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Video Games in AfricaThe global video game industry is valued at $140 billion and Africa is primed to take a piece of the action. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of African gamers rose from 23 million to a staggering 500 million, opening up a lucrative opportunity for the African gaming industry to become a major player. Video games in Africa have the potential to transform poverty in the continent.

Video Gaming Industry in Africa

Every year, the African gaming industry grows by more than 8%, with new gaming companies opening frequently. The Festival of Electronics and Video Games of Abidjan (FEJA), is a video gaming event in Africa with the main aim of creating jobs in the industry. The event’s organizers see the three-day event as an opportunity to exemplify the immense potential the industry has in Africa.

Although there are already innovative African gaming companies such as Work’d and Paradise Game, video games in Africa are often overlooked. However, Paradise Game founder and CEO, Sidick Bakayoko, predicts that by 2025, West Africa alone will have room to create over one million jobs in the gaming sector and the continent as a whole could create five million jobs.

Urgent Evoke Video Game

A game designer named Jane McGonigal has developed a game specifically promoted to African gamers called “Urgent Evoke”. The game exists both online and in the real world. To progress in the game, players must complete real-life activism such as reaching out to government leaders, researching environmental solutions, contributing time to alleviate poverty and other acts of contribution. Players must document these actions and submit them to advance in the game.

McGonigal’s goal with “Urgent Evoke” is to empower Africans to become active problem-solvers and tackle poverty and other issues in their communities. In addition to promoting and requiring activism, the game awards prizes to winners, including mentorships, scholarships, internships and startup money to foster entrepreneurship.

Video Games and Perception

Game developers like McGonigal and Bakayoko aim to use video games in Africa to change the way Africans view themselves and their continent as well as change how the world views Africa. The continent is often seen as a dangerous place filled with hunger and war. By creating games set in Africa led by positive African characters, developers can change perceptions and help Africans see themselves through a more confident, leadership lens.

These games have the power to reduce prejudice toward poverty and help people understand impoverished nations and join the fight to help them. Many hold the false belief that poverty is something self-inflicted or personally controllable. Cultivation theory states that the media that people absorb affects the way they perceive the world.

Video games in Africa have the influence to create a more accepting and representative industry. Games such as “Urgent Evoke” change perceptions, allowing African gamers to be their own heroes both online and in the real world.

Potential for Poverty Reduction in Africa

The growing industry of video games in Africa has created a plethora of jobs but there is a lack of skilled labor. Unfortunately, many Africans have not realized the immense potential that video games in Africa have for the continent.

Most parents do not see video games as a lucrative skill-building task. For the video game industry in Africa to truly flourish, the younger generation must have access to coding and tech education.

This is not yet at the forefront of mainstream education, but the continent, especially South Africa, is abundant with resources to educate Africans in the gaming industry. Even without money for a proper university, coding boot camps or proximity to a city, Africans can take online coding courses to get their foot into the tech industry and contribute to Africa’s immense gaming growth.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Unsplash

Z EventEven though the world is more connected than ever, poverty remains a large problem as many people are left behind. Fortunately, the internet has been used as a platform for change, resulting in unprecedented awareness of global poverty. One example of this is Z Event, a French charity project hosted annually on the live streaming website Twitch. Z Event started with just two people who wanted global change. The video gaming event has been shattering world records and raising millions of dollars for charity.

Twitch Live Stream Platform

Z Event would not have been possible without the rise of the Twitch platform. Twitch is a website that people can use for live streaming. This means that whatever viewers are watching is happening in real-time. This creates a new world of interactivity. While Twitch was originally created for live streaming video games, the website has now expanded into other genres like art, music and chess. Twitch now has a massive following, with over 140 million monthly users.

It was only a matter of time before content creators used Twitch as a platform to raise money for charity. In July 2013, Summer Games Done Quick raised $257,181 for Doctors Without Borders in a charity stream on Twitch. As Twitch started growing in popularity, charity streams became even more popular. In 2019, Twitch streamer “DrLupo”, raised more than $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 24 hours.

Video Gaming: Z Event

With the success of charity streams in the past and the increasing global presence of Twitch, the time was right for Z Event. In March 2016, a charity stream called “Avengers Project” raised 170,000 euros for Save the Children. The goal of the project was to gather every popular French streamer to raise awareness for certain issues. While the project started small, the annual event grew considerably. In 2017, the now named “Z Event” raised 500,000 euros. Z Event is the annual charity event by French streamers ZeratoR and Dach. As the project grew larger, more popular French streamers joined the event. In 2020, 41 Twitch streamers participated in the event.

