Accra Tech Salon: Video Games for Development

Another exciting edition of PenplusByte’s tech salon was held on Tuesday at the New technology lab, Osu. The topic for discussion was ‘Can serious Games enhance growth in Ghana?’. The Tech Salon was well-attended by people of diverse backgrounds who have a special interest in the budding gaming industry in Ghana. The main speakers for the day were Eyram Tawia (CEO Leti Arts) and Aaron Boateng (CEO Playbox).

 The discussion bordered mainly on the challenges of the Ghanaian gaming industry. The attendees of the Tech Salon took turns to point out some of the most disturbing challenges game developers face in Ghana. Eyram Tawia also gave a little background information concerning the classification of games. He said that broadly, video games could be classified under Hardcore and Casual games. Nevertheless, there are some other classifications based on other factors that still fall under these two categories. This is why games can be further broken into genres like sports, arcades, puzzlers etc.

 One of the greatest challenges game developers face in Ghana is monetizing their games. Since the major distribution outlets for mobile phone games are the appstores, developers face stiff competition from foreign games that are free. Hence, selling Ghanaian games on such platforms creates a very high hurdle for developers – competition-wise. Eyram cited an example that is worth noting: he said ‘African Heroes’ a Leti Arts game, has received 55,000 downloads – obviously because it was free. He spoke about the fact that a majority of the downloads came from Egypt and Ghana. If every single download was at a fee, the developer would have made some substantial profit. Globally, the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Ghana is yet to make a strong impression in the minds of people globally. One way to do that is to sell our culture to the world through games. Only through this will we be able to bring something new to the global industry. Developers should also consider partnerships and contracts with some organizations that require video games for their operations or to educate their staff.

 In every venture, having the desire to pursue it is never enough; one would have to make the effort to acquire the necessary skills. This is another major challenge in the Ghanaian gaming industry: lack of well-trained game developers. Video game development is not taught in the universities in Ghana despite its projected economic relevance to this country.

 Video Games can have a great impact on the nation’s development. There are simulation games that offer players the opportunity of dealing with real-life situations in the virtual world. Such games can be recommended for government officials. There is a high probability that they may gain some insight into such situations and know how to find their way around them if they should manifest in the real world. However, games are created with the sole aim of giving players a fun experience. And this is a fact that we should all understand and accept. This helps players to de-stress and unwind after a very tiring day, which is equally important.

The opportunities that come along with a vibrant gaming industry are endless. Aaron Boateng spoke largely about how his outfit has created a competitive space for gamers all over Accra and beyond to compete in FIFA. He made it known that the competition awards winners handsomely; therefore people can now play video games and make money out of it. Also, winners walk away with the bragging rights as the ‘FIFA champion’ so far as the competition is concerned. These are some of the auxiliary businesses that can spring up as a result of a vibrant gaming industry.

 It was a shared-dream of all gathered at the new technology hub to see the growth of the gaming industry in the country. It was suggested by one of the attendees that, game developers and entrepreneurs in the gaming industry should come together and create a more united front. Also, this would make it possible to collate data that could be shared amongst the individual members of the association of game developers.