The Pirate Hacks Of Africa: Our correspondent goes shopping for knockoff games in Nairobi.

Gameological contributor Joe Keiser is in the midst of a year-long stay in Nairobi. We asked him to check out the video game selection in his neighborhood. This is what he found.

In Nairobi, there is this shopping center called Diamond Plaza. It is the natural conclusion of a city that doesn’t enforce building codes. It is always under construction, has always been under construction according to the locals, and is a malignant tumor of a building. You can go the second floor, climb through a four-foot doorway into a straight, too-small hall, and end up somehow on the first floor. The stairwell constricts around you the further down you go. There are multiple doors on the highest levels that open into the alley dozens of feet below.

It is a beautiful, terrible place, perhaps my favorite in the city. And they sell games here, the sort of games you would expect in a place where only some of the rooms have a floor. Which is to say they are delirious hacks of old, pirated PlayStation 2 standards, from all over the world, with cover art that is uniformly amazing.

Grand Theft Auto: Saw

GTA: SawNotice the liberal use of rainbows on this cover, which accurately depicts the childlike whimsy of both Saw and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the game this hack is based on. San Andreas is about the deep entrenchment of American gang culture in the early ’90s, and Saw is about getting people to murder each other. So, rainbows.

GTA: Saw in-game screenshotThe game itself is a mutation of San Andreas where the load screens and main character have been replaced with the Jigsaw puppet from Saw. It’s the perfect game for the least discerning of Saw fans, which might be all of them.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas

GTA: San Andreas: Kirk DouglasFull disclosure: this article exists so I can tell you all about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas. Just look at it! It’s exquisite. The game itself is as grand as the cover. It is San Andreas, with the load screens replaced by EXTREME closeups of Kirk Douglas—and occasionally his son Michael Douglas, because hey, close enough, right? In the game, the main character appears to be a rough approximation of Kirk Douglas. Oh, and all the missions have been removed, so there’s nothing to do.

Why would someone make this? Is there some shadow demographic of Grand Theft Auto/Kirk Douglas fans that is going completely unserved? No? Then let us create one, you and I, and give this labor of love the respect it deserves.

Battlefield 2: Special Forces

Pirate Hack Battlefield 2: Special ForcesNow, there is a real video game called Battlefield 2: Special Forces, but it never came out for the PlayStation 2, and it certainly never starred deceased pro wrestler Eddie Guerrero, even though he was amazing and should be in everything VIVA LA RAZA! Hey, the guy who made this cover knows what I’m talking about.

Anyway, you might think the game inside this case is simply a pirated copy of the Battlefield 2 game that did come for the PS2, because that would be a sensible thing to steal. Yet that would make too much sense. This is actually a Japanese game, Simple 2000 Series Vol. 108: The Nihon Tokushubutai, which is translated as “The Special Forces.” It’s not really clear how you could start out intending to pirate one game and end up pirating an obscure, Japan-only budget title instead, but at this point, we should really be willing to accept anything.

Guitar Hero: Satellite 2009

Guiter Hero: Satellite 2009This is a hack of the classic plastic guitar phenomenon Guitar Hero 2, but all of the songs have been replaced with Bahasa rock and rap, which are actual things that exist. This is actually a cool idea for a pirate hack, since it gives the local community a version of the game the original developers never would have made. But for this specific game, that local community is in Jakarta, thousands of miles away. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it, so go ahead and listen to “Maaf Dari Surga” while you play air guitar.

Guitar Hero: Unleashed and X’mas Songs

Guitar Hero: Unleashed & X'mas SongsI know what you’re thinking: “Bahasa versions of Guitar Hero are all well and good, but where is the compilation of Christmas songs and Nu metal?” Don’t worry, here’s Guitar Hero: Unleashed and X’mas Songs. Do you like “White Christmas”? Do you also like Korn? No? Well, that’s okay, because all of the bonus tracks are Bahasa rock and rap. Something for everyone!

Guitar Hero: The Legend: Beatles and Friends

Guiter Hero: The Legend: Beatles & FriendsYou’ll come for the Beatles, but you’ll stay for the anime girl that who maybe is supposed to be Yoko Ono. Okay, the Beatles have other friends, too, but they are mostly Bahasa rock and rap stars.


Pirate version of RoboCopThis is just an old, awful RoboCop game that nobody should ever play. Look at that cover, though! It will brighten your life in countless ways.

Grand Theft Auto hacks that are all the same

Grand Theft Auto hack assortmentGrand Theft Auto: Supernatural, The Legend, Infinite World, and 2012: End of the World all seem like they would be different games, right? They took the hero of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And Damned , Johnny Klebitz, and Photoshopped his head into so many different other games! Unfortunately, all of the games are San Andreas—more specifically, a San Andreas hack of possibly Brazilian origin that removes the story missions and adds explosive superpowers (and Linkin Park to the radio). 2012: End of the World gets bonus points for replacing the game’s opening video with a trailer for the movie 2012. Very classy.

Grand Theft Auto: Dubai City

GTA: Dubai CityThis one was a real surprise. Oh, it’s still San Andreas. But it was edited and “improved” as much as possible. The opening video is a tourism promotional video for Dubai.

GTA: Dubai City loading screenThe loading screens are all advertisements for Syrian Games, which may be an outfit of pirates and thieves but also employs video game cover artists of great vision and poise.

GTA: Dubai City—horror jaw GTA: Dubai City—horror jawThe face of Dubai City’s new main character will periodically glitch, becoming a horrible nightmare with stretched skin and an impossibly distended jaw.

