Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Pamoja Mtaani’

Pamoja Mtaani Wins Award + Features at Games for Health 2009

In Happenings on November 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

This post is long overdue, but earlier this year, Pamoja Mtaani – a videogame I co-wrote and consulted on for Warner Bros was awarded the Global Business Coalition‘s Core Competence Business Excellence Award. The excerpt is below.

Congratulations to Award-Winning”PAMOJA MTAANI” (”Together in the Hood”), Behavior Change Video Game

The “PAMOJA MTAANI” (”Together in the Hood”), Behavior Change Video Game, created by Warner Bros, won the Global Business Coalition’s Business Excellence Award.

As a key component of the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, this open world five player LAN-Based PC game educates youth in Kenya.

The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria honored Warner Bros. Entertainment with the Core Competence Business Excellence Award for the video game “Pamoja Mtaani” (”Together in the Hood”) at the GBC Business Excellence Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. “Pamoja Mtaani”, Swahili for “Together in the Hood”, is an open world, five player LAN-based PC video game created by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in collaboration with technical experts within the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and noted serious games developer, Virtual Heroes, Inc.

Warner Bros. Entertainment, in partnership with PEPFAR, applied its core competence to develop an action-based videogame pilot that is delivering targeted HIV prevention messages to East African youths. The videogame combines traditional gameplay with messages aimed at changing behavior, focusing on key behaviors that can reduce HIV infections among youth. The game development is part of The Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, a  public-private collaboration among PEPFAR and businesses with critical core competencies such as messaging, new technologies and market research.

The “Pamoja Mtaani” videogame can be played at select youth venues in Nairobi, which are an integral component of this new initiative to revolutionize HIV prevention. The game, intended to engage youth through fun interaction, is designed to help influence HIV risk perceptions, attitudes and behaviors among young people in Nairobi.

Pamoja Mtaani also featured at Games for Health 2009. Below is the presentation that Producer, Kirsten Gavoni, gave some details on what it was like making the videogame (It was Warner Bros. first such project in Africa)

Pamoja Mtaani is available to play at three centres in Nairobi right now, two centres in the Mukuru slum and the National Youth Service along Thika Road. I’d suggest you go play it.

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Mawulire ki Kampala? Here I Come!

In Film, Happenings, Perspective, Real Talk on July 9, 2009 at 11:22 am

It’s been a minute since I hit up the blog, I know…but in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been pleasantly distracted by Posterous and Twitter, on which I proclaim you can follow me much closer, and much better. Blog is for big news, like this news. With that, I might as well make it formal: I have good news. I’ve been selected as a finalist in the Annual Maisha Filmmakers Lab Program for 2009.

Maisha lab snippet

The Maisha Film Lab is arguably the best Filmmaking and Technical Lab in the region and it’s main lab is it’s Annual 23 day lab in Kampala, Uganda. This is one of the greatest stepping stones for filmmakers in Eastern Africa with many Maisha Alumni going on to chart out some serious headway in their respective film industries. Besides the Annual 23 Day lab, they also conduct 4 shorter Screenwriting Labs (8-days) at 4 Regional Film Festivals (I was a part of last year’s at the Kenya International Film Fest in Nairobi.) I’d encourage you, if you’d be interested in filmmaking or writing for screen to participate and apply for one of their labs.

So I leave for the beautiful city of Kampala from the 25th of July to August 16th. Hopefully, if I don’t actually direct my film, I’ll assist in directing someone else’s. (fingers crossed) Directing is something I’ve really wanted to get into for the past couple months. I’ve been patiently writing, and though I’m yet to see a film through to production, it seems this might be my chance to do both. A quick recap into how I got into screenwriting.
In December ’07 I attended a Theatre Company Playwriting workshop with Playwright Roberta Levitow. I wasn’t a selected participant, but with some free time on my hands after finishing uni, I was so glad that Keith Pearson and Mumbi Kaigwa let me attend as the Go-pher :). I ended up participating and eventually writing a comedic play on an altercation I had with The Kenya Police regarding a safety-belt in what could (only in Kenya) be referred to as ‘The Crackdown Era’ – Where The Great Matatu Reforms of 2007(R) occured. The skills I learnt there were (and continue to be) invaluable to me. They were the best foundation and exposure anyone could ask for. I served some great tea as well, by the way 🙂
From then on, I went on to co-write the Warner Bros. Interactive  Project ‘Pamoja Mtaani‘ (Part of the HIV Free Generation Project) and work on 5 Animated Short Films. Cajetan Boy worked with me on Pamoja Mtaani, and he introduced me to Maisha. I sent in an application to the first Maisha Screenwriting Lab at KIFF (Kenya International Film Festival) and was accepted into the week-long screenwriters lab. I kept excellent notes and learnt plenty. I also developed a couple better screenplays, not to mention Radio and TV Scripts for Advertising (The industry, I’m slowly beginning to call House – not Home i.e. you can move house, you can’t move home… But no lie, it’s growing on me. 🙂
Of that lab, came out Writer/Director Paul Ekuru’s The Dance for Wives (Which premiered in Kenya at Alliance Francaise on Monday 6th July after screening at the Zanzibar International Film Fest and The Rwanda International Film Fest…I was at the premiere and uploaded pics to my Posterous. View them here) I’m so glad to see Paul’s film get the attention it has had. It was nominated for two Kalasha Awards recently, Best Short Film and Best Leading Actress (Karen Lucas aka Kaz)
So, long story short, applied as soon as I found out about this years lab, back in May and I got the call on the 2nd of July. Can’t wait to see what will come out of this Lab. I don’t know all of the other finalists personally, but I know that my friend Bernadette, also at last years Maisha Lab @ KIFF and Richard from Big Brother Africa 2 were selected.
Can’t wait to meet, study, re-write, re-write, re-write and make movies! Wish me luck!

