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The African Code King
Raindolf Owusu, a software developer from Ghana, has published this post about some of the challenges a software developer living in African has to cope with. He titles his post, Agonies of an African Programmer, and after reading his piece I realize we share similar sentiments about how the African continent is the new land of opportunity, so long as it’s leaders can get their priorities straight and stop being greedy.
Raindolf outlines seven agonies in his post in which he elaborates on the frustration himself and other developers are faced with. According to Raindolf, technology in Africa is generalized, or thought of as coming in a “box.” Prepackaged, and can be purchased off the shelf. “Let’s all visualize technology as a process and something we are going to build ourselves here in Africa,” he writes. But in order for technology to be visualized there needs to a sustainable infrastructure to enable this realization. The Government and private sector industries must do more to create the backbone where this process can thrive.
Out of all the agonies the African programmer faces, the most poignant, in my opinion, is an unstable source of power. Ghana is still heavily dependent on hydroelectric power, and has been for quite a while—ever since the Akosombo dam was commissioned in 1966. To put things in perspective, that’s 46 years of primarily depending on rain-water to power a country, now of about 25 million people—it’s unsustainable. Ghana is now going through a period known as load-shedding. This is when different electrical grids in the country are rationed with power. So one section of the country may have power from 6am-6pm, and another section from 6pm-6am. I first witnessed this load-shedding back in the 90s, and again in the early 2000s when I lived in Accra, Ghana. It’s unbelievable to learn that it’s still happening after all the talk about the West African Gas Pipeline and how it would provide another source of energy for the country.
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Why a blog
I found myself sitting in a meeting the other day with a co-worker who was helping me understand what drives software developers needs and wants. He shared with me some interesting facts - like did you know developers really like comic strips? and not simple ones like Dilbert, but smart ones like PHD comics? Interesting, right?
But that’s not the point, the point is to tell you why a blog. You see I started a job at a new company and while I’m no stranger to high-tech marketing, for the first time I am trying to reach out to software developers. So there I was learning about the intricate and complex ways a developer’s mind works. And as I was sitting there, I kept thinking to myself, how did I end up here? And by here, I mean spending the last ten plus years marketing products that some really smart people created, to some really smart people, when clearly I’m not as smart.
Well let me give you some background about myself. I grew up in silicon valley. My dad and his brother started 3H, a power supply testing company (you can read a little bit about it on my uncle’s company’ site). When I was about eight my dad took me with him to a broadcasting conference. I sat in their booth and would show people that if I pressed the big white button it would start a test and either a green or red light would light up. I would explain that green was good and red was bad. Thus began my start at putting laymen terms to technical achievements.
Well, many years have passed since that conference, and now I’ve made a career out of dumbing down technical stuff. And honestly sometimes it just seems silly. So join me as I share this marketing girls continued attempts to be a part of a techy world.
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Who is responsible for the downward spiral of the gaming industry?
We can argue until we are blue in the face or our fingers are sore from typing about who is responsible for this awful slump the gaming industry is in. Many people put blame on the hardware developers. They complain that, “They aren’t being innovative and everything is the same.” Is that really the truth?
I personally think that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are fighting tooth and nail to be innovative. Especially within the past three years.
Truthfully, I think we should look more towards software developers, and even consumers like ourselves. Did you ever think it could be our fault games are becoming stale? Or that your long time favorite software developer is to blame?
I say that it is a mix of both. The hardware developers are creating unique tools to work with for new experiences on their consoles. Developers are being lazy, and don’t take advantage of those tools. Why would they do this?
They are afraid to take risks, they don’t want to leave their comfort zone. They fear negative reactions, and loss in sales. (Realistically they are losing sales staying in the comfort zone) Also, we have this group of mainstream gamers that will go out and buy the same game every year, which also causes them to not want to change things up. They aren’t realizing that those people only make up a fraction of today’s gamers. What about those like myself who want enjoyable, new experiences from games? People who are passionate about gaming are getting nothing. That causes the loss in sales on its own.
I’m not going to waste my time pointing out the several names of the software developers who have their heads in the clouds. I’m going to take the time to mention the unique platforms that didn’t receive enough support.
