Game On is a game development program that was started in 2019 to support game development in Zimbabwe. It started of as a game development accelerator, the first ever in Zimbabwe and through that program it became clear that a lot more foundational work needed to be done in order to effectively support game development in Zimbabwe. Part of the prior work around the project revealed monetization is a crucial component and part of the infrastructure that has to be made available if this industry is to truly take off. This is especially true for Zimbabwean developers as they do not have access to basic digital payment infrastructure such as PayPal and Skrill. This project sort to explore the depth of knowledge and extent to which game developers were leveraging on different web monetization models. Building on that, the project will improve the adoption of web monetization through workshops and the formation of a local community of interested developers, designers and innovators and lastly, to profile active game developers in the ecosystem and their work.
We began by mapping out the ecosystem in Zimbabwe. This entailed reaching out to the existing developers that we know and, through referral, identifying additional developers. We also reached out to the educational institutions, Coworking Spaces, E-sports clubs and associations as well as companies that have dabbled in game development and "gamification." (This was very rudimentary gamification in things like loyalty programs.)
A big deliverable of this project is a research paper focusing on the adoption of web monetization models in game development. We commenced our research work and are in the process of collecting data leveraging on the mapping work that we undertook at the start of this project.
We also reached out to game developers to identify specific topics and areas of interest that we used in the formulation of the workshop series that we have started hosting. It was interesting to learn that the bulk of the developers requested content and material on the fundamentals of game development with topics such as "How to successfully launch a mobile game" as well as other technical questions that are tool/platform specific like using Unity and Unreal Engine.
We hope to invite attendees to join the Game Development community that we will host and convene at our coworking space in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Community building has now become the core of this project as we have come to terms with both the need for knowledge and resources and the need for the exploration and adoption of web monetization to be a more community led effort as opposed to being prescriptive. This has meant exploring more activities outside of just workshops to engage active developers and designers.
In truth, most game developers seem to only focus on advertising as a way of generating revenue seeing as most other forms of digital transactions/payments are relatively inaccessible. The fact that Zimbabwe has a dysfunctional local currency operating with multiple formal and informal exchange rates doesn't help the situation.
A second key activity is bringing much needed visibility to the projects that these developers have been working on. We hope to achieve this through profiling some of the projects that are in progress as well as those that are complete and publicly accessible. We believe that doing this will attract more participants to the community that presently exists as a WhatsApp group.
We hope to utilize the bulk of our comms budget to reach and attract more participants to our workshops as well as to market the research paper once it is complete. This is key in ensuring that we bring more visibility to the gaming ecosystem and web monetization. The ecosystem mapping that we undertook highlighted the need to involve other organizations and entities with a vested interest in game development.
We are currently collecting and analyzing data and this will carry through the rest of this month as we ramp up towards the bulk of our workshops for developers and designers. We also hope to launch the ecosystem map itself and we believe that this will help to draw attention to the game development ecosystem and the conversations and projects implementing web monetization. We are also looking at models for sustaining the community post August and we believe that a mix of in person activities and virtual activities will work best.
We definitely need experts/speakers to lead some of our workshops around sustainability models in game development and web monetization. Our research has shown that this is clearly a very nascent industry and so a lot of the projects that we are working with are either in their infancy or were started purely as hobbies.