic book designer/developer Leti Games, which is run by CEO/Co-Founder, Eyram Akofa Tawia and CTO/Co-Founder, Wesley Kirinya.
As one of very few companies of its kind in all of Africa – gaming notably – both co-founders of the company were invited to speak at the 2013 Game Developers Conference, taking please right now (through March 29) in San Francisco, CA.
The Game Developers Conference is the premier international gaming event of the year. It brings creative teams, engineers and business development teams from all over the world together to meet and exchange ideas on the interactive games industry.
Their talk will be titled The Emerging Landscape of African Game Development – a session I’d love to be present for. Gaming (as we know it today – Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, etc) isn’t exactly a business that first comes to mind when one thinks of Africa – specifically Ghana. So, I’m certainly intrigued.
Emerging markets like continental Africa provide new opportunities and challenges for localization. Eyram and Wesley hope to represent an existing wealth of knowledge and experience, about localization in game development in the fledging African games industry.
Leti Games is said to be only the second full-time game studio in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa, which has a limited but significant history of game development).
Tawia and Kirinya started Leti Games in Accra in 2009 with the aid of an investment from the Meltwater Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Norweigan software company.
Leti’s first game, iWarrior, in the style of Space Invaders, was released for the iPhone in the same year. In it, players control a tribesman attempting to protect his village from an onslaught of hyenas, wildebeests, and lions.
The rest from the press statement:
Building it wasn’t easy. New game companies in the West take for granted a pool of skilled human labor to hire and make their products. Tawia and Kirinya have found themselves in the position of having to train their own work force. Leti runs an internship program for high school and college students that teaches the basics of game making: animation, modeling, story writing, programming, and the basics of working in game engines. Leti, which has a staff of ten, has trained 25 interns since 2011. The challenges of game development in West Africa extend far beyond a lack of skilled workers. The basic pay unit of mobile gaming — the credit card charge — is itself a problem for Leti. Simply put, most of the people in Leti’s current market don’t have credit or debit cards. Tawia and Kirinya have had to adapt, turning to mobile phone payments as a way of monetizing their games. And there is a huge business opportunity if Leti — or anyone else — can figure out how to tap it. Mobile phone use in Africa is exploding; it’s the fastest growing market for mobile use in the world. And there’s undoubtedly a lack of games specifically developed with these new markets. Developers from across the world have made games in African settings with mixed results (Resident Evil 5, a Japanese game, drew criticism in 2009 for its hordes of shambling villagers and spear-wielding warriors). Tawia thinks that games with African settings made by Africans are the best way to cultivate a sense of cultural authenticity: “a game like iWarrior, though small, is a good step to culturalizing games to our specific setting.” Leti’s next game, which its on the verge of launching, is entitled Ananse: The Origin and turns the narrative of the African god and trickster into that familiar trope of Western comics: origin story. It sounds like the kind of story that everyone — not just those familiar with the Anansi story — would want to play.
“We believe there is a global market for Leti Games,” says Tawia. “Our focus is to make games from Africa for the world, not just games for Africa. However, we want to create the gaming industry in Africa before diving into global competition.” “We are on the verge of creating not just a game company,” says Tawia, “but an entire industry.”
Inspiring, no matter where in the world they are from!
I don’t own an iPhone, so I’ve never played iWarrior. I own an Android phone, and I checked the Android market, but couldn’t find the game there.
Both gentlemen do plan to develop games not just for the mobile market, but also for major gaming platforms like the aforementioned XBox, Playstation, Nintendo and others.
Their next game, Ananse: The Origin isn’t available yet, but, as the press statement says, should be launching shortly.
And, oh by the way, they publish a few comic books titles as well – including Leti Legends and Bukom, all inspired by Ghanaian cultural elements.
And since comic book and video game film adaptations are all the rage, why not take a look at what these young men are creating for inspiration.
Now that I’m aware of them and their company, I’ll certainly be following their exploits from here-on. They should get a nice profile awareness boost from their presence at the ongoing Game Developers Conference, as I’m sure others will be very curious, which should lead to even more media coverage.
Watch the Leti team in the video below, discuss their company, as well as plans and hopes for the future. In it, you’ll also find clips of their work – both games and comics.