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African and Chinese game developement collaboration
by Yassine Arif on 06/29/14 02:32:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

In autumn of 2013, I was invited as a video game designer from Morocco to a collaborative development workshop between China and Africa. FIAM in partnership with OIF organized the workshop from 21 - 27 October as a cultural collaboration held in Beijing.

The workshop was akin to a game jam where we developed a new mobile game in 5 days. Sammy Fatnassi, a senior graphics programmer in the industry, coordinated the group, composed of game developers from Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal as well as digital art students from The Institute of Graphic Communication in Beijing.

In this article, I discuss the rich experience of bringing together developers from different regions of the world and prototype a game that combines cultures.

Week 1: Game Development Collaboration

Upon arriving in China, the workshop organized touristic trips to visit historical sites and museums, including the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, in order to inspire us before breaking into the development process. We met our Chinese teammates from the university and the organizer presented the scope of the project: develop a 2D game inspired from combined cultures with cooperative gameplay, no competition, and focus on aesthetics.

We brainstormed about concepts that drew from our cultures. We were confronted with the challenge on how to best represent a unified vision of Africa as a game concept. While we came from one continent, each of us was from different regions and the team was culturally diverse (Arab, Amazigh, Sub-Saharan). We chose to set key words that were common points between us such as sociability, nature, the Sahara, forests, memories, and masks. From there, we merged the ideas into several game concept proposals to help our digital artist, illustrate our plans.

We chose the third proposal, a running game where the player switches between two mask that represent China and Africa. The object of the game is to collect points by switching between the masks that represent each culture. The accumulated points reconstitute lost memories from the cultures which were destroyed by demons represented as the negative side of the mass consumerism.

Intro of the game

Translators aided both sides in bridging the linguistic gaps that the team faced. However, in addition to language difficulties, references were sometimes different between cultures, leading to conceptual misunderstandings.  To remedy conceptual problems, I chose to adopt the design method of "form follows function" where I created only the functional side of the game and left the aesthetic form to the Chinese art team.

We used the Unity Engine free license as it is a great tool for prototyping. Unity is built for 3D play and as the 2D support was not currently available, we lost time dealing with the technical issues.

While we were shy in our initial interactions with our Chinese teammates, we bridged our cultural differences through the creative process.

Week 2: 9th WORLD SUMMIT INTERNET AND MULTIMEDIA

After finishing the game, we traveled to Chongqing and presented our project to the summit where we met veterans of the industry like Joseph Olin and Moacyr Alves, the president of ACIGAMES, a Brazilian association focus on video game business and culture. Mr. Alves presented on the state of the Brazilian game industry where I learned of commonality between the Brazilian industry and the African. While Africa does not yet enjoy the richness of video games that Brazil has, the presentation serves as an inspiration to developing our regional game industry.

As an African team, our next mission is to create a platform to promote a game industry that includes the diverse game developer communities throughout the continent. While we have combined local associations between Moroccan and Tunisian game developers, a vertical approach that expands beyond Maghreb and Middle Eastern countries to all African regions benefits the industry and continent.

A big thank you to FIAM and OIF for organizing the initiative as well as to all the people and partners who participated to the success of this event, and to Sammy and his wife for editing this article :)

This was a great collaborative experience between cultures through creativity.  

謝謝 (Xie Xie. Chinese - thank you.)

Arif Yassine

 


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Comments


Jeremias Eichelbaum
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I love the idea of extending your local community and cultural horizon by getting in touch with communities in different countries, so cudos for participating! And I was always wondering what kind of game development community is there in China. Do you happen to know, which game studios are big in china and what kind of games do they specialize in?

Yassine Arif
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Well before going to China, i wanted to meet a game dev community in Beijing, but unfortunetly i didnt succeed to reach them, because i was almost all the time occupied with the workshop. But i got a discussion with a Chinese Game designer in Chongqing who is developing RPG for the chinese market, and i understood from him that in China, they are mostly specialized in RPG / MMORPG :)

James Coote
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Thanks for posting this. Always assumed there were game developers in Africa, but never get to hear about what's going on there. Get to hear a bit more for China, but still often feels like a bit of a disconnect.

