Abstract and Keywords
This essay is a history of video games in Peru, and it contains a description of the Peruvian video game industry and how it has grown. Descriptions of video game companies and individual video games are also given. The essay explains how the Peruvian video game industry has grown and what it is like today.
The adoption and expansion of video games in Peru has been relatively slow, mainly due to the hard economic situation the country was going through during much of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. Video game history in Peru basically starts with the introduction of arcade machines during the beginning of the 1980s. At that time, a small number of businesses appeared, ranging from medium-sized arcade game centers, which deployed tens of machines, to small stores that had just a handful of them. The majority of arcade machines was provided by Japanese manufacturers such as Namco, Konami, and so on, and their games proved to be very successful among high school students and young adults. Among the most popular ones were Namco’s Pac-Man (1980), Konami’s Super Cobra (1981), Taito’s Phoenix (1980), Irem’s Moon Patrol (1982), and Williams Electronics’s Defender (1980).
By the mid-1980s, home computers and game consoles started to appear, with the Atari VCS 2600 being the first to gain popularity among gamers. These devices were not always affordable to everybody or easy to buy inside the country, since there were not many import businesses interested in that kind of hardware at the time. Commonly, people would just purchase the console/computer and its cartridges/software when they traveled abroad, either for their own personal use or for sale to others. Examples of systems from this time are the Magnavox Odyssey, the Atari VCS 2600 console, the Coleco Gemini, and the Sinclair ZX81 (including their upgrades and variants such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and so on). When the first systems with cartridges began to appear, several businesses offered their customers the opportunity to rent those cartridges, much like they would rent a movie in Betamax or on VHS. The most popular were the cartridges made for the Atari 2600, whose influence endured well until the end of the 1980s. The end of that decade was mainly characterized by the appearance and subsequent popularity of personal computers for gaming, with the Commodore 64/128 being its key representative. Although computer hardware stores were increasingly interested in offering this affordable computing alternative to average users, the software aspect was not covered in the same way. Games (which were the main reason people bought these computers) could only be purchased either through the same store where the hardware was bought or through “second-hand” dealers—in other words, people who would just copy the games for a price. Despite these limitations, devices such as the Commodore 64/128 started to increasingly appeal to home users because of their capability to offer a better (p.394) gaming experience in terms of graphics and sound. The first Intel-based PCs started to gain acceptance in the market, but their main focus was not oriented to gamers. Soon, that would change dramatically.
The beginning of the 1990s was characterized by a revolution in terms of PC and game console development. Since the introduction of the Intel 286 processor in Peru in 1990, computers were made much more affordable for home use because of the appearance of small businesses focused on assembling computers from generic hardware. Due to the fact that there was still no software culture in Peru, most businesses would just offer unauthorized copies of software (including games), contributing to the quick adoption of the technology. In addition, this decade was also characterized by the renaissance of the game console hardware led mainly by Nintendo and its NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) family of consoles. Much like what happened with Atari, cartridges became one of the main limiting factors for the expansion of this technology, again because of economic issues. Although game-related imports had increased substantially by this time, people would still find it prohibitive to pay quite a lot of money to purchase one single game cartridge.
With Sony’s PlayStation coming on the scene by the end of the 1990s, interest in game consoles started to flourish again, mainly due to the fact that PlayStation games could be obtained not only legally, but also through unauthorized copy dealers, which might have constituted the bulk of games sold in the country. By the beginning of the 2000s, however, the government began to encourage a software culture that would mainly try to deal with software piracy, motivating people and businesses to purchase software (and games) legally. These efforts have been met with encouraging success, leading to a huge economic increase in terms of imports for gamers. For example, in 2006, the value of imported game-related goods (including consoles, games, gamepads, etc.) was almost USD $2 million, but in 2010, this value increased to more than USD $10 million.1 This trend is explained by the fact that the Peruvian economy has been enjoying a period of solid growth since approximately 2007 (up through the time of this writing ), and, if this increase continues, it is expected that the growing trend of game-related product acquisition will also continue.
