By Faith Haushona-Kavamba
BEFORE games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crushers were all the rage, there were more simplistic games that only required the shade of a communal tree and a few pebbles.
One such game was the Owela game, which required the players to dig shallow, cylindrical holes in the ground, with each player having two holes in a row of four and pebbles or the pits of fruit filled in them.
But just when people thought games like Owela are a thing of the past, an innovative young man has digitised the game, making it more accessible and user friendly, especially to people living in towns.
Twenty-nine-year-old Aron Hamukwaya, along with his team at the National Software Engineering Academy (NSEA) recently unveiled the game, which they manufactured with the aid of the National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST).
“I have always loved computer programming, since I was a young boy. I was introduced to computers when I was in grade 8 and I remember spending all my free time on the computers,” Hamukwaya said, reminiscing about the path that led him to creating the game.
When he completed high school, he said he idea of studying computers never crossed his mind, so he applied for mining engineering at the University of Namibia.
“I got accepted into UNAM for a pre-engineering course, which I enrolled for. I also had a programming module at the time which made me realise how much I love computer programming. It was around the same time I started thinking about all the things I could do with computers given the chance and I started exploring the idea of digitising traditional games like Owela,” Hamukwaya explained.
His renewed motivation for computers prompted him to apply for a scholarship with the then Ministry of Education, so he could study computer programming in Russia, which he did.
During his first year in Russia he created his own version of the Pac- Man game so he could gain a better understanding on how to programme games. Once he successfully did that, he began working on a game called Okawela, which is commonly played by moving bottle tops across a board of intricate lines.
“I won an award for my digital version of Okawela in my second year, so I decided to get a part-time job at DPI Game Developers so I could further work on my game developing skills. Once I completed my studies in Russia, I was offered a job in South Africa but I turned it down because I wanted to open my academy and an organisation that creates games,” he said.
In 2012, he opened his academy, which mainly dealt with tutoring those in the computer programming, education and engineering fields. It was also around the same time he started working on the Owela game, which they patented with the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development in 2014.
In 2015 he won the Youth Innovator grant from the NCRST to help him fully develop the game. The game is designed for a touch table and can accommodate multiple players; however it also has a PC version.
Corporate companies can also place motion adverts on the table and they will not hinder the players. Players have to insert coins in the touch table to play the games. Hamukwaya and his team are presently doing promotions with the game to show the public what they can expect.
“Buying a touch table can cost you close to N$80 000, but one can easily make it back when placed in a public space like a bar or restaurant where customers can pay to play it. Another alternative is to lease it from us, however we get 70 percent of the profits as standard industry practice for things like juke boxes,” the young innovator explained.
He noted that there were already people who have expressed an interest in both buying and leasing their product, so they in the process of manufacturing the touch tables for those who placed their orders.
“The Owela game is something that people are already used to. They also love the innovation, they do not have to dig holes in the ground to play it anymore, I think that is why it has had such a good reception,” he said.
Hamukwaya however pointed out that the innovation will not end with the Owela game. He hopes that by the end of the year, ore games like the Okawela game will be loaded onto the touch table, among many other traditional games.
“The NCRST has been very helpful throughout this process. They not only gave us the grant, but also assigned a company to help us in areas such as business development and they have also been helping us with marketing our product, they are really helping our business succeed and I indebted to them for their help,” he concluded.
For the next few months, the Owela game and touch table will only be available in Windhoek were the NSEA academy is based so they can service the game with ease; however they plan on franchising it to other towns after a year or so.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015