What could potentially be Cameroon’s first computer game landed in my inbox today and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The last African game I covered was from Nigeria and was called Titi Tilapia. There was a very inspirational video outlining the game’s development but it seems to have been removed now unfortunately. The thing you have to understand about African game development is that it practically doesn’t exist. This means there are no resources or encouragement from those around you to develop a game. The fact there are a few people making the effort to create games in this environment truly moves me.
Tamajong Tamajong Philip, who has adopted the developer name PHL, has created his first game with PHL’s Air Flying Game. It’s simple for obvious reasons; an arcade game in which you move the avatar up and down to avoid obstacles as they fly across the hand-drawn artwork. Hit an arrow and the speed will increase, thus making things a little bit tougher. PHL has made the game with zero budget but the enthusiasm behind the game flows throughout it.
You can see the effort gone into producing the game’s art assets, the same can be said with the sound. The music consists of PHL humming a little catchy tune. You can hear the fuzz from the microphone and some beeping horns in the background – normally we’d consider this harshly but for PHL, it was either this or nothing, so the effort is a marvellous one.
As you can tell, I’m very excited to see more game development coming from Africa in whichever form it makes it across. Its existence is enough. So naturally I spoke to PHL about himself, developing the game and what plans he had for the future.
“In Cameroon, I suspect that I am the first person to produce a computer game because I have not heard of anyone else,” PHL told me. “Many people here claim they don’t have time for games and that games are for little children. Some people call games a waste of time. Some (especially young boys) do like games but do not talk much about them. So I say it is not easy to make games over here because I don’t have a ready audience waiting to buy.”
“I see myself as a pioneer of the video game industry in Cameroon but it is a tough and lonely road. I have given free demo copies of my PHL’s Air Flying game to several people already and some say it is nice while others just keep the demo and don’t play it. But I need to make some money from it too; I cannot eat compliments. It is my first game and I want to produce more but I need money for that.”
Unfortunately it’s a tough world and I can’t see that developing games is going to be much of a money maker for PHL. Over here where we are so entrenched with games, such rightful critics, there seems to be no time for sympathy. It makes you wonder how different it is over there for people like PHL, who doesn’t have access to the game’s and resources we do, I thought to ask and got a predictable response.
“In Cameroon the games you see are imported or downloaded games: Playstation 2 or 3, Gameboy Advance, PC games etc. But no locally produced game. I hope I can change that. Cameroon has no video games of its own making.”
“Also there is no PayPal here and so selling online can be a problem. I may have to walk from place to place.”
That last line really brought a smile to my face. It struck me as the epiphany of being indie – so much that you have to walk around your local area distributing the game you have made and people have bought. It’s a nice thought for me from the comfort of my own home but it would be great to see this change over in Africa. This likely won’t happen for at least a very long time though; game development isn’t exactly the top of the list of priorities over there. Still, it’s a wonderful moment we’re in, that we can have individuals making games with zero budget and that people around the world have access to them.
Carrying on with my talk with PHL, we then decided to focus on the reason for making his game and what he hoped to achieve by doing so.
“I like interesting games in general, especially with good graphics that transport your mind into another world. And I decided to make my own, either to improve on existing ones or to produce unique ones that satisfy me. I am very imaginative and I like the concept of interactive worlds. Games provide virtual worlds that you can interact with, control and enjoy. I want to create games and I want to make money while doing what I like doing. So I made this game as a first step in the journey.”
“The gameplay is simple, else I might have taken longer to make a different kind of game. I want to make a business of creating video games. But I am alone. I have not seen people around me who share my interest and vision. Now I am giving people free demos so that they can buy the full version if they like the demo. Nobody has yet responded. I think I can call myself an entrepreneur in the making. I have the courage not to give up.”
“Currently I am studying Cisco CCNA in the hopes of getting a good paying job in future. But it is not where I want to end up. I want to be a video game creator.”
Again with the burning passion and enthusiasm – it’s truly inspiring. It’s hard to truly grasp the concept, but PHL really is not surrounded by games as we are and so the only thing driving his interest is his passion alone. It’s not a normal thing to do, it’s highly abnormal and he’s probably just about the only person within many miles of him actually putting in the effort to make his own game. Why? Well, obviously PHL’s ambition is to do something he loves and make money out of it, sadly that will probably never happen. But you never know – if he’s willing to go all the way, he may have a resounding effect on others and things could change. Everything has to start somewhere.
I asked PHL, in finishing up the conversation, what he was most proud of regarding his game that he had made. His answer only reflects what has already been said but its much more heart-warming coming from him.
“PHL’s Air Flying game is not my favourite genre of game. But since it was to be my first game, I wanted to produce a game that would not take a long time to develop (but it took a long time). After all, it would be painful if I took a very long time to produce my first game and then nobody liked it or bought it. So I started small. However, the game tells me of the hard work, persistence and devotion that I exercised toward manifesting my heart’s desire. The game is my first-born. History is made.”
You can play the demo of PHL’s Air Flying Game by downloading it from this link, find out more information on the game over on the official website where purchases of the full game can be made. PHL also does more drawing on the side, you can check that out here.