Video games – Kenya’s new emerging industry with ‘huge scope’

We are seeing the local development of games improve and this is creating jobs. This is commendable given that the development of games is a very expensive and time consuming venture. The gaming centres, retail stores and tournaments are also generating revenue. The scope is huge.

Describe some of the most difficult parts of running your business.

The stereotypes, people don’t take gaming seriously yet. We also face challenges getting sponsorship for events. We are trying to make e-sports a big thing in Kenya and to achieve that we need backing. We do not feel protected from some unscrupulous practices. For instance, there is a company we pitched an idea to and they went ahead and implemented it on their own. This is worrying.

You also work with Afroes Transformational Games. Tell us about that.

In 2009, I met Anne Shongwe, the founder of Afroes, a company that uses digital media such as games for social change. We formed a small team and conceptualised a game called ‘Haki – Shield and Defend’. The game addresses environmental rights. In the game, players go round protecting trees from evil forces who are illegal loggers. The game won the World Summit Youth Awards held in Canada last year. Afroes has also developed other award winning games including ‘Moraba’, which addresses gender-based violence, and ‘Champ Chase’, which was funded by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to address sexual offences against children during the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. The game helped children identify sex offenders and promoted the use of child helpline numbers.

What are your future plans for NexGen?

This year we want to make the monthly virtual ‘FIFA’ tournaments a spectator sport so that people can pay to watch others play. This is very popular in Korea. We are going back to the World Cyber Games this year and we hope to perform well. We also want to develop our own gaming centre where people can come and play games. This will be the home of the gamer.

Where do you see the Kenyan gaming industry in the next five years?

We will see more investments in the industry and increased inter-country competitions with our East African neighbours. I also expect to see high-end, locally developed games, although, they will not initially compete with the international $100 million games. International companies are expressing interest to collaborate with local companies. If more companies see Kenya as a viable host for the development of games, we might start outsourcing games to the rest of the world. This will be a multi-billion shilling industry.