Video Gaming for a Cause

While each individual streamer is popular on their own, their platform increases exponentially when combined. In 2020, the event had an average of 248 thousand viewers with a peak of nearly 700 thousand viewers. This large amount of awareness led to large sums of money raised for charity. In 2019, Z Event hit the world record for most money raised in a charity stream on Twitch, over 3.5 million euros. In 2020, Z Event shattered its own record, raising over 5.7 million euros, which is approximately $6.7 million.

Each year, the event raises money for a different cause. The money raised in 2019 was for the Pasteur Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches diseases. In 2020, Z Event raised money for Amnesty International, an organization focused on global human rights.

Video Gamers Uniting for Charity

These efforts have been applauded by many. Mark Hamill supported Z Event on Twitter and President of France, Emmanuel Macron has also commended the project.

While poverty remains a problem in the world today, the growing platform of the internet along with websites like Twitch show significant promise. Millions of dollars have been raised for charity to fight poverty. France’s Z Event shows that when people come together, the impact is substantial.

– Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Video Games Support the World Food Programme
In today’s society, the popularity of video games has steadily increased. With that popularity comes opportunities to support a nonprofit cause, spreading awareness to gamers and fans worldwide. Video games support the World Food Programme in a way. In fact, there are three video games supporting the World Food Programme in particular.

What is the World Food Programme?

The World Food Programme (WFP) is a United Nations agency with the goal of ending world hunger. It is the world’s leading humanitarian organization in this endeavor, delivering food to countries in crisis and working with communities to improve the situation. The agency arrives in the wake of war, natural disasters or famine, providing food to the victims or those caught in the conflict. When the crisis ebbs, WFP helps rebuild shattered livelihoods and lives. Its development projects focus on nutrition, especially for mothers and their children. WFP has also been implementing school feeding programs worldwide for over 50 years. Here are three video games that support WFP.

Food Force

In 2011, the World Food Programme collaborated with Konami Digital, a Japanese electronic entertainment company, to create an online game to support the fight against world hunger. Food Force immersed players in the virtual experience of planting, harvesting and distributing food across the world while responding to food emergencies. The game prompted players to logistically solve food shortages and keep countries from experiencing hunger. The money that players have spent through this game has helped fund the World Food Programme’s school meals projects in real life, providing meals to 20 million children per year.

PUBG

One of the most popular games of 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) had a gaming community of over 3 million players worldwide. With the success of this game, a famous Korean YouTuber, known as The Great Library (GL), created a live-action PUBG video in support of WFP’s fight against world hunger.

In PUBG, players search for food and weapons while competing against each other in a last-one-standing battle royale. GL’s video replaced the energy drinks and food pickups that people normally find in the game with energy biscuits and bags of rice, the very same that the World Food Programme distributes to the world’s hungry. Additionally, rather than battling to be the lone survivor, GL and his opponents had an alternate objective: beat world hunger by sharing a meal with a hungry child via WFP’s ShareTheMeal phone app.

Hunger Heroes

In July 2019, YOOZOO games hosted a charity gaming marathon, GTarcade’s Hunger Heroes, that invited gamers from across the globe to turn their on-screen efforts into meals for the world’s hungry, supporting the World Food Programme in the fight against hunger. The goal was straightforward; the more gamers that played, the more YOOZOO Games donated to WFP. Hours of playing turned into dollars, which YOOZOO Games donated via WFP’s ShareTheMeal app. During the week-long event, players received exclusive gameplay features and in-game prizes as a reward for joining and contributing to the cause.

The fact that these video games support the World Food Programme is a positive accomplishment for the gaming community. People can even implement games like PUBG as a positive influence, which supposedly has a negative influence on today’s society due to violent gameplay, and are a solid example of how popular entertainment can contribute to spreading awareness of global crises.

Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

 

Technologies that can help end povertyDespite gloomy predictions for the future among pessimists, humanity develops the tools for a brighter tomorrow. At the Lisbon Web Summit on November 6, 2017, physicist Stephen Hawking discussed the pros and cons of artificial intelligence. Though Hawking is aware of how new technologies threaten jobs, he also believes that such advances can alleviate disease, global warming and poverty. Artificial intelligence isn’t the only gadget in development. Here are four technologies that can help end poverty, provided they’re used the right way.