GTA: Dubai City in-game screenshotMany of the signs and billboards in the game have been replaced with Arabic text, and the radio stations play only Arabic music. It’s quite a comprehensive hack, and the best part is that buying it in Kenya almost certainly doesn’t violate American sanctions against Syria. So any American customs agents reading this article shouldn’t even worry about sending me to federal prison. Please?

Words by Joe Keiser. Title illustration by Keith Vincent.

Looking to extend your descent into pirate-game madness? Check out our treasury of the Syrian Games cover artist’s finest work.

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By Julia Lepetit and Andrew Bridgman

How Buying Videogames Is Different From Buying Everything Else - Image 2


How Buying Videogames Is Different From Buying Everything Else


Video games – Kenya’s new emerging industry with ‘huge scope’

BY Dinfin Mulupi

The global gaming business is a multi-billion dollar industry. During its 2012 fiscal year Electronic Arts, an American developer and publisher of video games such as ‘The Sims’ and ‘Need for Speed, raked in revenues of over US$4 billion. Yet in Africa, the games market is relatively small with just a handful of African game developers and most of the population generally viewing gaming as ‘not so serious’. In Kenya, young gaming enthusiasts like Nathan Masyuko, chief executive gamer at NexGen Ltd, a video gaming and computer business, are transforming the industry. Masyuko told How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi more about Kenya’s emerging gaming industry.


Nathan Masyoku

Nathan Masyoku

How did you start NexGen?

After I graduated from Africa Nazarene University with a degree in computer studies I worked for a VoIP telecommunication company for a year as a support engineer. It was however not my passion because I wanted to do something in gaming. Gaming was the one thing that I could do, look up at the clock and find five hours had passed, but kept going.

I met one of my partners, Ayub Makimei, whose dream was to start a Retail Centre that would sell high-end gaming machines while my dream was to have a Centre where people could come and play games at affordable rates. It is expensive to purchase gaming software. In Kenya, they sell at about $100 each. Ten games would be out of reach for most players. It seemed reasonable to have players pay cyber café fees as they played. We merged the two ideas to have a place where people could play and also purchase hardware.

We needed $200,000 to execute this idea but we couldn’t get funding. We decided to transform our idea and became an events company. In 2009, we held local competitions and sent a team of gamers to compete in China at the World Cyber Games, a video gaming competition. It was like going to the mecca of gaming. We met people across the world that were as passionate as we were. Upon return, we began holding regular tournaments. Every month, we hold a virtual ‘FIFA’ championship. This year, we are optimistic that the team we will send to World Cyber Games will perform well. There are Kenyans who compete globally and are highly ranked.

Who is your target market?

Our primary target audience is people in their 20s, however, I know people in their 30s and 40s who play. Contrary to perception, gamers are not obese, idle, anti-social types, hidden in their mother’s garage somewhere playing. They are professional engineers, news anchors and doctors. They are mostly professionals, both male and female, drawn from the low and middle classes. Gaming allows you to do things in your living room that you would not be able to do in reality. In a typical day, I can compete with Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher in the Formula 1 circuit in the morning, lead Arsenal to victory in the champion’s league in the afternoon, and in the evening, I can help the Western powers defeat terrorists. It is an involving experience.

What is the state of the gaming industry in Kenya?

In Kenya … we have seen the establishment of Centre’s where people can play PC games and Xbox. We have also seen a rise in the spending power of the gamer. Young people are purchasing more hardware like high-end PCs that can run games selling at $1,700 going upwards.

We are seeing the local development of games improve and this is creating jobs. This is commendable given that the development of games is a very expensive and time-consuming venture. The Gaming Centre’s, retail stores and tournaments are also generating revenue. The scope is huge.

Describe some of the most difficult parts of running your business.

The stereotypes, people don’t take gaming seriously yet. We also face challenges getting sponsorship for events. We are trying to make e-sports a big thing in Kenya and to achieve that we need backing. We do not feel protected from some unscrupulous practices. For instance, there is a company we pitched an idea to and they went ahead and implemented it on their own. This is worrying.

You also work with Afroes Transformational Games. Tell us about that.

In 2009, I met Anne Shongwe, the founder of Afroes, a company that uses digital media such as games for social change. We formed a small team and conceptualized a game called ‘Haki – Shield and Defend’. The game addresses environmental rights. In the game, players go round protecting trees from evil forces who are illegal loggers. The game won the World Summit Youth Awards held in Canada last year. Afroes has also developed other award-winning games including ‘Moraba’, which addresses gender-based violence, and ‘Champ Chase’, which was funded by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to address sexual offences against children during the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. The game helped children identify sex offenders and promoted the use of child help line numbers.

What are your future plans for NexGen?

This year we want to make the monthly virtual ‘FIFA’ tournaments a spectator sport so that people can pay to watch others play. This is very popular in Korea. We are going back to the World Cyber Games this year and we hope to perform well. We also want to develop our own Gaming Centre where people can come and play games. This will be the home of the gamer.

Where do you see the Kenyan gaming industry in the next five years?

We will see more investments in the industry and increased inter-country competitions with our East African neighbors. I also expect to see high-end, locally developed games, although, they will not initially compete with the international $100 million games. International companies are expressing interest to collaborate with local companies. If more companies see Kenya as a viable host for the development of games, we might start outsourcing games to the rest of the world. This will be a multi-billion shilling industry.