Enter Africa at A MAZE. Berlin
Cooperation Makes Everything Possible
For the first time, Enter Africa had the possibility to present itself on the European gaming stage. From 10th to 13th April 2019, members of the individual Enter Africa teams showcased their 15 location-based games that will be finalized soon, the process as well as the reason behind Enter Africa.
The gaming fair officially opened on Wednesday, 10th April, evening. Already during the set-up of the booth during the day it became clear that the project attracted a lot of attention. Being one of the biggest booths, not only A MAZE staff, but also other exhibitors and later on visitors were very curious and keen to find out more about Enter Africa.
During his opening speech, festival director Thorsten Wiedemann explicitly mentioned Enter Africa and expressed his thankfulness and excitement for hosting the young game developers from 15 African counties, thereby making the festival more international, more colorful, more exciting. An amazing opening of A MAZE.
On Thursday, Enter Africa presented itself on the stage to the interested audience. During 90 minutes, the colleagues from Goethe-Institut Addis Abeba, Dagmawi Bedilu and Bethlehem Anteneh, guided the audience on a journey through the different locations in Africa, while the respective team members introduced the story and creation of their games on behalf of their teams. The show was full of visitors that engaged actively in discussions with the Enter Africa members.
"The stage presentation was a wonderful experience for me since I am not used to a lot of public speaking ... I loved that I had to do that. I initially thought of it to be a very formal presentation but then after watching Thorsten give the opening speech of A MAZE, I realised I shouldn't be so much worried about how I look on stage.” Matthew Hansen, Enter Africa Accra
The following days were full of exchanging, networking and – of course – playing games. Many exhibitors and visitors engaged in discussions with the Enter Africa members about their ideas behind the individual games, technical aspects or what the “African” of African stories is. It soon became very clear that there is a lack of knowledge about Africa – be it politics, culture, or African industries – and prejudices and stereotypes are still prevailing in the media, storytelling and the general picture about the continent. However, there is a growing appetite and big eagerness from both sides to change these perceptions.
“People really want to know more about Africa and I mean they want to know more about African Stories, African tales, etc. They are really looking forward to see this project succeed, they want that Africa take his place in the game industry. And sadly, their knowledge about Africa as a continent is really limited to what is being shown by the media, they have a really bad representation of the continent.” Abdou Aziz Sall, Enter Africa Dakar
“The world beyond actually doesn't know much on Africa and countries to base it on stereo types. I met two female student game developers that are working on a game that is about futuristic Africa and yet they have never left Germany before. I definitely want to check that one out.” Laurean Ntaate, Enter Africa Kampala
“Most of them, if not all really did appreciate the whole concept of Enter Africa and what we are trying to achieve. They really liked that we want to tell the African story the African way as much as we want to do that through gaming and solving social issues in the process.” Matthew Hansen, Enter Africa Accra.
“We all share similar or even same experiences but in isolation. Colonization affected the whole world and not just Africa. We can all learn so much from each other and implement existing solutions in our environments especially in Africa.” Thabo Tsolo, Enter Africa Johannesburg
Those and other discussions were deepened during the workshops Enter Africa offered in the A MAZE. Exchange Area. Topics discussed ranged about dialogue, partnership and future cooperation possibilities (“Enter Africa and the World”), the chances and challenges of “Being an Indie Game Developer in Africa”, and about African storytelling. Questions were raised about how African stories can be told in games and what African storytelling is about (“Storytelling in African Games”), if a new genre in relation to African mythology can be created and how the aspect of cultural appropriation and ownership relates to game development in Africa (“African Mythology”), and finally how African characters in games do look like and how we can fight stereotypes and create own characters to bring African stories back to the continent (“Video Game Character Design”).
“Many of people who took part of the workshop had good ideas depending on the topic. We talked a lot about prejudices and how to handle it in the creation process. In the character design workshop for example, we had some suggestions and discovered good talented designers.” Cedric Minlo, Enter Africa Yaoundé
“I think that one of the highlight moment I had during A Maze was when we finished the workshop about being an indie gamdev in Africa and that people after was gathering to keep asking questions, to share contacts, to ask my points of view about the indie scene and as an indie game developer I was really happy to enlighten all these people about the game scene in Africa.” Abdou Aziz Sall, Enter Africa Dakar
Thus, Enter Africa was approached not only by interested visitors and other exhibitors, but also by very important stakeholders in the European gaming industry. Universities, Gaming Collectives and other organizations expressed their interest in collaborating with the network in the long run.
“How can we work with Enter Africa, that's what everyone was asking me.” Thabo Tsolo, Enter Africa Johannesburg
At the same time, the participation at A MAZE showed that Enter Africa still has a long road ahead of itself, regarding both its presentation at Gamescom in August 2019 as well as the future of the network as a whole. First and foremost, most people were missing to play the actual games.
“My impression was that we have a long way to go to fulfill their expectations but that there were plenty of people and organizations interested in collaborating and supporting us. (…) we are divided in how we see the future of Enter Africa and (…) we need to have more conversations about it.” Mihret Redda, Enter Africa Addis Ababa
Nevertheless, the great potential of Enter Africa was visible to everyone.
“Enter Africa has unified a small group of magic minds and can therefore do the same even on a larger scale. We have to keep on going because this is what we have all been longing for, a platform where all African stories and experiences can be told.” Laurean Ntaate, Enter Africa Kampala
All in all, A MAZE was an important experience for the Enter Africa network. It provided the members with the opportunity to present themselves to a broad audience and relevant stakeholders of the international (indie) gaming scene, thereby also broadening their individual experience and skills. A MAZE was a first platform for the development of future partnerships and possibilities for cooperation, and thus was a pivotal step towards the sustainable and self-determined development of the Enter Africa network itself.
“Germany is really cold and there is so much opportunity in the world. I can literally be anyone I want to be in the world as long as I work hard at it and always have a positive attitude in whatever I do.” Thabo Tsolo, Enter Africa Johannesburg
“A MAZE meant a lot to me. It meant putting me out there on the global market. It meant breaking out of my shell, by speaking to an audience on stage. It meant meeting new people from various backgrounds and connecting with them.” Matthew Hansen, Enter Africa Accra
“Realizing that as an African I should spend less time regressing and complaining about the past or the effects of our past in the present and look to the future by finding alternatives or even come up with new systems that the whole world could follow and get us involved in the world as a community. I learned that from the workshops and talking to random people at the booth and event.” Thabo Tsolo, Enter Africa Johannesburg
At the end, the experience at A MAZE clearly showed us one simple message:
“Cooperation makes everything possible.” Frank John Magulyati, Enter Africa Dar es Salaam