Yes, the Wii. You’re more than likely shaking your head at me already. While this system sold more than all of these others, many who bought one have sold it, or haven’t touched it since the month they bought it. Why is this? No, it isn’t because it is the least powerful console of the seventh generation. It is because developers were too lazy to utilize the new motion controls. It is literally the truth. Nintendo was almost the only company to support this console. Most companies refused to develop games because “The graphics aren’t good enough.” So what did we get? Wonderful 1st-party titles, some ignored but wonderful 3rd-party titles, and a ton of shovel ware. It’s sad because it could have fared much better.
The Kinect was Microsoft’s ambitious answer to motion-controlled gaming. Sadly, it hasn’t been used like it could have been. Sure, it has its flaws, but everything has flaws. Motion gaming isn’t for everyone, but there’s a market for it. But when we ask where the willing developers are… we hear crickets chirp. I will stand by my own belief that this did not get the support it needed or deserved. It was a unique way of doing things, and has a few worthy titles, but not enough for it to make any sort of impact. Rumors are that Microsoft plans to make an upgraded version built into their new console. The real question is… will it be used by developers?
Before I go into this, I will mention that I own a 3DS and it has a great library, but so much more could and hopefully will be done with this device. Sure 3D gaming isn’t for everyone, and isn’t the most unique tech out there, but if used right it could be wonderful. Super Mario 3D Land is the only title I own where the 3D actually played a part in the game play. It could be seen as more than a gimmick if more developers came up with fun and unique ideas, but they seem to be stuck to that comfort zone we talked about. The AR technology is underused as well. Game freak, wanna sell more games as well as Pokemon cards? Utilize this function, ya ninnys.
This poor, poor console. Sony packed this thing with features unique from its competition and it has received the worst support so far. The touch panel on the back, the extreme power, the dual analog sticks. This device is going to waste. So much could be done with it, but there is no sign of anything but rehashes. Developers want to stop developing games for it because, “it isn’t selling well.” It isn’t selling sell because of the bland titles being put of the thing. It is definitely causing Sony a lot more hurt than they expected.
Those are four devices that contain innovative features for expansive game play experiences. They are criticized everywhere for being lackluster and not helping stimulate the industry, any developer who can say this needs to look in the mirror and find who is really to blame.
I fear for the future of gaming, I really do. I am by no means trying to be negative, but things like this need to be addressed by someone.
I suppose while we’re here I will mention two future tools developers will more than likely let go to waste.
This is the Wonderbook, by Sony as you can see. It was announced this year at E3 , and I hadn’t heard a thing about it beforehand. I wasn’t wowed by it because it is standard AR technology just like the Vita and the 3DS have, but I’m sure it could be used for something interesting. I have my doubts that it was even worth producing, though. With the way things look it will be ignored, and won’t sell. Maybe they should ditch it like Nintendo did with the Wii Vitality Sensor. We’ll see.
I’ve talked about the Wii U a lot since the start of this blog, and that’s because it is the first step into the eighth generation of home consoles. It is very important, especially right now. Nintendo needs this to do well. They need developers to use its unique features. The asymmetric game play, Miiverse, and the near-field communication need to be utilized in fun ways. Ubisoft is showing full-on support, but many software developers are skeptical as usual. There’s honestly no room for skepticism this generation. Companies are going to find that out the hard way if they don’t figure it out now.
Breaking off from talk about specific consoles, I will say that this generation may be the one to determine if console gaming will be in our future. It has crashed before, and it it can do so again. If it does, it won’t be so easy to bring back. Everyone in this industry needs to rethink what gaming is all about, even Nintendo. I may commend them for coming up with an innovative step up from the Wii, but they seem to be getting lazy as well. (I’ll get more into this in a future post).
What can you do about this? If you are really passionate about gaming, stop buying the same games every year. Take action. If you let developers know you want them to be more creative, things can very well change for the better. It isn’t about graphics or extreme power anymore. It is about expanding the world of gaming with new and lasting experiences that people can enjoy for years.
What do you think?