African gaming takes centre stage at Fak’ugesi Digital Innovation Festival

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The Fak’ugesi Digital Innovation Festival 2020 programme, led by the Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg kicked off on 20 October and will run live and online until 20 November 2020.

Now in its seventh year, Fak’ugesi is a celebration of technology and creativity by Africans for Africa. Under the theme #POWERTOTHEPIXEL, the 2020 festival brings regional and international audiences together to connect on three areas – AFRICAN DIGITAL ART, HERITAGE & TECHNOLOGY and the ever-popular gaming-centred FAK’UGESI ARCADE.

This year, Fak’ugesi Festival, in partnership with the French Institute of South Africa, together with the Gauteng Film Commission, have invited Vic Bassey to curate a special programme titled PEOPLE OF PLAY: African Game Developers, which focuses on 13 top African games studios and a Game Jam driven by the French Institute of South Africa’s November Numérique focus. The Festival will also host Early Access – a department grad show, hosted in collaboration with Wits University’s Digital Arts Department, featuring games, interactive arts, and animation.

Vic Bassey is the curator of the People of Play programme. He is a regular fixture in the European and African games industries and currently works as a Business Development strategist at a global publisher – Raw Fury. He is also the founder and editor of Games Industry Africa. Bassey says, “In an increasingly digital world, video games have established themselves as a pastime that is easily accessible and digestible to people of all creeds, races and colours. To celebrate that and to acknowledge its growing foothold across the African continent PEOPLE OF PLAY: AFRICAN GAME DEVELOPERS celebrates the spaces they are creating for us to play in and the people behind an essential industry today: game developers, producers, writers and digital artists and more.”

The 2020 Fak’ugesi Arcade aims to raise the profile of the people and studios across the continent at the forefront of the African gaming revolution. The 13 top African games studios represented include:

West Africa:

  • Teddy Kossoko is a Nigerian video games and technology entrepreneur.. He created Masseka Game Studio, the first game studio in Europe to create content exclusively on African myths and legends. 
  • Hugo Obi is the founder of Maliyo Games, the first Nigerian indigenous gaming company and one of the early pioneers of mobile gaming in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Joy Ajayi is a gameplay programmer with experience in game engines such as Unity and Unreal engine. She is also a Women in Games Ambassador and advocates for women in the gaming scene in Nigeria and Africa.
  • Eyram Tawia from Ghana is the CEO and co-founder of Leti Arts, an interactive digital studio that creates Afrocentric mobile games and comics. 
  • After working for Candy Crush developer King and narrative games studio Wooga, Italian-Ghanaian Game Designer Allan Cudicio founded his own company, Twin Drums. He is currently working on the PC game “The Wagadu Chronicles”, the first online Afrofantasy rpg.
  • Cameroonian Michel Nkuindja, is the creative director and founder of Noohkema Interactive, a company based in Cameroon that specialises in digital and artistic creation. 
  • From Senegal, Julien Herbin is a Video Game industry veteran and has worked as a programmer for Ubisoft. Julien is co-founder and CEO of Kayfo Games, a Dakar-based studio founded in June 2019, which focuses on delivering innovative and non-violent African themed games.

North Africa:

  • Walid Sultan Midani is the founder and CEO of DigitalMania Studio, the first video game development studio in Tunisia that specialises in VR and AR games for team buildings. Walid is also the founder of YouRun, a video game studio and publisher based in Malta, which focuses 100% on casual competitive games with the game: Warshmallows

East Africa:

  •  Jake Manion is a BAFTA-nominated creative director for games and interactive based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is Head of Product at Internet of Elephants, a games studio in Kenya that leverages the power of games to benefit wildlife and nature.
  • Dawit Abrahim is an award-winning game developer and the co-founder and CEO of Ethiopian based gaming studio, Qene Games. Dawit and his team launched Kukulu, a Pan-African 3D runner mobile game, which won the 2018 AppsAfrica Award for Best Entertainment App.  

Southern Africa:

  • Tutaleni Ilonga is a game developer, VFX artist, writer, filmmaker, upcoming comic book writer and the founder of TL Studios Entertainment. He is the first Namibian game developer to host a Global Game Jam and Game Jam Plus event in Namibia.
  • South African, Limpho Moeti previously worked at Free Lives (Broforce, Gorn) and was deputy festival director of South Africa’s playful media festival, Playtopia. She currently works as a producer at Nyamakop, developing African-inspired video games.
  • Estelle Mmathapelo Makhoba is an indie game developer based in Pretoria, South Africa, and works on games systems and artificial intelligence.

The full Fak’ugesi Arcade programme and People of Play programme, which begins on 2 November 2020, also includes an exciting exhibition featuring game developers and their work, as well as a talk series, and two panel discussions; African Games Publishers & Mobilizing African Games taking place on 16 November, and Gender Inclusion & Diversity in Games: Africa Focus on 18 November.

The 2020 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival runs until 20 November 2020. To register for access and book tickets for special events visit Fak’ugesi.co.za.

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