Transforming what he had only experienced as an extreme irritation in Nigeria, Maliyo Games co-founder, Hugo Obi turned a pest into a pass-time with the African-themed video game, ‘Mosquito Squasher’. With growing interest in the game and others, Obi and his partner Oluseye Soyode-Johnson are quickly expanding their African-inspired gaming repertoire.
The popularity of African film and music, as well as a growing diaspora all over the world with a desire to have some home-grown product on the gaming scene prompted Obi to create ‘Mosquito Smasher’, a simple web-browser based game in which the player has to squash as many mosquitos as possible in the allotted time by pressing a hovering thumb over the offending insects and smashing them dead. The game has been compared to Farmville due to the seemingly boring and repetitive nature of it but having played it a couple of times I can see how it could become compulsive (like Farmville) once you get the hang of it and want to keep beating your last score. Obi, who grew up in Nigeria and studied in Britain and Singapore, describes games like these as the “missing piece” when it comes to producing an African experience in gaming.
Obi elaborated on his inspiration to create the games in a bbc.com interview last week – “We looked at the local culture, the local attitudes and trends, and we tried to make games out of them.” Maliyo Games use familiar characters, situations, challenges and themes to make light entertainment from Nigerian life. Other Maliyo Games include ‘The Tribes’, a puzzle game made out of pieces depicting village scenes; ‘Kidnapped’, a test of your aim and patience, in which you have to rescue a victim held for ransom by hitting the kidnappers with darts while carefully avoiding the prisoner as they all spin on a moving dart board; ‘Naija Hoops’, a basketball-themed game and ‘Okada Ride’, a motorcycle game in which the driver tries to get to work on time, dodging potholes, cars, policemen and other obstacles on Nigerian roads.
The friendly presentation of the games, with their colourful, cartoonish illustrations, the ease of game play and the self-competing addictiveness make for fun and familiar entertainment for Africans through-out the continent, with interest growing in Kenya and South Africa. The games are free and are expected to be available on mobiles soon, with ‘Okada Ride’ already available on the Nokia apps store, a Facebook version in the pipeline and downloadable apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Symbian being planned.
By linking the games to in-app advertising and using product placement, Maliyo hopes to generate an income and expand further by making deals with local cell-phone providers to create content-specific product. Obi also has dreams of stretching further afield – “What is exciting about gaming content is that it’s universal. You even potentially have a non-African consumer base that might be interested in having an African narrative, an African experience, through games.”