  1. Blockchain
    Blockchain records transactions made in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. These ledgers are publicly available. Brian Singer, a William Blair partner, predicted in 2015 that access to a cheap and transparent payment system through Blockchain would serve emerging markets well. How have Bitcoin and Blockchain helped the world so far? By allowing a transparent ledger, Blockchain prevents falsified land deeds from stealing the land of small farmers. With no need for a physical building, Blockchain can save foreign aid money; through the data provided, Blockchain can optimize a developing economy. Cryptocurrency provides a small, but significant, step in helping impoverished people begin their own businesses.
  2. Smart Survey boxes
    The World Bank reported how Smart Survey boxes in Tajikistan monitor energy usage. These boxes collect data on energy quality and power outages. At first glance, Smart Survey boxes seem an unlikely candidate for technologies that can help end poverty. But having the right data in a crisis ensures that the right cure can be provided. Automated information collection leaves little room for human error and little reason to put volunteers in unsafe areas.Utz Pape, a World Bank economist, summarizes the impact of data collection on poverty: “It can help improve data quality of existing surveys, it can help to increase the frequency of data collection to complement traditional household surveys, and can also… improve our understanding of people’s behaviors.”
  3. Genetically Modified Crops
    The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming has led to fiery debated in the past decade. But the results are clear. Using seeds designed to resist pests and herbicides, GMOs led to more yields, fewer applications of pesticides, and more profits for farmers, according to a study by Penn State. Stephen Hawking warned about the careless application of technology, and GMOs are no exception. The impact of GMOs on other organisms has not been well documented. But when Penn State concludes that “The technology may be more appropriate for farmers that have difficulty spraying pesticides and herbicides,” it’s easy to see how developing nations benefit from the invention.
  4. Video Games
    Though considered fun distractions in America, video games have immense teaching potential. The United Nations described an initiative in India that taught English to children through mobile phone games. A similar project, in Somalia, taught money management skills to young Somali women. The Somali mobile game project boosted job training and placement for 8,000 people, both male and female, by 2015.

All these inventions— cryptocurrency, data collection, GMOs, and video games— destroyed the world in countless science fiction novels. In the real world, they’re technologies that can help end poverty.

In some ways, the brighter tomorrow has already arrived.

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

african_gaming
Driven by an increase in the availability of cheap phones and a jump in the number of telecom subscribers, the African gaming world is booming, to the delight of several ambitious developers on the continent. Mobile games often cost less than a dollar and can be downloaded quickly, making them easy to access on a budget and on the go. The African video game market is tiny in comparison to the $50 billion U.S. market, but growth is steady; at the end of 2013 the video game market in Kenya was worth $44 million and Nigeria’s valued at $71 million.

Although the action/adventure genre remains popular among consumers, many game creators are attempting to add more depth to their games in order to help reform Western perceptions of African countries. Developers attempt to use their games to tell unique African stories that break through widespread stereotypes. Abiola Olaniran, founder and chief executive of the Nigerian gaming company Gamsole, creates games with a distinctly African flavor that revolve around local characters in African cities. A continent of 54 countries and 3,000 cultures, there are a lot of stories to tell.

“African-themed games can be the future of gaming if people can relate with the content on a personal basis, based on their daily life experiences,” Olaniran notes.

Kuluya Games, based in Nigeria as well, also makes African culture the centerpiece of their games. One of the studio’s most popular apps is called Afro Fighters, and in it you can play as Safari the Warrior and attempt to defeat the Dark Lord of Oti. Similarly, Ghana’s Leti Arts created Ananse: The Origin, a game based on West African folklore that takes storylines from the tales of the ancients.

The influence of the growing African gaming market is not only cultural. In Nairobi, Allan Mukhwana of Momentum Core crafts his games to be educational. Momentum Core’s game Mosquito Hood tasks players with killing mosquitoes through several increasingly difficult levels. Each time a player completes all levels of the game, the Kenyan government has agreed to donate a mosquito net to a family living in a malarial zone. So far, the game has made it possible for 1,400 families to receive mosquito nets. The company has also created games raising awareness about HIV and focused on literacy.