I wonder, by mixing cultures around a single common point, if you end up with a schizophrenic game. Versus having one dominant culture infused with elements of the other

Ben Myres
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There's plenty of stuff happening in Africa :).

Lots happening in South Africa, as you can see from Make Games SA: http://www.makegamessa.com/.

There's Cape Town based Broforce developers, Free Lives: http://www.freelives.net/
Of course there's IGF award winning QCF Design: http://www.qcfdesign.com/
RuneStorm in Durban also develop the internet senstation, Viscera Cleanup Detail: http://www.runestorm.com/

So yeah, plenty in South Africa, at least.

We try get all the African game devs together annually at the A MAZE Joburg event - that's where we get to see what other African devs are up to, and there's some exciting stuff happening: http://www.amaze-festival.de/johannesburg-2013

Yassine Arif
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Thanks Ben for sharing the information, will be pleased to join the event so we can exchange between community, as mentionned on the article, it should be great if one day we can create a plateform of communication between all the africans game developers :D i would love to open the discussion with your community, do you have any contacts ? :p

Ben Myres
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You can contact us on makegamessa[at]gmail.com :).

Yassine Arif
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Thanks Ben for sharing the information, will be pleased to join the event so we can exchange between community, as mentionned on the article, it should be great if one day we can create a plateform of communication between all the africans game developers :D i would love to open the discussion with your community, do you have any contacts ? :p

Greg Quinn
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I was a game developer from Africa, well South Africa. Not much of an industry there, a few indie studios here and there but nothing major. There is a huge IT industry there, with lots of skills, its a wonder so few are in the game industry.

I've since moved to New Zealand, where the game industry is much more prominent.

Yassine Arif
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Yeah the same tough we got while brainstorming, we were afraid to have at last a skyzophrenic game, but the result was pretty more a complementary concept where both culture help each other to avoid a common challenge, we tough about a universal issue that is common for any culture.

Thanks for your comment :)

Larry Carney
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This is pretty nifty. PBS, the public broadcasting network in the United States, has a YouTube channel on gaming called Game Show that might be interested in this, and if you or other members of the teams involved (or the folks who helped produce the game jam) did any filming of it, it might be something Independent Lens or Off Book might be interested in. (Finding ways to contact these people is frankly terrible. One would think being taxpayer funded they would be a bit more transparent with who they are or at least have an easy-to-find public relations person):


Game Show YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/pbsgameshow

Game Show Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbsgameshow

Off Book Twitter: https://twitter.com/PBSOffBook

Independent Lens Twitter: https://twitter.com/IndependentLens

Armand Accrombessi
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As a game developper from sub-saharian Africa, I can say that there's no such thing as an African Gamedev Community right now. Instead we have many small-scale communities around a few "hot spots" all across the continent. And there's really some magic happening here, as the industry is more or less nascent, but already full of new ideas and promising indies. So right now some "hot spots" are South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal but within 5 years there'll be much more.

Ben Myres
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Hang out on Make Games SA some more :P. We have quite a few African devs hanging out there recently :).

Agreed that soon there will be a much more development happening soon :).

David Olorundare
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It's always encouraging to see other neighbouring countries progress in the game-development sphere. Here in Nigeria, there's an interesting gamedev scene springing up too, though it's not yet as pronounced as say in a place like South Africa.

Yassine Arif
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Very interesting, do you have a link where we can enter in contact with your community ?

Rami Ismail
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As someone closely following the movements of the industry in the Middle Eastern and African territories, I'm sad to have missed this but very happy to hear this occurred. Sounds like it was a great experience and thank you for the write up.

Yassine Arif
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Welcome and thanks Rami for your comment, hopefully to see you one day in Casablanca to share your experience with us :)


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