Domestic Video Game Production
Although video games enjoyed a rather early start in Peruvian computing history, video game production has not seen the same kind of success. Since early adopters were usually people with solid economic status, this would represent a very small number of users that could potentially be interested in the construction of games themselves. However, with the exponential increase of PC users and a growing interest in game software development for its economic benefits, computer programmers have started to polish their skills in this area. The easy availability of game construction tools, going from Adobe Flash kits to commercial 3-D engines, has greatly contributed to the minimization of the learning curve, and good examples of game initiatives have begun to appear, coming from for-profit companies, academic institutions, and individuals eager for public recognition. One of the first games that was developed in the country was a 3-D race simulation game (p.395) called Full Speed (2009) from ArtiGames.2 Full Speed’s development began in 2006, and it took almost three years before it was deployed in its earliest version. Although its concept was very simple for a racing game, it was the first attempt for a small Peruvian company to develop a full-fledged game that would try to mimic the characteristics of established commercial racing games.
The promotion of activities or projects dealing with historical settings and events has always attracted the attention and funding of governmental organizations which, in the case of Peru, are the only institutions that can actually finance these kinds of research activities. One of the first academic institutions that showed a strong interest in combining game development with historical topics is the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), a leading Peruvian university. Formed by a group of students, professors, and professionals from PUCP, the Grupo Avatar (Avatar Group)3 started, in 2011, the development of the first strategy game based on a Peruvian historical event known as the “1814 Rebellion in Cusco.”4 The first version of the game was completed in March 2013 and was based on Age of Empires (1997), a strategy game from Microsoft. By the end of 2012, the game had been tested by high school students, and the results of those studies were utilized as feedback to improve game playability. This project will be sponsored in its final version by the Peruvian Ministry of Education for its final release to all interested academic institutions eager to implement this learning tool in their curricula.
Indigenous Video Game Culture
Recently, there has been growing interest in game creation as a means to express the designer’s own views and beliefs, particularly in the subject area of politicians and showbiz celebrities. Most of these games are constructed using very simple Flash-based sprite techniques and are meant to present these well-known public figures in a sarcastic way rather than provide a realistic game experience. For instance, in March 2013, during the electoral period when citizens were recalling the mayor of Lima, a game called Revoca-game (Recall-game) was developed as part of the political campaign favoring the incumbent.5 Its premise was very simple: the player controls the mayor’s character, who is inside a car, while there are two types of balloons falling down the road. The “yes” type (meaning “yes to the recall”) and the “no” type. The player must catch the “no” balloons while avoiding the “yes” ones. The game, despite its simplicity, became quite popular with young people. (An increasing number of these games can be found on sites such as that of Inka Games (http://www.inkagames.com).
Other initiatives aim to encourage people to show their skills either in game programming or competitive game playing. The Lima Game Jam 2013 (see http://www.limagamejam.com), implemented as part of the Global Game Jam, included as many as sixty participants, among them programmers and artists who developed sixteen games in total. Although this event has only been held twice, it is expected that for future events the number of participants will increase based on the current interest in video games in general. Recent years have seen Peru’s continued participation in the World Cyber Games (WCG), with the country occupying the (p.396) thirty-ninth position overall and fourth in South America. In the 2012 WCG events, the two Peruvian representatives (professional gamer Jian Carlo Joan Morayra, aka “Fénix,” and Andrés Gutiérrez, aka “Andrucas,” a lawyer and five-time FIFA 2012 Peruvian champion) achieved meritorious positions in the StarCraft II (2010) and FIFA 2012 (2011) games.6
Video Game Companies
The rapid advancement of social networking tools and the increasing user base of smartphones in Peru has made several people consider establishing their own companies to develop video games, through which it’s possible to reach a considerable number of potential customers/users without a huge economic investment. Among the most established companies in Peru, we could mention the following:
• 3S Games (see http://3sgames.com). Based in Lima, 3S Games is a company whose objective is to design and implement video games for entertainment and media communication purposes. It emphasizes conceptual art, animation, and user interface design in its works. The most representative game from this company is Corre Chasqui Corre (Run Chasqui Run) (2012). In this game, the player takes control of a messenger (Chasqui, in the Quechua language), whose objective is to take messages to and from different regions in Peru. This game was published as part of the new platform of Smart TVs from LG.
