The mobile gaming industry has seen a surge in growth over the last decade across the world. Whilst the users of these games have become more diverse the characters in the game are not representative of the users, particularly those from the Afro-Carribean community. One entrepreneur who has created inspirational games based on stories from African culture is Tobias Ighofose, founder of Bison Play.
Ighofose, grew up in Nigeria and migrated to the U.K. in 2002 for university where he studied Computer Science. Upon graduating he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do but knew he wanted to use his skill set in a creative way rather than working in a corporate role. In light of this he started working with Adobe Flash and secured a role with a digital agency. His first project was creating a viral marketing campaign for award winning series Breaking Bad where users would get personalised life advice from the leading actor Walter White. This was followed by several projects for major companies including Nickelodeon and Disney.
In 2016 Ighofose and a colleague decided to use their talents to make a game called Mr Okada, highlighting the motorbike form of transport that many people in African countries use. Although not widely marketed the game turned out to be a success amassing 10,000 downloads. In the years that followed Ighofose continued to consult for organisations and in 2019 landed a job at Square Enix, the Japanese video game and entertainment conglomerate famous for making the Final Fantasy video game series, a dream job for the avid video game player.
Creating Queen Amina
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 Ighofose decided to use the spare time he had in the evenings to learn another programming language for games which is more common today called C-Sharp. His first test using the programming language was developing an updated version of his first game Mr Okada in HD using the assets he previously had and the re-launch was a success.
At the time he didn’t think he would use his new programming skills to create anything soon however, whilst playing Final Fantasy during lockdown his daughter came and sat on his lap and seeing her watch the games he realised that none of the characters in the game looked like her and “one of my biggest fears is having kids who grow up thinking they are not good enough due to lack of representation” he said. He decided to use his skill set to do something about this and had recently come across the story of Queen Amina, a Hausa warrior queen from the north-west region of Nigeria.
He shared the early demo with his childhood friend and business partner Ndubuisi Nwosu, who ended up becoming his gaming consultant. Soon after he contacted a PR entrepreneur Abiodun “Bizzle” Osikoya who helped introduce him to some Hausa creatives such as Morell who is a rapper and Di’ja, a singer. They both fell in love with the game and contributed with voice overs as well as creating songs for the game whilst Ighofose continued to develop.
The first trailer for the game was released just before Christmas and received great traction with thousands of views. The launch will take place on February 26th to mark Black History Month and will be available on both the iOS and Android store.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can keep up to date with new releases or contact me on Twitter – @TommyASC91.