Platform established in Tunis for visual arts, video gaming

Among the obstacles facing the gaming industry is the social and cultural divide between generations.
Sunday 12/08/2018
Dynamic scene. Participating speakers at the inauguration of the digital lab and gaming lab in Tunis.                                                                                           (National Centre of Image and Cinema)
Dynamic scene. Participating speakers at the inauguration of the digital lab and gaming lab in Tunis. (National Centre of Image and Cinema)

TUNIS - Tunisia’s gaming community has struggled to build up an industry that remains largely under the radar but the creation of a platform could move visual arts and video gaming in the spotlight.

Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture has established a department for visual arts and gaming in Tunis’s City of Culture, a move seen by gamers as an important sign of support.

Chiraz Latiri, general director of the National Centre of Image and Cinema, said a creative digital lab and gaming lab would open for participants to exchange expertise and training and develop projects and technical skills.

“This is a place that will provide a platform for freelancers, start-ups and anyone who has a project relating to the artistic digital industry,” Latiri said. “Students too can develop their skills using the counselling. For me, this centre is not just for cinema but for image too, which could dwell on all including the image of the film and the game.”

“Today, video gaming is the most consumed cultural product in the world,” Latiri said. “There is a strong Tunisian industry. Why do they have to leave the country to work while they can do it here? I want to protect the value of Tunisian intelligence and competences in gaming development.”

While Tunisia’s gaming industry only recently received government recognition, NGOs have long worked to promote e-sports in the country. One of the most influential associations is the Tunisian Association of Game Developers, whose founder, Houssem Ben Amor, said that, despite limited resources,

Tunisia has a vibrant gaming scene.

“As a group of people who were interested in the gaming industry and developing games, we wanted to start working on creating and organising events to promote the culture of gaming in Tunisia and to introduce the community,” Ben Amor said, adding that the organisation hosted the country’s first international gaming event — “the gaming challenge” and the “Tunisia Game Awards.”

“Our role is to promote the industry of gaming in Tunisia, to unite the community, to create opportunities for the community,” he said.

Tunisian gamers also seek to work with developers to build the industry and encourage others to participate in national and international tournaments.

“As gamers, our objective is to organise national competitions of electronic sport,” said Amine Ghaddab, co-founder of the Association of Tunisian Gamers. “Tunisian champions have participated in international competitions since 2013 and we have organised many competitions of electronic sports, mainly the E-sport Tunisian Cup, which helps select players to represent Tunisia in the international championship.

“It must be noted that Tunisia was the champion of the world in the strategy game Hearthstone in the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) WC 2014.”

He said: “The Association of Tunisian Gamers is focused on restructuring the gaming industry and submitted a request to create a federation for electronic sports, which is being studied by the ministry.”

Among the obstacles facing the gaming industry is the social and cultural divide between generations, Ghaddab said.

“The majority of people over 50 didn’t live (through) the genesis of the sector of video games in their youth, a sector that only appeared in America in the ‘90s. This discrepancy between Generation X and the following generations explains why many people don’t understand the sector, including parents and decision-makers (politicians, governmental officials),” he said.

He added: “This will disappear with time but meanwhile the community is making more effort to communicate better and explain the economic and political influence that this sector could have on the country.”

Ghaddab said there were financial, technical and legal issues at play.

“It is important for the relations between sponsor and player, sponsor and organiser, as well as between players and organisers to be formalised like in any other sport,” he said. “Having a legal framework will help the industry evolve and enter the international scene, players and organisers need finances. Currently, players are paying for their own logistics (transportation, participation fees, et cetera). Organisers too have difficulties collecting funding to organise competitions.”

He added: “Some issues are technical. The internet infrastructure in Tunisia is improving but internet providers do not give importance to the quality of connectivity in terms of time response ping and stability.”

Despite these concerns, the Tunisian government’s introduction of gaming labs in the National Centre of Image and Cinema was applauded by gamers.

“It includes a highly developed laboratory and equipment for game developers,” said Ben Amor. “It will serve as a workshop and a platform for ideas and projects for people interested in game development. This will be a great place especially for beginners and novices who do not have the means but can work in the lab.”

Ghaddab added that one of the lab’s most important features is the “gaming factory,” which will provide funding for top game developers.

“The gaming scene in Tunisia is very dynamic and is evolving,” he said. “However, it is indispensable to have a federation to guarantee the continuity of this evolution and dynamism since there is not always a legal framework to protect the interests of the different parties involved whether they are the organisers, the players or the sponsors.”