Video games are extremely popular in Cuba. Gamers create illegal intranets to play DOTA and hack Pokémon Go just to catch a few Pokémon in a wifi park. There’s a thriving gaming community, but unfortunately, with the exceptions of a few apps and educational games published through the government, the rest of these are all made abroad.
Josuhe H. Pagliery is trying to change that. For the past year Josuhe has been working to create Cuba’s first independent videogame, Savior. We had a chance to talk with him about his game, and where he plans to go from here.
ifCuba: Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a mixed media artist and independent videogame developer. For the twelfth Bienal de la Habana last year, I created a “non-game” called Destroyer with the help of my current programming partner Johann Armenteros. Before that I was in a rock band/performance group called Popeye’s Golden Theory, and I’ve worked on many other mixed media and performance art projects in the past.
Give us a little background on your new project, Savior.
Savior is a fully-animated 2D platformer that mixes elements of classic retro style-gameplay with experimental elements coming from my previous experience as visual artist. The game is about a character called Little God, who wakes up from a dream and discovers that his whole world is just a collapsing fragment of a videogame. As the game progresses, it pulls apart the structure of videogames and forces the player to confront the relationship between reality and fiction.
If you think about it, you can see a parallel between Savior and what people in Cuba are experiencing right now. Our national reality is changing fast, and as Cubans we have to find a way to deal with these sudden changes, just as Little God has to deal with his world as it falls apart.
What made you decide to develop an indie game like Savior?
I’ve loved videogames all my life. When I had my first console, I discovered a world where things depended exclusively on your own abilities, intelligence and persistence. A bright place that always gave you a second chance. If you ask me, I prefer this surreal place of fiction over this unfair and harder world in where we all live.
I think now we’ve reached a moment where the technology available in Cuba has given us the possibility to make a game of similar quality to ones made in the rest of the world. We have the opportunity and the experience to make a great first independent videogame in Cuba, and I’m certain that we can bring some new perspectives to the dynamic world of indie developers.
I think we have the potential and the abilities to make a great game that many people in the world would appreciate. For me, it is a win-win situation, because if even things don’t work out the way I expect, we still open a door to a lot of other young Cuban developers that will come after us.
Who is developing the game with you?
Our team, Empty Head Games, is made up of myself and Johann Hernandez Armenteros, who is a programmer and cybernetic engineer. We’re contracting animators and musicians from around the country to help us bring our dream to life. Recently, we’ve also getting support from the Innovadores Foundation from the US and the Ludwig Foundation here in Cuba.
Savior game art from Empty Head Games
What’s challenging about developing a game in Cuba?
It’s challenging in every way possible. Lack of funds. Lack of information. In other countries if you don’t know something, you can look it up or ask someone, but here that’s not an option. In Cuba, internet access is very limited. You can only get online at certain wifi hotspots, mostly in public parks under the tropic sun scattered through the city, or if you have a job that grants you access. There also isn’t a culture of videogame development in Cuba, which means we don’t have resources to turn to. Our equipment is old, and in the last 2 years the life costs in Cuba have tripled, which has made it hard for those of us with few financial resources.
But living in one of the darkest spots in the world, at least in terms of internet connectivity, has its very own particular bright side. It makes you improve yourself by looking at what you’re doing as opposed to looking at others. In some way that has forced us to be even more indie than indie.
How are you funding the game?
This October, we plan on launching Cuba’s first crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. We’re very excited about it, because it’s something we need, and it’s something Cuban entrepreneurs definitely need. Crowdfunding could do a lot for the people like me in Cuba, because as independent developers we’re still blocked from a lot of services and funding sources.
What makes you excited about the future of Savior?
All of it! For me this is a long awaited dream that is starting to become real.
Learn more about Savior on their website.