Working together with leading Ghanaian game studio Leti Arts
8D Games meets Leti Arts
“We speak the same language when it comes to game development and social design”
Cross-continental game development: how does it work and what can we learn from each other? Let’s have a chat with Giel Hekkert (Creative Director 8D Games, Leeuwarden) and Eyram Tawia (Founder and CEO of Leti Arts, Ghana). They are currently working together on Shkorey, an educational game about sexual health, pregnancy and birth care. Hekkert: “We may not speak the same native language, but we speak exactly the same language when it comes to game development and social design. In that respect, the communication goes very smoothly.’
First things first: how did 8D Games and Leti Arts get in touch? Hekkert: ‘At 8D Games, we were approached to submit a project plan for the development of an educational game about sexual health, aimed specifically at Eritrean youth in the Netherlands. The project description stated that the game would be developed in collaboration with Leti Arts from Ghana, especially in the field of art. A bit cheeky perhaps, but we thought: let’s just have a chat with these people at Leti first. So we met Eyram through Skype before submitting our interest in the project. That kind of personal approach is very important to us. After all, you work together on a project for at least two years. Fortunately, we got along very well right away.’
Pioneering within the African gaming industry
Just like 8D Games, Leti Arts from Ghana is mainly involved in socially engaged projects. ‘We make a lot of mobile games, which is the main thing used among African youth. But we also work on digital comics,’ says Eyram. ‘One of our flagship projects is Africa’s Legends: a superhero story where we highlight African culture, history and mythology and help people deal with common, contemporary issues.’
In addition, Leti Arts is committed to the development of the African gaming industry as a whole. ‘Since our inception in 2009, 40+ African game companies and indie developers have joined us. But there is also still a lot of work to be done. For example, there is no official training for game development in the Ghanaian institutions, which affects the image of working in the gaming industry. People still think: ‘Games? That’s for kids!’ We are trying to change that by actively contributing to the professional development of our sector in Africa.
This is recognisable for Hekkert: ‘Here people generally think it’s interesting if you work in the gaming industry, but there is also still this image that it’s just about playing or drawing. But there is actually a lot of in-depth research and collaboration involved.’
Passionate international team
Why did Leti Arts decide to work on Shkorey? Eyram: ‘The game is for Eritrean people in the Netherlands. Eritrea is not around the corner from Ghana and there are obviously differences. But many of the problems that African people all over the continent experience are similar. In terms of themes and ambition, Shkorey fits exactly into our portfolio. And we talked a lot with friends and contacts in the region, which enabled us to approach the art in the most target group-friendly way possible. The composition of the project team also played a role: ‘The initiator of Shkorey, Geertje Postma, is an incredibly enthusiastic woman who is really committed to this project. I also experience the people from 8D Games as charismatic and passionate. They work in a very structured way. Shkorey has really been a smooth ride in that sense, which isn’t always the case in these kinds of projects.’
Co-creation with the target group
The Shkorey-game is expected to be ready in February 2023. Hekkert: ‘Together with Geertje and a group of Eritrean youngsters in Leeuwarden, we chose a suitable game concept, developed wireframes and made choices from the character designs and graphic styles provided by Leti Arts. Currently, the technical production of the game is in full swing. We’re looking forward to taking the last steps towards a great educational game.’
As a player, you choose a character to follow. Each character represents dilemmas around a particular theme, such as the human body or sexual health. You decide how this character acts in various situations that come up in the story. Each choice affects the course of the story. When the chapter is finished, a quiz follows. This quiz will also be available separately, so players will be able to challenge each other and play multiple times.
Giel Hekkert is creative director at 8D Games. After finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Design at NHL Stenden, he worked his way up from game artist to co-owner and one of the driving forces behind the company. He has been coordinating complex development projects for 7+ years and frequently contributes to regional gaming education and talent development.
Eyram Tawia is the CEO/Co-founder of Leti Arts. He’s spearheading the game industry in Sub Saharan Africa with the aim of creating games and comics that can compete on the global market. Eyram uses games as a tool to ignite the interest of youngsters into STEM related courses dubbed the “STEAM” approach which consciously blends the Arts within engineering disciplines. He aims to preserve history and culture through digitization while creating superheroes that African children can look up to. Eyram published his unfolding story, Uncompromised Passion which can be ordered here.
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