CEO of Kiro’o Games, Olivier Madiba is the very definition of a pioneer. Renowned for starting one of the first game studios in West Africa, the first African RPG (Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan) and most recently a crowdfunded investment call that has garnered huge support and general acclaim, you could say taking the lead is a trait he wholeheartedly embraces. This is his profile.
How did you find yourself roped into the games industry?
Passionate about video games, I wanted to create my own amateur video game and believe me, it wasn’t easy. Despite our realities, I learned how to create video games online with my friends. From 2003, we started working on a non-professional game but the idea was to create an African DBZ. However, in 2012, we decided it was time to go professional and launch an Africa-Fantasy flow. In that light, the name of our studio had to be something more African. That is how Kiro’o Games was born.
What would you say are some of the major challenges you face as a relatively solitary game studio in Cameroon?
Creating video games requires a lot of creative time and consistency; in the end, you may not get the expected results. Sales may be good for a short period and change in the next period.
Getting funds and the right human resource is a huge challenge, also, enabling the spirit of excellence to the whole team so that everyone is a specialist in their domain possess another problem.
There is a lack of ecosystems that can finances game development. Also, infrastructure problems such as lack of electricity hinders work, other developers abroad don’t have such problems. The video game industry in the West has developed because the book industry and even board games were already present in families; the video game was just and addition to an already existing family habit. However, in Africa this is not the case, there is a challenge to integrate the game culture in the African family.
You’re part of a growing breed of developers and studios adopting a social entrepreneurship mindset. What does that say about the state of the industry in the region?
We are consistent, being in rather chaotic environment, we cannot do business as though we are in a peaceful and calm environment. Imagine making video games during the war period when potentially we could have put our intelligence and strength into resolving conflicts. We try to be consistent despite our conditions.
What sort of values do you look for in a creative partner and who are the developers and studios you admire for pushing the envelope across the continent?
What I look for in a partner above all is the ability to be, I look for people who already have goals beyond themselves, who want to improve their community and the world; are very ambitious. I look for people who want to excel in what they do and get recognition for their work.
There’s really no studios that I admire on the continent because there are not really any since we are pioneers (laughs). However, there are creators that I like very much in the video game industry like Hidéo Kojima who has a writing method that I really like and in terms of film, I like the writing of Christopher Nolan who did the Batman trilogy.
What areas of the scene could be further developed?
In terms of the video game ecosystem in Africa, what can be developed is training, so that people are better trained before they arrive in the studio. And indeed, the financing could be also developed since you have to pay those who work to produce video games. For a game to come out it is often a minimum of three years of work during which people must be paid, so you need a funding system that understands and respects it by giving the opportunity.
Who are the African developers you look to for inspiration?
There is not any because I think we’re all still in the middle of something right now.
If you could impart a word of wisdom to new entrants to the industry, what would you say?
If you have the fighting spirit, I can only encourage you to move forward. Believe me, some people will try hard to discourage you or no one will believe in your project. But you have to move on. Start with the means you have and seek with all the enthusiasm and determination and your will make it to the top. Take an example from us. We started without the necessary resources but by fighting hard we managed to raise funds and open a world-renowned studio and produce the very first African RPG action game. Do not forget to work on yourself and consider criticisms as constructive. Finally, get a good team around you.