Imagine a world where you can experience the existence of Afrofantasy beings and vivid Diaspora elements. A place so strange and wild where powerful spirits, fickle ancestors, and angry beasts co-exist with fertile soils, powerful magic, and traditions that celebrate the African Diaspora far and wide.
Welcome to the land of “Wagadu”, a world created by the game development company Twin Drums. Founded by Allan Cudicio, the company was “born out of the desire to place diversity, and especially blackness and queerness, at the center.” Through the “Wagadu Chronicles”, the company aims to tell the story of the land as a way to “change the perception of fantasy and roleplaying by giving visibility to black aesthetics and African ancient mythology as it has never been done before within our collective imagination.” Gamers will get the chance to interact and serve in different landscapes such as savannas, deserts, swamps, mountains, and rainforests.
You will soon get to enter the world of Wagadu thanks to the support of Riot Games through its Underrepresented Founders fund and the commitment of more than two thousand gamers around the world who have helped fund the game through Kickstarter. In June, the gaming company pledged $10 million to invest in startup programs founded by underrepresented innovators in the gaming community. The fund is on a mission to support a diversity of creators in the gaming industry all over the world, such as Cudicio, who is the first signed founder of the project.
AfroTech spoke with Cudicio about his experience as a game developer, the Wagadu Chronicles, and the importance of representation in the game industry across the world.
“There are a lot of Black people out there,” said Cudicio. “And representation is more than just showing our faces. Lately, you see fantasy settings [in games] where Black people get thrown in, but while the European historical inspiration is visible in everything else, architecture, clothing, themes — Black [people] only rarely get to appear as people [if ever].
“Twin Drums is a gaming company with a strong focus on diversity – half of us are Black, half women and a third queer,” said Cudicio. “Our mission is to show how interesting and engaging it is to push the boundaries of fantasy and gaming beyond the usual eurocentric tropes. Currently, white stories are at the center of most narratives being told in the gaming industry and this is changing only slowly. For The Wagadu Chronicles, we looked at pre-colonial Africa and at the Diaspora for brand new inspiration on what escapism in a fantasy world can look like.”
The Wagadu Chronicles is a first of its kind Afrofantasy multiplayer online game that is taking role-playing to a whole new level. The game serves as both a tabletop and video game that users can experience in different ways. Gamers are able to create and roleplay using their own Black avatar and interact with “people, roles, spirits, and ancestors” in the fantasy world.
“For when the game releases, I very much recommend experimenting with an alter ego that resonates with you, think about some hero that you really admire, and create your role-playing persona based on them,” said Cudicio. “It can be powerful and cathartic!”
Cudicio said he was inspired to create this unique Afrofantasy gaming experience based on his personal life and upbringing.
“Growing up in Europe, I quickly realized that that part of my experience was well represented in the media, especially in video games – which I love, but a large chunk of my identity was invisible,” said Cudicio. “I’m half Ghanaian and I grew up in an African household. My mom was a single parent, so the African side of me is a crucial part of my identity and eventually, I began to expect to see Africa in the media and of course in games. That never happened.”
What makes Wagadu Chronicles stand out the most is the opportunity for gamers to play in person or online. Cudicio spoke about how we’ve all been roleplaying for many years as kids with our friends and now, with games like, Wagadu Chronicles, Black adult gamers get the chance to roleplay by creating a character or avatar that looks like themselves. He is very happy that roleplaying is becoming more relevant in gaming now.
“After a few years of decline, roleplaying has seen a resurgence…” said Cudicio. “In particular, the streaming platforms Twitch and Youtube have witnessed a proliferation of great roleplayers streaming their games and this has led to a bit of a renaissance. Online video games haven’t fully caught up yet and The Wagadu Chronicles places itself ahead of the curve by having roleplay as the main interaction among players.”
Through the game, the Wagadu Chronicles founder hopes that Black gamers enjoy the ability to be the center of experience in the game. He hopes they embrace the understanding that they are the core of the whole world of Wagadu, in every aspect such as the way they look, how they act, and their gender identity.
“In the Wagadu Chronicles, Blackness is the default for everyone,” said Cudicio. “The game is a utopia that simulates a pre-racist world, and most of the things you have to worry about are based on our ancestors’ concerns — appeasing spirits, surviving the environment, and making your village thrive.”
The Twin Drums founder is grateful for the support of Riot Games in helping the Wagadu Chronicles receive the exposure it deserves. Cudicio said that the company is exemplifying a genuine desire to put these topics forward and also “putting their money where their mouth is” through The Underrepresented Founders fund.
Although Riot Games isn’t currently accepting applications for game funding at the moment, they have already found one partner who will help them find ways to support more developers, according to Brendan Mulligan, Associate Director of Corporate Development. Updates will be released soon.
If you’re interested in supporting Wagadu Chronicles, Twin Drums is currently running a crowdfunding campaign that you can contribute to here. Hit the same link to find a 300-page book teaser of the world of Wagadu.
This editorial was written in partnership with Riot Games. Learn more about their diversity, inclusion, and culture initiatives here.