Way before its official release just last month, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan—an African action role-playing game about a mythic black hero—was lauded for its originality and country-specific nature by the international press.
And though Olivier Madiba, a Cameroonian game creator and founder of Kiro'o Games studio is happy with all the attention, he's clear on one thing: Ultimately, he doesn't want Aurion or future games from his studio to be bogged down in debates around racial diversity and what it means to be African.
"I hope that the gaming industry in the US and Europe will break the exotic wall in their mind about games," Madiba told me over the phone.
The exotic wall, explained Madiba, is created when games from Africa are lumped together as African games for Africans or a niche foreign audience, as opposed to games with African influences that anyone can enjoy.
The challenge for Kiro'o Games studio, said Madiba, was to "take an African basis, but to put it in an universal form."
Aurion follows the story of Prince Enzo Kori-Odan from a country called Zama. After wedding a woman called Erine, he is overthrown by his brother-in-law, and must visit other countries with Erine in order to gather troops for a rebellion. The game is rich with specific African cultural references. Take, for example, allusions to a popular Cameroonian hit song about being drunk, or the fight scenes based on the donga, a stick fight performed by the Surma people in Ethiopia, which Madiba describes as having no winners or losers.
Though the game has been in the works since 2003, Madiba said he and his team noticed how bored Cameroonian gamers were with foreign action titles like God of War that featured Greek divinities, and decided to come up with a remedy.
"We wanted to try something riskier—a games series based on an African fantasy war," said Madiba, whose game aims to depict a Sub-Saharan civilization, and a scenario focussing on the "inner quest to be a leader."
"We want to be part of this worldwide exchange, and not be limited by the fact that we are African"
Ultimately, Madiba wants 'Aurion' to compete on a level playing field with other international indie game titles, and set the standard for future games coming out of Africa. That's why he made a game for PC rather than mobile.
"The idea was to make a great game and create enough confidence from potential investors so that we can enter the mobile market next," he said.
Though Madiba and his team have had to fix a few bugs in the game, and straighten out their faulty English translation since Aurion's release, he was confident that they gang would overcome such hurdles.
"The main challenge is that we really want to see other creators in the world try to use African ideas in their own games. We want to see creators mesh African things with Chinese things and create something really crazy," said Madiba, who counted US games as well as Japanese manga among his influences.
"We want to be part of this worldwide exchange, and not be limited by the fact that we are African."