When Madiba Olivier set out to make Cameroon’s first video game with his newly opened studio Kiro’o Games, he had to do it with just $100 and daily power outages. And those weren’t even the most difficult challenges for the Yaounde-based developer.
“We had difficulty finding funds and showing investors that we are not a scam,” recalls Olivier. “We had people telling us, you are just another African scam on the internet. That was very humiliating for me.”
Recently, he has proven the doubters that he means business. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Kiro’o Games has raised over $50,000 to create the country’s first African role-play game: Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.
Unlike most fantasy games, this one features an African hero, and creates an alternative world inspired by African folklore and mythology.
“At first, the idea was to make games about ninjas,” notes Olivier. “But then I realized many gamers were bored of the same story and the same heroes. That’s how the idea to create an African fantasy came out. I wanted to break what I call ‘the exotic world’ image of Africa.”
The hero of the game, Enzo Kori-Odan, is the ruler of Zama — a diverse country free of an imperialist past but now threatened by a coup. The story centers around Enzo and his wife Erine, and their fight to regain the throne. The hero’s power comes from the collective energy of his ancestors, a force known as the Aurion.
“I think people with good eyes will see a lot of symbols about the African challenge,” says Olivier. “Geopolitics is not about who will rule the world, but about deciding what the goal of the human race will be.”
Aurion is just one example of what experts say is an industry growing at hyperspeed, thanks in large part to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
“It allows gamers to be invested in the process. Considering that funding for a game is rather difficult to come by, crowdfunding certainly makes sense in this market,” notes Pippa Tshabalala, a South African video game writer and TV presenter.
For Olivier, the release of Aurion is just the beginning of a lifelong ambition to make Kiro’o Games the leader of gaming in Africa.
“We have an advantage with our colonial past, in that we can relate to people from different countries. We need to find a place in the games industry that will make us the center of gaming world trade,” he says.
So what are his ambitions for 2016 and beyond?
“We want to be the biggest publisher and we plan to go into mobile gaming too,” he notes. “We have spent the past ten years running from poverty. So the next ten years? We’ll spend it running towards prosperity.”