Anne Shongwe, founder of the South African based gaming company Afroes, emphasizes the ways in which video games can be useful in inspiring social change. The company developed a game called Moraba in partnership with U.N. Women. The aim of the game is to end violence against women, and as players move through the game they are required to answer questions related to gender violence.

Although the African gaming market has a long way to go, especially in the arena of finance/budget, developers remain optimistic that a serious breakthrough is possible. The prospect that video games may be a useful in solving societal issues may seem far-fetched, but with the bright future that the gaming market seems to have, it should not be cast aside.

Katie Pickle

Sources: Elearning Africa, BBC
Photo: Google Play

creative_commons
Whether someone is a fan of computers or an avid gamer, they stand for it with pride and enjoy being a part of your respective community. Perhaps they wish to do a good deed for the world, but are not sure where to start; below they will find a list of the five charities that best resonate with the interests of many people:

1. EurekaFund

Revolving around various proposals for creating clean, innovative, environmentally-friendly technology, EurekaFund is a database of current research proposals that require further funding. The site provides options of directly donating to a particular project or–in the case that they are a scientist–the possibility of submitting their work and opening a fund of its own.

2. SciFlies

A site to for browsing and inspiration, SciFlies includes modern solutions by conscientious scientists, whose individual profiles are also accessible here. Consumers will read their stories and surely discover something worthy of their time: many of the designs presented here induce a lot of promise and hope for the near future. All fundable projects are accessibly categorized by subtopics, often including photographs and links to outside sources for more in-depth information.

3. Creative Commons

With a mission of universalizing innovation, creativity, and information, and in partnership with Research & Development, Creative Commons is an excellent place for those desiring to see a world of knowledge. Think everyone should have an equal chance at higher education? Check out Creative Commons. In the information and technology age of today, there are few things we cannot accomplish already–to help further spread knowledge across the population is to revolutionize our future.

4. Child’s Play Charity

Here is one for us worldly gamers. Child’s Play is a game industry charity that has been around for a decade. Through donations from its followers, it supplies over seventy hospitals and its young residents across the globe with toys and games. All goals are set up as “achievements” in this charity, and the impact it has in its focus area has brought a lot of positive feedback to gamers.

5. Wikipedia

Good, old, trustworthy Wikipedia–everyone with access to a computer and internet knows Wikipedia, everyone uses Wikipedia, and most cannot help loving Wikipedia. The non-profit online encyclopedia with endless resources always welcomes donations; help sponsor what is shaping up to be our primary source of information if you enjoy having nearly anything you need to know in just one search away.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Eureka Fund, SciFlies, Child’s Play, Creative Commons, Hub Pages
Photo: Agiel Geoscience

video games
The video game industry is huge – worth about $78 billion in 2012 – the size of the movie and music industry combined. Yet almost all games are produced in the developed world. The limitations on producing games in the global south are manifold – technological, education, and financial. So how can game creators in these areas grow?

Even in relatively wealthy South Africa game consoles are years behind industry leaders. Support from game publishers outside their core territories is minimal. On top of that, hurdles to creating games on the current platforms are high: access to the specialized hardware and licenses provided by the console manufacturers are expensive and not given easily.

The most common platform for gaming in Africa and Asia is the mobile phone. In Africa, of the 650 million mobile phones, Nokia Series 40 and BlackBerry 7 are still the dominant platforms. Adam Oxford of htxt.co.za explains that, “Mxit and BiNu are really big social networks geared up for feature phones, with massive followings in South Africa and Nigeria. There are loads of games on both platforms.”

Although there are not many local game makers in the developing world, Africa has a handful scattered in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Nana Kwabena Owusu of Ghana’s Leti Games thinks this shortage of talent is an education problem. “There are good creators, but retraining them to think in terms of game development, merging technical and creative thinking, is tough.” This is not a problem restricted to Africa – the education system in the U.K. has only just been restructured to encourage good programmers, and game design is still mostly learned though experience in studios.

By giving the opportunity of learning how to develop games and programs in Africa, a new market could be tapped. Even though the most common electronics in Africa are outdated in comparison to East Asian, American, and European products, there is still the opportunity for new developers to sell to American markets. Developing games on the Android and iPhone markets is an easy way to insert African developers into a market that has much potential to grow. This increase in developers in Africa could in turn boost the strength and diversity of many African nations’ economies.

– Matthew Jackoski

Sources: The Guardian, MCV
Photo: Wonder How To