A socially-committed entrepreneur, Teddy Kossoko is the founder of Masseka Game Studio. Ranked among the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 in 2018, he uses video games to showcase African cultures.
You were born in the Central African Republic 25 years ago. You are currently based in Toulouse where you created your video game studio, the Masseka Game Studio. How did you end up there?
After completing my baccalaureate exams I switched to studying IT, although this sector is clearly not well understood in my country. At first my parents were against it, but eventually they accepted it. I enrolled at the Blagnac IUT in 2012. There, I realized that people play a lot of video games. They lose themselves in a universe and emerge with knowledge of cultures. I saw that video games had that power, and I decided that I was going to use the power of African cultures to bring Africa – with all its cultural and historical riches – to the world. Alongside my studies, I started to develop my first game: Kissoro Tribal Game, inspired by Kissoro, a very popular board game in the Central African Republic which can be found all over the African continent.
For this game and others, inspired by African oral traditions and based on history, you have worked with researchers from the CNRS. How has this collaboration worked?
Video games are an excellent way to spread knowledge and share it with as many people as possible! We share this vision with the CNRS, which makes its documentary resources available to us and supports us in adapting them. For our part, we make choices between the historical and the imaginary. For many historians, blending oral traditions and « real » history is unthinkable. For us, it offers a wealth of possibilities.
How is your team structured?
Part of the team is in Toulouse and part is in Africa. One of our objectives is to build a bridge between Africa and Europe. We always make sure we have a team in the countries where our games are set. This teamwork across different countries allows everyone to develop their skills and share resources and experiences.
Who is your primary audience?
We have two audiences: one is European, the other African. For many Westerners, Africa has no history. But this is also the case for many Africans, who do not know their own history. We need to « deprogramme their brains » and make them aware that their history began long before slavery and colonisation...
Most of the games we create and publish arefamily games. We mainly target Africa, and primarily the mobile market because there are 600 million smartphones on the continent, while the African public owns very few gaming consoles and PCs. It is also easier to distribute mobile games and the cost of development is cheaper.
Our games are « freemium », meaning free to download with some paid content. This model works well in Europe. As far as Africa is concerned, we are developing an app store for the African market, which will enable digital content to be monetised there – Africans often don’t have credit cards, which currently presents a challenge.
Beyond your own creations, you are also looking to showcase the initiatives of other African game studios, through the platform you have created: africangamingnetworks.com…
I realised that in addition to the educational difficulties and the challenge of monetising video games, the problem was also organisational. We have very active creators who are rarely identified by those who could finance their projects. The platform is primarily aimed at cataloguing creators. It also provides a map of the video game ecosystem in Africa, and allows talent to be identified and selected to receive financial support. The platform has also been designed as a tool for sharing experiences, sharing templates for Business Plans and evaluating games. We are just getting started: there are currently 6 games listed.
Africa and its creators are increasingly being recognised in Europe. Several programmes are being developed, such as Digital Lab Africa (DLA), and events such as Paris Games Week. What does the African video game scene look like right now?
We are in the early days of African video games. We have amateurs who are creating games, but the professionalisation of the industry will take time. For the African market to find its feet, we must first solve the problems of Internet access and education for young creators, so that they can join the video game market while offering games that meet international criteria.
African creators currently hold a tiny place on the international stage, even though the initiatives we are seeing are excellent. The DLA, for example, brings in young African creators, supports them and connects them with companies that have expertise, this is crucial. What comes next is the issue: these creators often find themselves alone. People can succeed in creating alone, but you cannot succeed in selling alone. This is what we need to work on in order to claim a greater place on the international stage: the implementation of technological solutions that will enable creators to make a living from their creations.
In the context of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Institut Français wishes to continue offeringyou portraits, meetings with creators fromall walks of life, works and portfolios. We hope these few pages will bring some breathing space back into an everyday shaped by lockdown.
Masseka Game Studio will be presented on the Institut français platform dedicated to independent video games Culturegamer.fr, available in 2020.
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