If you are a gamer, and spent too much time on games like Grand Theft Auto you may have noticed the lack of games that take place within Africa. Perhaps it is because of the complicated and often problematic relationship Africa has in being represented in digital media. The project: Big Five has sparked up conversation amongst game designers and concept artists, on sites like Kotaku, where this project was featured.
“Many studios haven’t tried their hand at a contemporary African game because it’s a daunting tasks to take on all the history and nuanced issues facing many African nations. I think Farcry 2 was one of the few to actually try and make a decent attempt.” – Kiros, concept artist
“if anyone but a black developer makes a game based in Africa that actually contains the true current state today or even history. They are often and nearly always called racist.” – whiteblaze, concept artist
“Only if they succumb to the popular myth among white people that the “true” state of affairs == “my impression of affairs based on at best second- and third-hand accounts, typically those of other Euro-descended folks.”
There’s a difference between an all-white team trying to make a game about the culture of an African nation being *inherently* racist – which isn’t the assertion people make – and an all-white team trying to make a game about the culture of an African nation being pretty much 100% guaranteed to have some degree of racist/cultural generalization due to lack of familiarity.
It’s not a matter of simple political correctness or identity politics or whatever. It’s about not fucking up. Having folks on your team, involved from the ground up, who are from or invested in the context you’re presenting – especially if it’s a context that is historically misrepresented A LOT – helps you make the game without fucking it up.” – Bakana, concept artist
Sebastian Gromann, a German artist, has been working on this concept art project for a few years on a fictitious medieval Africa. The project is an imaginative exploration of an alternative history for a feudal village in Ghana in the middle ages. We asked him about the project and what motivated him to create the Big Five series..
I’m currently developing this lore to take the viewer into an unknown, hidden side of that beautiful continent. I want to trigger the viewers’ curiosity and make them want to explore more of that tough scenario, which feels oddly familiar in some cases but offers strong, novel adventures at the same time. I’m not 100% sure about the end result of project, yet, but until then I‘ll keep pushing and exploring the vast, exciting world of BIG FIVE.
Our story begins around 150 years later, when one member of the eponymous legend Big Five was born – a boy named Bokar who is evolving continually into a symbiosis of human and elephant. At times of tyranny and inexpressibly suffering in the mortal world, five composite beings, reborn ancestors with animalistic abilities, will be released. Only this very collective will be capable to restore the terrestrial balance. Now its time to accompany Bokar and travel through the impressive African scenery, outlive the omnipresent threats of medieval times and fulfill the legend.”
Our protagonist is meeting a familiar group of raiders again. – Chipo finally found the straying bandits who’ve been hijacking nearly a dozen caravans on their way towards the castle.
Here’s a forecast on the mentors devastating attack against a defector hideout. – The mentor is a mysterious ancestor, who already witnessed an occurring of the Big Five a long time ago. He does not know anything about that time period besides the fact that the Big Five secured the balance. At first glance the mentor appears forgetfully but clever. He almost moves in slow-motion, but shoos wild beasts away with just a tiny hand gesture. Our heroes, Chipo(18) and Bokar(18), first meet him after a ceremony at the scaffold outside the castle. They quickly experience that one couldn’t judge power by appearance only.
farmland exploration inside the castle.
Chipo was born as a peasant, experiencing the tough life of Medieval Times first hand. Growing up his urge to protect people increases perpetually. After surviving the coming-of-age ritual with the help of Bokar (who will be featured next), Chipo decides to join the castle’s army. The path of knighthood.
Bokar is an orphan, living in the castle keep.
This is where the last caste usually lives. Other than in the western Medieval Times, high ground is associated with fear and death. Living in a vale and near the river is a privilege instead.
The older Bokar on the right is wearing judge clothing.
Judges are a sub-group of the army, who are mainly peeking outside the castle.
The judges are specialized in an honorable duel, between humans or humans and animals. Unlike the rest of the army they dispense with the protection of metal and use organic resources, such as thick leather or crocodile scales.
This is a vfx concept of Bokar’s face.
I created this close up first to explore the level of mutation and his general personality. -Bokar is a bearer of an mighty ancestor – the elephant of the Big Five! Although he gains a lot of strength and animalistic abilities as he grows older, this condition is more of a liability then a blessing. This era isn’t made for cranks like him.