Chewatacon: A huge gaming convention in Ethiopia

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They began their adventure five years ago, intending to develop and extend Ethiopia's gaming industry.

EThey began their adventure five years ago, intending to develop and extend Ethiopia's gaming industry. Bethlehem Anteneh, one of the ChewataCon Gaming Convention's organizers, informed us about their journey. "To be honest, we approached everything as if it were a simple game, and we didn't take it too seriously at first. We had our first workshop and based on the potential we saw, we decided to work in the gaming industry. Some members of our team, including myself, have even left their jobs to pursue careers in the gaming industry. As a result of that session, ChewataCon, a huge gaming convention, was born 5 years later."

The inaugural workshop was held at the Goethe Institute. Five participants from the first workshop formed the Chewata Awaqi group with the workshop giver; Christoph Deeg. Their first goal was to create awareness that games are way more than what many people think. The second most important goal was to establish a framework for Ethiopia's gaming industry. Several people played games at home or at game centers, but the Ethiopian gaming industry was unheard of. As a result, the Chewata Awaqi team was determined to create and demonstrate a visible platform for Ethiopia's gaming industry. Another goal was to eliminate the misconception that video and mobile games are the only types of games available. They wanted to demonstrate that the game industry is substantial and more diverse than previously thought. As a result, they inherited the field of Game-Thinking.

Game-Thinking brings the concept of games to industries and sectors where they don't appear to belong; this is referred to as gamification. Gamification boosts productivity in these industries by making their products and services more engaging. It accomplishes this by making the services more human and user-centered, paving the way for Chewata Awaqi members to establish them as consulting firms. They then collaborated on several international events and seminars with 15 African countries and around 8 European countries. "What do we need to do first to create it in our country, Ethiopia?" the team wondered. 

A cultural entity called ZKM from Germany wanted to hold an exhibition called Games and Politics. Therefore, besides the exhibit, the Chewata Awaqi team, as a joke, proposed the concept of putting on a bigger festival with a small budget. They planned to launch a full-fledged gaming festival with the funds raised by the exhibition. So they approached the Goethe Institute, who responded, "fine, let us see what you can do." The Goethe-Institut is one of the best cultural institutes that have open doors to creatives to support it. "It is like a mother-ship where it looks after its children until there is a feel for independence, and then it lets go.", Bethlehem said. The support provided by the Goethe-Institut since the beginning of helping Chewata Awaqi team establishment has been the core support house. 

Now in its second year, the ChewataCon Gaming Convention has developed in a much larger scope and is on the way to becoming self-sufficient. Game days, Game Jam sessions, Reverse Pitches, Panel Discussions, PlayLab, Exhibitions, Award Ceremony are among the ten programs designed and curated in the ChewataCon 2021.

"The first obstacle we encountered as individuals and a team working in the gaming industry was people's perception of gaming as a waste of time. It is a problem not only in our country but around the world. So, to address this problem, we're educating people about gaming as engineering or science, which has led to a greater understanding. Another issue is that few parents are ready to send their children to a gaming festival since they do not believe it will benefit them. We've also launched a program called Play-Labs. This program provides an environment to discuss the potential of games and to find possible use of games. In the PlayLab Program, people can study and experiment with how to use games in diverse circumstances to make them beneficial while making them exciting. We are also engaging people in how to become professional gamers. We're doing this, for example, by creating the platform for Joteni players to showcase and grow their talent as professional gamers like it is done in the E-sport sector."

ChewataCon began as a festival last year. It has evolved into a convention this year. ChewataCon currently handles a variety of topics, including panel talks, experiments, and game activities, as well as bringing the business and consumer sides together. This helps to establish a stronger ecosystem. Over the next five years, ChewataCon aspires to become an entity that inspires and helps the gaming value chain system and stakeholders such as businesses, developers, consumers, and enablers in achieving tremendous heights and success in the gaming industry. Support from anyone interested is appreciated, as the organizing team is always open to contributors and people who are eager to grow in the gaming industry!

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