By Mikhail Huacan
Lima, May 12 (EFE).- Shamans, gigantic owls, “ayahuasca” and pre-Hispanic labyrinths are the key elements in creating the perfect videogame. At least, this was the formula a group of young Peruvians used to achieve success at the last “Game Jam” competition in Mexico, where innovation and subject matter were the categories where Peruvian creativity and culture stood out.
“El Urcututo” and “Lanzon Monolitico” were the Peruvian videogames inspired by Amazon myths and Andean legends which won awards at the recent Game Jam on April 17-18, where 30 groups from all over Latin America competed, the event being organized by the Mexico’s Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Alejandro Marticorena, the designer of “Urcututo,” and Brando Canchanya, the co-creator of “Lanzon Monolitico,” had just 24 hours to achieve this feat, about which they spoke with EFE emphasizing how important to Peru it is to obtain distinctions of this kind.
“At this Game Jam in Mexico, we had just 24 hours to employ 100 percent our abilities. It was a big challenge for us,” said Marticorena, who used the myth of Urcututo, a gigantic owl that helped the shamans, or spiritual guides, of the Peruvian Amazon.
Marticorena said that using the occult history of Peru helped them differentiate themselves from other competitors in the contest.
“We took as a reference point the history of the Urcututo and we added a spiritual side, so that the owl could travel through this (dimensional) plane and carry different items to the shamans in the game,” he said, emphasizing how easy it was to use jungle magic tales to make an adventure videogame.
Meanwhile, Canchanya said that the contest confirmed the huge potential that Peruvian culture has in the videogame sector.
“The baggage we have is so broad, it’s a goldmine to exploit,” he said.
The Peruvian designer used the historical documentation that exists about the Chavin, a pre-Hispanic culture that developed in about 400 B.C. to recreate “the trip” that a shaman has upon being initiated and translating it into a labyrinth with different levels and challenges that make the videogame entertaining and original.
“It scares me that other videogame developers are noticing the potential that Peruvian stories have and it’s creating a boom … without our being invited,” Canchanya said, adding that he, too, is convinced of the creative potential in Peru.
However, despite the “goldmine” that exists both in talent and in inspiration, there are still no Peruvian companies that are developing videogames, and so probably these ideas and this potential will continue to be developed in other countries.
“The income generated by videogames are much greater in combination with the movie, television and music industries together. The mondy within that sector is there and it’s overwhelming,” Canchanya said.
Investment in videogame development in Peru and in Latin America in general is still very low, and although there are many professional “stand-alone” game designers who have managed to create really interesting games, if they had the help of some big “publisher” like Bethesda, Blizzard or Playstation it could create a creative videogame boom throughout Latin America.
“That’s an advantage that a Peruvian has. Nowadays, our culture is appreciated in and of itself on the global level,” Canchanya said.
Besides enabling Peruvian creativity to make its mark, the Monterrey Game Jam also opened up an opportunity for young talent to seek out a niche in which to develop their capabilities in record time.
All of the Peruvian members of the “Lanzon Monolitico” and “Urcututo” teams were from Peru’s Toulouse Lautrec school of higher education.
Renzo Guido, the coordinator of the Videogame and Digital Entertainment Design course at Toulouse Lautrec, said that contests like Game Jam “make the mind more agile” and “demand more efficient coordination” among future videogame pros, who have to put themselves to the test to get to know each other and develop team work skills in a short amount of time.
The videogame industry is still largely unexplored territory in Peru, but it looks to be expanding thanks to young professionals who are managing to develop the gaming and storytelling potential inherent in Peruvian culture.
Ayahuasca is a South American psychoactive brew used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.