Descent-based slavery, a tragic historical legacy that still affects countless individuals today, serves as the central theme of the Usawa Game. This serious game, designed and produced in Africa, takes players on an educational journey through an Afro-futuristic environment. Players will engage in a series of thought-provoking mini-games, all while immersing themselves in a compelling narrative that sheds light on the deep-seated issues surrounding this devastating phenomenon.
Usawa Game draws its inspiration from qualitative research and firsthand narratives shared by young Malian villagers within their communities. These narratives formed an integral part of the Djonya Kêlè Ja Toulon project, aptly titled "Gaming against slavery", which was failiated by Donkosira, a Malian non-profit association promoting local knowledge from marginalized communities in West Africa. The project was part of the Slavery Forced Migration (SlaFMig) program Lead by Dr. Marie Rodet who has published extensively on these issues. By delving into the rich cultural tapestry of Mali and the African continent, her research and the game aims to foster a deeper understanding of the historical and contemporary complexities associated with descent-based slavery.
Cocreation Framework for Community Engagement
Our Community Co-creation Framework is a participatory process that involved individuals from villages across the 8 regions of Mali. The objective is to collaboratively design games by leveraging the unique experiences of the participants.
To initiate the process, we engaged the participants in playing various games and subsequently organized them into groups. These groups then embarked on building narratives rooted in their own experiences.
Through a structured workshop, participants applied these narratives to the game design framework that we established. Each group’s experiences contributed to the development of a comprehensive game design document.
In the last phase of the co-creation process, we expanded our reach by hosting an Africa-wide game jam. Developers from 10 different countries came together to contribute their expertise and ideas, aiding in the creation of prototype concepts for the games.
Over the span of the following eight months, the dedicated core team, comprised of talented Kenyan developers and artists hailing from Senegal and Mali, seamlessly collaborated with counterparts based in the UK and France. Together, they diligently worked towards the culmination of their efforts – the completion of the USAWA mobile game. This captivating game is now accessible at no cost on Jiwe IO. The culmination of their tireless endeavors resulted in the successful launch of the game in Kenya, marking a significant milestone in September 2023 at the Nairobi Game Development Center.
Next Phase for the game
We would like to expand the mobile game into a universe of stories and extend current mobile experience into a VR and desktop experience that is designed to create a direct connection between the users and powerful stories based on some real-life experiences of victims of child slavery on the continent. We will adapt traumatic true-life experiences to a younger public who will be immersed in an Afro-futuristic universe where the players hitch-hike from one planet to another to fight together against a new form of child exploitation each time. Mediation through storytelling and animation will allow the VR experience to limit the risks of (re)traumatization.
Ultimately, the VR experience will be designed restore the voices of and ‘re-humanize’ the victims while allowing the users to build empathy and bring about change in global awareness about the worst forms of child labor, including child slavery. Very few VR experiences are freely available online, which will maximize the potential impact of our free online multiplayer real-time 3D experience which you can access across platforms, particularly VR, Web Mobile, and Web PC.