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Keeping the indie momentum alive in South Africa Exclusive

Keeping the indie momentum alive in South Africa
November 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose

November 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

Quick! Name a video game developer from South Africa off the top of your head.

Chances are that either took you a short while, or you simply couldn't think of anyone. Here's the thing, though: There's actually a whole bunch of great game developers in South Africa, and you'll have at least heard of the games coming out of the country.

How about Viscera Cleanup Detail from RuneStorm, the janitor simulator based on a space station that pushed its way through Steam Greenlight in record time? Or top-down shooter Pixel Boy from Giant Box Games? There's also Broforce, Statis, and many more exciting-looking titles on the way.

And, of course, there's QCF Design, the team behind the long-awaited dungeon-crawling puzzler Desktop Dungeons, which was released on Steam a couple of weeks back. As part of a video interview with Gamasutra, QCF's Danny Day discussed what it's like being a game developer in South Africa.

"You don't realize just how isolated you are from what's potentially out there," he says. "When we got nominated for the IGF, we'd never been to the States. Some of us had been overseas, but we'd never been to anything like GDC, and never seen anything like the IGF."

Suddenly being exposed to waves of people who actually make games from so alien to the QCF team. "In South Africa when you're socializing, you might find a few people who enjoy games, so you'll go to gamer meet-ups and stuff like that," notes Day. "But suddenly it wasn't just people who liked games - it was people who were actually involved in making them."

Witnessing the sheer size and supportiveness of the indie community that has grown around events like the IGF was a far cry from what can be found in South Africa in terms of a video game development community.

"We have a couple of local game development forums and communities that we're running," Day explains. "We've actually just formed a non-profit organization here in South Africa, Make Games SA, and we are looking at sending a trade delagation with help from the local government to GDC next year."

Cultivating communities in the region is important, says the dev, as studios and games can be built around those communities -- building a community of his own was what eventually led to his early career in game design consulting.

"I feel like we're now at a point where there's a lot of momentum, and we have to keep that momentum going," Day adds. "So we've got to try and make sure that people are interested, and that we're doing entertaining and interesting things with our games."

"Because we have this opportunity where we don't necessarily have an existing game development community," notes the Desktop Dungeons dev. "We don't have people who understand tradition game development outside of one or two console-focused studios that were here for a while, but have since been almost completely shut down."

Since there are barely any actual game publishers in South Africa, this means that anyone involved in games is forced to go the indie route.

"We're so far away from the traditional industry, that we have this opportunity to just focus on producing interesting games, do everything via digital distribution, and try to make a name for ourselves as a productive country that way," he says. "It gives us a chance to not get stuck in a publisher-centric way of thinking."

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