Gaming & Technology

iPhone game is the first to come out of 'true Africa'

Through centuries, Africa's Masai tribesmen have struggled against marauding predators. Now a virtual version of that struggle might be happening on an iPhone near you.

"Defend your village by feeding and driving away the animals before they crash it and feed on your livestock and garden!" explains a summary of the game iWarrior in Apple's App Store. Threats include "thundering elephants," "mighty rhinos," "swift cheetahs" and "crafty hyenas."

The game has won praise for its graphics, music and concept. It's "a feed 'em up game, not a shoot 'em up," as co-creator Eyram Tawia put it. But what might be most remarkable is that iWarrior indeed comes out of Africa, the hinterlands of computer innovation. Tawia, who is Ghanian, and Wesley Kirinya, who is Kenyan, overcame considerable obstacles to develop the first product of their startup, Leti Games.

The game has been described as Africa's first commercial contribution to the multibillion-dollar computer gaming industry — certainly the first from "true Africa," as Kirinya put it, smiling. By that he meant the broad swath of Africa south of the Sahara and north of South Africa, with its extended legacy of colonialism and apartheid. Every element of iWarrior — the mechanics, the graphics, the music — was created by Leti, which means star in the Ewe language, or outsourced to techies in East or West Africa, Kirinya said.

For the Leti guys, both 26, the journey has been more of an odyssey — one that recently led them to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Leti has been nurtured by the philanthropic arm of San Francisco-based Meltwater Group, an Internet business services company.

"We believe talent is everywhere," said Meltwater founder and chief executive Jorn Lyseggen.

The iWarrior game, the Leti guys say, is only a start.