Since the early days of Space Invaders and Tetris, video games have gone from strength to strength. Gaming may be a global phenomenon but in Cameroon it has firm African roots, as explains Yannick Sabzé, a computer programmer from Yaoundé.
Maskanoid is an agility video game which relies on the reflexes of the player. A small sea shell that serves as a ball gradually destroys masks lined up on a wall. However, the shell has the tendency to crash into the ground and you have to deflect it with the aid of a bar that is in fact a warrior shield.
As one goes along and the masks are destroyed, the number of points increases. If the player scores a certain number of points, he passes to the next level, with new obstacles and new masks appearing. But if the shell crashes, the level ends.
Yannick Sabzé explains that the video games he’s conceived don’t claim to rival those from Asia or the West. However, they bring “a touch of African originality” and allow Africa to have its own unique position in the industry. In Masaknoid, level one for instance is called juju, the name given to a charm in Africa. The décor also reminds you of Africa and the sounds of drums can regularly be heard.
Blaise Nna, video game lover, gives his opinions about Maskanoid: “It is based on the same principal as well known games such as Pinball and Tetris. You have to destroy blocks with a ball that hits against a moving bar. But if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Maskanoid, because as an African, I feel closer to the masks and the music played during the game.”
Brice Tiedjou, also a video game lover, offers other insights: “Maskanoid is less predictable than Pinball. The more you progress, the more new masks appear. Whereas with Pinball, you see the same blocks reappearing as you move through the game and destroy them.”
Advertising through gaming
A game most recently created by Yannick Sabzé is called ‘The Legendary Roaring Lion’. It’s a mini-game in which you have to catch hold of pieces of a puzzle that move in space.
After managing to collect all the pieces, a cartoon appears presenting an imaginary moment in the life of footballer Samuel Eto’o – a fan of many video games. There are also five cartoons corresponding to five levels of difficulty, the pieces of the puzzle move faster depending on the level.
Throughout the game, the young programmer also wants to experiment with ‘advertainment’ – the idea of using video games as a form of advertising.
This technique has multiple advantages. Yannick Sabzé explains that advertising messages can be inserted into the games. “The consumer is not exposed to a message during an advertising slot on tv lasting an average of 45 seconds or a billboard. Instead they can spend several hours playing a game in which the interface or background presents the product or the message – in a sense the whole game is dedicated to the product.”