On Saturday, August 20th, 2016, the African Gaming League launched in 4 Nigerian cities- Lagos, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Abuja. It represented the fulfilment of a dream that Amaete Umanah, a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, had long held.
Gaming has long been a contentious hobby and even today struggles for respect when compared to other entertainment media. If you’re not into it, it can look like a massive waste of time, a pastime enjoyed by children who should be spending their time in a more worthwhile fashion, or young men who don’t want to grow up.
In actual fact, games are big business, and the storytelling and technical aspects are fast improving and raising the medium from mere expensive toy to actual art.
The Art of Gaming
Gaming is quite unique as it is the only entertainment media, other than maybe slam poetry, where there is a competitive aspect. While a lot of games are developed to be played alone, and have a fixed story, there are many games that eschew this to provide a multiplayer experience.
It was only a matter of time before these multiplayer games, designed to be played against another player- a friend, a sibling, maybe even a parent or uncle- started to become ridiculously competitive.
Competitive gaming has always been a thing. As early as 1980, the legendary games production company; Atari, hosted a Space Invaders Championship that saw over 10000 participants from all over the United States of America.
However, it was the rise of the Internet and digital media channels like Youtube and more recently Twitch.tv that allowed these gaming tournaments to not only be seen, but be streamed live to an audience of millions.
Why e-Sports are Killing it!
This has made it possible for eSports leagues to get bigger sponsorships, offer bigger prize money, have bigger crowds and in some countries like (South) Korea, have their participants be huge celebrities and icons. Games like DOTA, Starcraft and League of Legends all have prize pots in the tens of millions of dollars. What was once a childish hobby is now a legitimate profession for some people.
This is partly the goal for Amaete Umanah. To build a wider gaming culture in Nigeria where professional gamers can thrive like those Korean icons. Umanah himself is a gamer and uses it to relieve stress.
“There are gamers in Nigeria,” he says. “This soft-launch proved that there are gamers and the potential for a vibrant gaming culture in Nigeria, but the scene is also unstructured.” The African Gaming League hopes to unify all the disparate communities, and bring a structure that makes it more appealing to foreign investment.”
The events all went well and ranged from glitzy and flashy in Abuja and Port Harcourt, to a more intimate setting in Lagos but everyone came ready to kick some digital behind.
There were a few to-be-expected teething issues, but ultimately Umanah and his team felt proud of what they achieved last Saturday. “This is a huge achievement,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect but we executed; we did something that most people just talk about, and on a shoe-string budget too.”