Gaming ENTER AFRICA: Gamifying Lagos

Group Photo at the Afrinolly Space
Photo: Goethe-Institut / IfeOluwa Nihinola

Between June 25 and 28, participants at the ENTER AFRICA Lagos Workshop exchanged ideas for improving learning, social interaction, community engagement, and mobility in Lagos. For the workshop group, the city tour was a major highlight

“There’s so much chaos,” said Bethlehem Anteneh, Project Coordinator of ENTER AFRICA – Gamify Your City, as she crossed Catholic Mission Street, and walked into the City Hall, where Goethe-Institut Nigeria is located. For Anteneh and Roman Rackwitz, an advisor in game and gamification design, it was their first proper interaction with Lagos, the city where they had been training 25 participants in the ENTER AFRICA – Gamify Your City Workshop at the Afrinolly Space - Creative Hub in Oregun on the Lagos mainland.

Group Presentations at the Enter Africa Photo: Goethe-Institut / IfeOluwa Nihinola It was the third day of the workshop and they had just walked through Lagos Island, down the Marina to CMS, and from the bustle of CMS, via Broad Street, to Freedom Park. Now, they understood why the Lagos-based participants chose traffic as the subject they wanted to gamify.  

On the first day of the workshop, after an icebreaker that involved modifying the participants’ natural body movements, Rackwitz said, “No matter what kind of problem we have, it’s always about behaviour.” This was part of an introduction of the concept of gamification to the participants, among whom were developers, designers, gaming enthusiasts, non-gamers, and professionals in areas outside of gaming and game development, who were intrigued by the possibilities in gamification.

Oyindamola Fakeye, a cultural producer, who has been involved in new media art projects, and founding member/director of the Video Art Network (VAN) Lagos, said, “I was interested in understanding a bit more of the technical part of the process. I also do a little bit of work around health and society, so I like the fact that gamification was applied to real life issues. So, I wanted to think of ways to apply it into the work I was doing.”

For Chima Ngerem, a lawyer and video game producer, the open call for the workshop “looked like an interesting opportunity run by very good organizations. And I had the skills that I thought would be useful in working on the projects proposed. So, I was excited, like, ‘why not? Let’s give it a go.’”
Selfie time Enter Africa Lagos Photo: Goethe-Institut / IfeOluwa Nihinola
After the crash course in gamification and its attendant components—storytelling, fun, design—participants split into groups and created games that were sampled immediately. The result was a variety of games including those that integrated the fabric of Lagos by playing with the interaction of danfo drivers, agbero (louts who collect levies from bus drivers) and policemen, as well as a board-game quiz about the then-ongoing FIFA World Cup. These games were then improved to include social mechanics after a brief tutorial by Rackwitz, and then played again by the participants.

Beyond the training in gamification and game design, the workshop also had the goal of creating a game for Lagos, as part of the broader ENTER AFRICA project, which would connect games created in the Gamify your City workshops held in other countries. These would all form the eventual “mega game” to be shown in 2019 at Gamescom, an annual trade fair and gaming festival that holds in Cologne, Germany.

So, on the second day of the workshop, Anteneh introduced participants to the espoto app used in creating the local games. Once again, the workshop split into groups to brainstorm which of Lagos’ problems they wanted to gamify. Traffic and waste management were the options, and the former was chosen as the city focus. A route was charted through Yaba, CMS, Obalende and Ozumba Mbadiwe, and on the third day the group set out to explore these locations on foot. That was when Anteneh and Rackwitz became familiar with the chaotic elements of Lagos.

After exploration, the groups built games in the espoto platform on the fourth and final day. The games featured different experiences that would be unified in later team meetings ahead of a play-test in September. During this task, one group created trivia questions out of the landmarks and monuments in CMS. Another created a challenge of using the pedestrian bridge in Sabo, Yaba, by employing physical and visual markers on and around the bridge. A third group created a choose-your-own-adventure horror story by fictionalizing Freedom Park’s history as a prison, while the last group led you through transport hub Obalende on foot. These games were played, workshopped, and improved, and afterwards Anteneh and Rackwitz said their goodbyes.

In the end, participants had varying reactions to their expectations. For Fakeye, the workshop “didn’t cover enough of the theory. But I think it was a little bit covered in the end where they mentioned people who we could go on and research.” And Ngerem said, “there are a lot of important things I have to consider for specific projects: how to design for people, how to make things interesting and interactive. The workshop helped to extricate those interesting principles and gave real world examples of how to translate that to other spheres.”

All the participants were, however, excited about the community formed, and they looked forward to working together on the ENTER AFRICA project. “What’s interesting here is that, of all the countries, they were the only guys who mentioned that they are also here to connect with others with the same interests,” said Rackwitz, “so they were much more open and really cooperative, and that was fun.”

Enter Africa Collage Photo: Goethe-Institut / IfeOluwa Nihinola “Once we start meeting regularly, it will be a bit clearer in terms of how the relationships can progress,” said Fakeye. She looks forward to working with other participants - outside of the coders and designers - like Olajide Akoni, the spoken word poet in the cohort, in “thinking about making some art, and using their talents in the visual arts.” 

Ngerem, too, is excited about working with the interesting people he met at the workshop, who have now formed a network for him in Lagos. “If I want to partner with somebody,” he said, “this is one of the places I’d be looking into before I look to the wider market.”

Lagos is the biggest of the 15 cities in the ENTER AFRICA project, therefore it was where Rackwitz and Anteneh spent the most time walking. After four days, and seeing the presentations the participants came up with, their thoughts and ideas both reinforced Rackwitz’s passion for gamification and surprised him in their ingenuity.

“What we hope to see is that the users are getting used to the website, and if you put time in it, you will see progress and quality,” says Rackwitz. “What I’m really interested in is to see - if we look at all the different countries with all the topics and activities and games they choose- a common pattern that seems to be important for the participants throughout all the 15 countries.”