How Tunisia Is Building Its Gaming Community
There is a constructive, educative game development movement on the rise in Tunisia. Local developers are organizing events to guide those interested in learning about the gaming world. Events are providing an atmosphere that is distant from the school environments, which are typically restrained by outdated and unadapted curriculums.
2012 was an active year for Tunisian developers, creating a number of startups like Saphi Studios, Cogite (the community coworking space), DigitalMania, Tunisian Game Developers, and the Tunisian Association of Gamers.
Level 1: Building Communities around Events
Gaming events are typically friendly rather than competitive. Experts and enthusiasts share a space where they can share ideas, try new things, and learn from their mistakes. This reduces restrictions and increases levels of collaboration and creativity for ultimately building more game studios.
Competitions started in Tunisia in 2005 with the Electronic Sports Tunisian Cup which lasted until 2009. Global Game Jam Tunisia – which started with its current management under Global Game Jam in 2013 and has been witnessing an increasing number of participants on yearly basis.
On 28-29 May 2016, the Game Conf: Summer is Coming will be organized in the Tunisian city of Hammamet, by Tunisian Game Developers and the Tunisian chapter of the International Game Developers Association IGDA. The event will gather Tunisian and international accelerators, publishers, and investors, who will address the challenges and obstacles before, during, and after game development.
The game development studio Nuked Cockroach will take part as well, unveiling the technical aspects in its new game, Veterans, and giving attendees a chance to play the game’s trial version for the first time.
Level 2: Capitalizing on Talent
There is an educational gap when it comes to game development in Tunisia. There are no universities or institutions offering specialized courses in game development; the majority of Tunisian gaming experts learned in Europe and the US, or were self-taught.
Tunisia has a reservoir of potential talents that are lacking guidance. But when the right game developers, mentors, and business-minded people meet at conferences, seminars, and game jams, the result can be new games or new game studios.
“We all believe in education as a major axis in the industry. That’s what the Tunisian gaming ecosystem is prioritizing in building the local industry,” said Houssem Ben Amor, President of Tunisian Game Developers, a non-profit organization that organizes gaming events and competitions.
Level 3: Keeping Up with Technology
The other challenge that gaming development faces concerns the availability of state-of-the-art technologies like virtual reality (VR) headsets, drones, and hololenses (smart glasses with a self-contained computer). These technologies do not make it to Tunisia in time because of the lack of official providers.
Walid Sultan Midani, founder of DigitalMania, the first video game studio in Tunisia, has recently been delving into the VR and augmented reality (AR) worlds. When a VR device is released in the US for example, it could take a year before it reaches Tunisia.
"MENA contains talents with ideas and marketing creativity. What we miss are the special connections that the likes of Silicon Valley startups have. They are the first to access technology, and they start doing business instantly. We’d have a better chance to produce equally good games - perhaps better ones - if we got this issue sorted,” Midani told ArabNet during MEGA Conference 2016, held in Beirut last March.
Further progress is happening on all levels within Tunisia. In an interview with ArabNet, Ben Amor said that the Tunisian Ministry of Technology and Communication has acknowledged the importance of the game development sector, and its ability to improve Tunisia’s economy. “As a result, we started GAM’IN Project with the ministry. It aims at setting up a clear vision about how to transform Tunisia into a leader of MENA’s gaming industry,” said Ben Amor.