Pamoja Mtaani : Breaking New Ground in Gaming and Social Awareness.

In Perspective on December 17, 2008 at 1:17 pm

It’s been 11 months since the inception of this Warner Bros. Project, now debuted and launched. Named, Pamoja Mtaani (‘Together in The Hood’ in Swahili) it’s unprecedented territory as far as both gaming and Social Awareness on HIV/AIDS is concerned.

Pamoja Mtaani Animation Screenshot

The PC Video game “Pamoja Mtaani”, developed by Virtual Heroes and Published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) is part of the HIV Free Generation Project made possible by PEPFAR ( The President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Response). I will state unashamedly that US President George W. Bush has done more for Africa than any other president in history. There is little to debate on this matter.

Obama may hail from Kenya, and remain it’s talisman, but it is hard to see him ever coming close to reaching the touchstone that President Bush has reached. With economic hardship, and the American people demanding change, his mandate is to serve his country; we will respect that. But what’s for sure, is that we’re really proud of him and we are sure that with PEPFAR and the HIV Free Generation Programs in place, we’re in good hands.

With Pamoja Mtaani, what we are witnessing is a radical and most certain an unprecedentedly bold approach to combating HIV/AIDS. Targetting the younger African generation, starting in Kenya, addressing them where they are at. With this project in particular, the beginning of the HIV Free Generation Initiative, the youth are being engaged on a level not before envisioned here in Kenya. Through players engaging and fostering a creative and communal approach to challenges in the game, it’s been rolled out at three major locations in Nairobi to start with: the National Youth Service HQ, The Hope Worldwide Center in Mukuru and Micato Safaris St. Mary’s Church in Mukuru as well.

The game is a RPG (Role-Playing Game) which was designed to be played by 5 characters at a time over a LAN (Local Area Network). The official statement from WBIE (Warner Bros. Interactive) sums it up.

“The game follows five strangers who are brought together through unforeseen circumstances, losing what is most precious to each of them. Working their way through various East African neighborhoods, players must recover the stolen items and help an injured woman on their quest. Along the way, they will experience barriers and facilitators to behavior change through a variety of missions and mini-games. ”

Writing the videogame was a challenge, and one of the most insightful, and demanding projects I have ever been involved in. And I loved the opportunity to create, and adapt something this visual and this visceral for a market that hasn’t been approached in this way before.

One of the most interesting things for me was ensuring that the videogame was able to achieve the Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) Objectives. With each character crafted with an arc, to which they gradually transform and fulfil during the game. We had BCC Expert  Nichola Harford, currently based in Zimbabwe working with us, as well as several other teams on both continents.

My trip to the U.S at the beginning of the year to study meant that my schedule would change slightly, and I would be away from home. With that, seasoned writer and thespian Cajetan Boy was selected to write the game from Kenya, with Nicola and I forming the rest of the writing team. This turned out for the best. We were in constant contact, the time difference was cut back significantly for me (From +10 Hours to +3). And best of all, I was able to harness the power of ‘real’ broadband to teleconference, send and download Giga-sized chunks of material at will.

To integrate sheng (local slang- a blend of English and Swahili) into the game, as well as translate the entire game into sheng was something I relished. Sheng, I believe is the epitomy of popular youth culture in Kenya. It is dynamic, unashamed, and defiant. Sheng conforms itself to your reality. So much so that it is by no means restricted to it’s transcribed form. It’s written form cannot keep up.

It continually defies the rules set to govern it (sound like your member of parliament?), and it fluctuates in punctuation and inflection between neighbourhoods, street corners and cities. An example, that’s already outdated by the fact I can write it down  : some words get reversed at a moments notice, and their reversed and revised editions replace them. Most times indefinitely, but then there is no indefinity in it, is there?

There were also 5 CG Short Films developed to debut with the game, and give players and the masses quick views into the characters lives. They were directed by visionary animation director Chris Bailey and were produced by Aaron Parry of Mainstreet Productions. I had the chance to do writing and consultation on part of the project, and you can view them here on the HIV Free Website hosted by Warner Bros.  (http://hivfreegeneration.warnerbros.com)

The entire process of writing both the Short Films and the Videogame was a revelation. Being able to see scripts go from being marked up in their 10th version, and being able to meet on a middleground between our different cultures, yet staying relevant to Kenya’s was amazing.

There is hope that with the game, and the large amounts of data that will be collected from it, we will be several great steps closer to achieving a HIV Free Generation.