Wesley Kirinya, (Founder, Lead Developer Gwimgrafx Studios Limited)

Ri Iyovwaye

London, UK - May 2007

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Computer games are a multi billion pound industry creating household names such as ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Doom’. Of the many titles that spring to mind, games with an African focus that are also designed in Africa don’t exactly trip off the tongue.

Created by Kenyan based Wesley Kirinya ”Adventures of Nyangi’ is a 3 dimensional action adventure computer game where the main character, ‘Nyangi’ has to find some rare African artefacts; each artifact has a mysterious and interesting story behind it. The stories about the artefacts and the people they belong to are of course fictional.

Comparisons have been made between Nyangi and Lara Croft (the lead character in the game ‘Tomb Raider’), both are females that are very capable of handling themselves in tricky situations. Wesley says ‘I chose a female character because they attract more attention and not many games have a female lead. Comparisons can certainly be made between Nyangi and Lara Croft, they both look like explorers and some movements of ‘Nyangi’ are similar to ones that can be found in Tomb raider, such as spinning while jumping, walking and hanging.

It is perhaps unavoidable that any computer game that uses an explorer format is open to the fact that comparisons can defiantly be made with other games of the same genre.

Wesley decided to create his first game in 2001, just when he was about to finish high school. He says, “I thought that starting a video game development company would be a great idea because I love doing creative things. I saw games development as a challenge since no one on the continent that I was aware of had been creating games with a central African character/ hero/ focus, and developing it to a commercial level.”

He also thought of the great African stories, legends, myths and folklore that could be transformed into wonderful games so that as the player played, they would experience a story unfolding.

The setting of the game is an open landscape. He says, “I had big plans for the game; I wanted to include magic in the artefacts and create a more interactive and populated landscape with ancient buildings to explore, but due to budget constraints I was only able to achieve part of my plans. All in all I can say that developing the game up to this stage has been a success, considering I was working alone and on a tiny budget”.

Wesley is fairly upbeat about the current state of the computer games market in Kenya, more and more people are interested in playing games. It is not rare to come across a group of people arguing about video games. He has demonstrated his game to people who don’t know much about computers and they have become fascinated. One of the big problems he sees is that many local people cannot afford to buy games produced in Europe/ U.S.A etc. As things stand a high quality video game requires a development budget of millions of dollars, and this is expected to rise.

He thinks producing games in Africa could make them more affordable, the main challenge is raising capital and access to good infrastructure. I must say that I’m seeing a great improvement in the I.T infrastructure in Kenya so in the next 10 years I don’t really see infrastructure as being a major concern. I still see capital being a major problem. I understand that it is not easy for an institution to give money to someone with an idea, but the truth is great things start from ideas.

He says, with the right resources it would not be difficult to develop this industry in Africa. Personally, this is the approach I would suggest; bring together the talented individuals that are currently in the computer game and/ or other related industries to form a common vision that would distinguish African made games from those developed elsewhere. With this vision at hand, let these talented people form the nucleus of the video game industry in Africa by developing a few games, generating sales and raising more awareness about the industry as a whole.

This will lead to more people wanting to develop games; they can be mentored by the ones who are already developing them. Money needed to train more people and to buy software and hardware can come from computer game sales. All in all I don’t see this as a very difficult task; it just needs the right people to provide the initial funding to lay the foundation that will support the initial team. Therefore, the next step in Africa is actually the first step, i.e. bringing together the talented people who can demonstrate this is a sector worthy of investment.

Established producers within the industry use multi-disciplinary teams to arrive at the end product, aspiring developers must rely on more modest means. To think the creation of this game is all down to the efforts of one person is quite something, but then ‘Adventures of Nyangi’ is quite something.

Are you ready to play????