Havana duo launches crowdfunding campaign for first Cuban indie video game
BY ABEL FERNÁNDEZ
The notion of private enterprise in Cuba usually refers to restaurants
known as “paladares,” classic car owners who serve as taxis or homes
that offer rooms-for-rent to tourists.
But despite limited access to the internet for the masses, lack of
information from outside the island and constrained social media
interaction — in a country where piracy rules — two young men from
Havana are betting on an almost untapped market: video games.
Using a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, multimedia artist Josuhe
Pagliery, 35, and programmer Johann Armenteros, 30, hope to raise
$10,000 to fund “Savior,” the first independent video game made in Cuba.
“Having launched this without access to social media or the internet is
like going to run at the Olympics without shoes,” says Pagliery, who is
visiting Miami, where he has family.
The “Savior” game, an animated 2D-platformer, is based on a fictional
tale about “little god,” the protagonist, who wakes up early in the game
to discover that his world is falling apart. He then starts searching
for the “creator of the universe” through different game levels.
“Savior” seeks to constantly surprise the player and exploits personal
and emotional experiences.
Pagliery, who graduated from Havana’s San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts
and Superior Institute of the Arts said that being outside Cuba gives
him the possibility to network and connect with more people.
Before launching a crowdfunding campaign, he said, it is desirable to
have as many supporters and followers on social media as possible.
“We did not have any of that in Cuba. We really did the best we could,”
Pagliery founded Empty Head Games, a home-based Havana studio, and later
partnered with Armenteros, a mathematics and computer science graduate
from the University of Havana.
The duo has faced several challenges creating an indie video game in
Cuba, mainly because “there is no previous experience. There is no close
reference to go to,” Pagliery said.
Still, he said, “Cubans are fascinated by video games.”
On the island, most video games are pirated and distributed along with
movies, novels and other entertainment products in an underground
network known as El Paquete — a two-gigabytes mix of audiovisual
materials distributed on external hard drives and flash drives.
All video games produced by Cuban state-run institutions such as the
University of Information Sciences (UCI) and the Youth Computer Clubs
are about educational or historical topics.
For example, the video game “Gesta Final” (Final Feat) based on
revolutionary history and produced by the Youth Club, recreates the
guerrilla war led by Fidel Castro to overthrow Fulgencio Batista. Other
games such as “Aventuras en La Manigua” (Adventured in La Manigua) or
“Super Claria” represent what Pagliery calles the “cubanization of video
games,” which he considers “very superficial, based on formulas too
Those games “could work the ‘cubanidad’ from a different perspective,”
Pagliery said, adding that independent productions are more sincere.
“The independent spirit of production gives you the freedom to do
whatever you want,” he said.
Although there are other independent video game projects on the island,
Pagliery said they are built “for mobile phones, are more commercial.”
“Savior” is “more serious, more elaborate, more professional,” he said.
The game thrives on Pagliery’s experience in art and Armenteros’
Empty Head Games has received backing by Innovadores Foundation, a
U.S.-based non-profit exchange between entrepreneurs and technology
innovators in Cuba, and the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, which promotes
Pagliery expects that next year they will have a playable demo ready for
PC, Mac and Linux that can be promoted in festivals and technology
events. The duo’s dream is to bring the game to consoles like XBox and
“Although we do not have the necessary background or visibility, to
launch this campaign has been a huge first step,” he said.
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Source: Havana studio Empty Head Games launches Indiegogo campaign for
first Cuban indie video game | In Cuba Today –