We recently interviewed Lydia Mugure and Tabitha Karaba as part of our journey to document 1000 African women in games. Lydia and Tabitha are a Kenyan duo behind the game Kawia’s Adventure. The team are runners up in the Sony Talent League by THU where they were on a 10-week mentorship program with their project and pitched it for the grand prize against two other projects.
So how did these friends, who are both studied film and theatre arts at Kenyatta University, end up deciding to make a game?
Lydia is a self-taught animator who got her start by learning Blender during her time as a student at Kenyatta University. She enjoys coffee, cats, and sharing African legends through digital art. Tabitha is a music and film enthusiast who, since graduating, has been doing freelance visual work. Tabitha has been interested in film ever since she was young and would stay up watching TCM movies until 3AM.
Lydia and Tabitha’s similarly eccentric yet contrasting energetic and calm personalities have made them the perfect pair of friends and artists. Here we get to know their experience working together and their perspectives on African women in games.
Q: How long have you and Tabitha been working together?
Lydia: Tabs and I have been working together for 4 years! We run an Art syndicate called Naota Studios where we work on stories that we would love to share with the world. I am the execution half of our duo and Tabi is the narrative half, nothing can beat us when we are together!
Q: How did you come up with the names Eurydice and Naota Studios?
Lydia: Naota means “I’m dreaming”. When starting out my career, lots of people – like A LOT- didn’t understand what I was doing, but I did. I was, and am following my dreams, so I would just start saying, “Naota,” to everyone who had doubted my path, including myself.
“I’m just dreaming” is all I would say and that eventually made it a reality!
As for Team Eurydice, well… I am a bit of a history nerd and I loved the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, and when the game Hades came out, I loved Eurydice’s representation! She is gorgeous, she is strong, and I’m her biggest fan! So I named us Team Eurydice. Tabi was on board with that, her only comment being, “Okay!”
Q: What was it like working with a friend on this project?
Lydia: Working with Tabi has been the best! Her calm matches my hyper, and our skills balance each other out. We’ve learned so much about each other and I think we’ll be friends forever, even if we are so different; I think we balance each other out like water and fire, day and night, me and Tabs!
Also, I discovered Tabi’s tea addiction and my coffee addiction! We’re both super grumpy without our morning fix!
Tabitha: Working with a friend on Kawia’s Adventure was seamless! Having had to develop the prototype under the time pressure we were in, made me appreciate all the years we’ve known each other because it paved the way to having a natural flow when it came to communicating. This is because we had to make hard choices all the time on what will best suit the govie. We realized how easily in sync our ideas were, even when they were worlds apart, they always somehow seemed to complement each other.
Q: You both like music. How did your love of music come into play in your work?
Tabitha: Kawia’s main theme is dance, which naturally gets accompanied by music. We saw this as the best opportunity to explore this side of our skills by curating a gameplay that involves staying on beat with the music as you execute the dance moves. We knew we could create a more immersive feel if we let the background music do more of the storytelling. For instance, using quiet but chaotic music to build up to a fight scene; or fast paced, fuller music to signify a change in intensity of the dance moves a player should execute.
FUN FACT: Lydia and I, a couple of years back, attempted to actually create a music app that generates music from African instruments. We, however, had to put that on hold. Who knew we’d get the chance to revisit that but from a new angle!
Q: Tell us about the characters in Kawia’s Adventure
Tabitha: So we have our main character Kawia, a mischievous little girl who risks it all in order to just go dance with her dad and best friend.
Mama Kawi; the stoic authoritarian who knows all too well the risks in the world. She does her best to keep her family safe from all of it.
We have the good, undead spirits that help guide Kawia through the Savannah. Then we have the flip side, our evil spirits who stand in her way, threatening to possess our protagonist; Kawia.
Q: There aren’t many African women creating games. Why do you think that is?
Lydia: There aren’t many right now but they will be. African women have a tendency to shine and I believe a lot more are going to join us. In most regions, it’s still a new medium and they might be unsure of how the world will react to them entering such a new space, but if any one of them will read this, I’ll say what I wanted to be told two years ago, “come on darling, the waters just fine! You’ll love it here!”
Tabitha: The game development community, especially here in Africa, is still quite small. I feel that there is still a lot of reinforcement of gender stereotypes so women might not exactly feel as welcomed going into the industry. I feel that this, however, is something that can easily be overcome. This has been the case in other industries that were previously homogeneous.
Q: How can we encourage more African women to create games?
Lydia: By building up their confidence in their craft and in themselves; show them that they can shine and they will, and once they do the world will take notice.
Tabitha: I think the best way to encourage more women to be involved is to have more of such platforms showing women game developers. That way we may have more role models encouraging us in. Also, getting rid of the expectation for ‘crunch’ will foster a more flexible work schedule that allows time to tend to other responsibilities that equally play a role in other aspects of our lives.
Keep your eyes out for the future of Kawia’s Adventure here: http://kawiasadventure.com/