Article Written By Clement Girardot
The Jiwe studio has just released Usoni, a video game with an uchronistic plot, the result of a Franco-Kenyan collaboration. The pitch? After the great catastrophe of 2035, Africa is the promised land for Europeans whose continent has fallen into chaos. In this inverted world, those who want to travel to the South must face many perils...
"The coronavirus stole my script", jokes Marc Rigaudis, a French writer and director who has lived in Kenya since 2012. Ten years ago he developed a science fiction scenario in which Europe has become unlivable and Africa is the new El Dorado.
Since the spring of 2020, he has been watching his vision come partly to fiction: while the Old Continent is in a state of confinement and counting its dead, African countries seem to be relatively unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic... the sun shines in the south. In Marc Rigaudis' scenario, which became that of the video game Usoni, we are in 2063, almost twenty years after the great climate catastrophe of 2035. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, tsunamis, gigantic overfloods... Europe has not recovered from this series of disasters. Since then, it has been plunged into darkness, covered by a thick cloud cover.
The heroes are Ophelia and Ulysse, a mixed couple trying to reach Africa via Lampedusa. To the south where the sun is still shining but European migrants are not welcome in what has become the new preserve of the global oligarchy. "Those who control Africa are the same ones who used to rule the Western world, the system has moved to where there is still life," explains Marc Rigaudis. But this reversal allows us to talk about what is happening now, whether it is climate change or the injustice of climate change or the injustice of the situation of migrants. "
"What I really like about the script is that it's not white versus black, but rather rich versus poor." says Max Musau, CEO of the Narobi based start-up Jiwe Studio he founded in 2020 with the support of Africa's Talking.
"In June 2020, we bumped into each other at a supermarket. Max told me that he wanted to make a video game that was different from what was out there and that he had thought of my story," says Marc Rigaudis. Enthusiastic about the idea of working on his first video game, the French director responded favourably to the proposal of his former colleague from the private university USIU (United States International University Africa).
"Future' in Swahili...
This meeting resurrects a project that Marc Rigaudis thought was destined to remain on paper (his script was published in 2015 by L'Harmattan Paris). In 2013, he taught film at USIU and asked his students to find a title for his story. It will be Usoni, "future" in Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa. His Kenyan students, as a student project, then worked on adapting the script into a series and shot a pilot. The online teaser was successful and attracted the attention of foreign media. Usoni could have become the first Kenyan science fiction series and allow students to become professional, as the director hoped. But the many meetings with Kenyan and foreign producers did not lead to any concrete proposals.
After six months of development, the Usoni video game is now available on PC and Android, at a price of 3 dollars, and is presented as the first African post-apocalyptic game. "Marc is French and is the creative director of the project, but it is a game created by African developers and we have appropriated this story as our own," points out Max Musau. We want to speak to Africans from Africa first, that's why the game will be translated into Swahili and French. "
First part of a trilogy
Usoni alternates animation sequences that unfold the plot and platform game phases where you have to move your characters through a setting of post-industrial ruins while evading the surveillance of the intractable border police. The Kenyan game has the merit of making players - especially children and teenagers - aware of a large number of contemporary issues, while remaining first and foremost an easy-to-play action game.
The only drawbacks are the limited gameplay and the limited lifespan of the game. " With the skills we had in the team, we decided to create a platform game: the environment is in 3D but the characters can only move in one direction," admits Max Musau "however, for the next release, we will be in full 3D, which will also give more depth to the story. The game now available is only the first part of a trilogy. In this opus, Ophelia and Ulysses try to escape from Europe. The next two parts will follow their adventures in Lampedusa - where Ophelia will be locked up in a refugee camp - and then across the African continent to Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya, the cradle of humanity.
In parallel, Marc Rigaudis and Max Musau are developing a second game based on the biography of the environmental activist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Another African story that Jiwe wants to share with gamers in Kenya and elsewhere later this year.
"Africa remains marginalised in the video game industry, says the founder of Jiwe Studio. Yet there are so many African stories to explore... We want to fill that gap!"
The game now available is only the first part of a trilogy. In this opus, Ophelia and Ulysses try to escape from Europe. The next two parts will follow their adventures in Lampedusa - where Ophelia will be locked up in a refugee camp - and then across the African continent to Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya, the cradle of humanity.
Original article in french can be found at