• ArtiGames (see http://www.artigames.com). ArtiGames has offices in Lima as well as Barcelona, Spain. It is mainly dedicated to the implementation of applications for the entertainment business, particularly in the areas of marketing and advertising. According to its profile, it specializes in “programming and game design, 3-D visualization and real-time applications, digital animation, virtual reality simulations, and augmented reality.” Recently, the majority of its projects are essentially focused on animation for marketing. Thus, they have very few projects dedicated to video games. The only known video game developed by this company is the Full Speed racing game mentioned earlier.
• Pariwana Studios (see http://www.magiadigital.com/principal/categoria/pariwana-studios/167/c-167). A subsidiary company of Media Digital, Pariwana Studios is in charge of video game development for mobile devices. It was established in 2012 and focuses on the development of “creative digital industries using Peruvian cultural heritage as their main resource, designing world-class video games.” So far it has released two video games:
○ Inka Madness (2012), which is the first video game developed for mobile platforms in Peru (specifically for Windows Phone 7). The player controls Atuq, a great Inca warrior whose mission is to save his people from chaos and dispel a curse cast by an evil sorcerer over the heir of the Incan empire. The development of this game took five months, and it is expected to be released for other platforms as well (including the Xbox, iOS, and Android).
○ Tadeo in the Lost Inca Temple (2013), which is an endless-running type of game. Here, the player tries to help Tadeo, an explorer, leave a lost temple of the Incas before it collapses. To accomplish this, Tadeo must (p.397) sort out a series of obstacles and collect as many coins as possible to purchase extra lives, which help him reach his goal. This game was released for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android.
• Bamtang (see http://www.bamtang.com). This company is exclusively dedicated to the development of video games, not only for mobile platforms (including Android, iOS, and Blackberry) but also for PC and PlayStation platforms. A great deal of its games (such as Ben10 Forever Defense , Blockade Blitz , and Teenage Warriors ) were developed in Flash and distributed through the Cartoon Network’s Web site. Bamtang was founded in 2002, and one of the first projects it developed was Boxing Box, a boxing game prototype with a haptic interface. This game was never released commercially, but, thanks to it, the studio was recognized by publishers such as Novint and the Cartoon Network for its creativity, quality, and skills. A complete list of games released by the company can be found at http://www.bamtang.com/games.
• Inventarte (see http://www.inventarte.net). This company is dedicated to the development of video games for the Web and social media sites (such as Facebook). Its most well-known game is Crazy Combi (2009), which was initially developed for Facebook. In this game, you are a combi (minivan) driver who must avoid other vehicles on the road (either by dodging them or jumping over them) and gain points by making it to the next bus stop before time runs out. The success of this game caught its developers by surprise since it was only expected to reach around 50,000 people in total, but five days after its debut, the number of players was around 120,000. The majority of its currently developed games is available on Facebook. For a complete list of games, visit http://www.inventarte.net/quienes-somos/chicha-games/.
• Toy Catz (see https://www.facebook.com/toycatzoficial?filter=1). This company develops video games mainly for Facebook, iOS, and Android platforms. One of its most representative games is Cuy (Guinea Pig) (2010), released for iOS. In this game, the player must help Cuy, the protagonist, climb Machu Picchu collecting the ancient treasure of the Incan empire in the form of Golden Tumis (ceremonial knives).
The academic study of video games in Peru is almost nonexistent. The few essays available deal mostly with the effect that overplaying has on children’s lives. CEDRO (Centro de Información y Educación para la Prevención del Abuso de Drogas) (the Information and Education Center for Prevention of Drug Abuse) has been the first to release such a study, raising tangible concerns over the possibility that online gaming is starting to show symptoms of addiction in more than 30% of young players.7
The Future of Video Games in Peru
Due to the great progress in 3-D graphics technology and its increasing usage in the entertainment business, people in Peru are starting to take more seriously the idea of developing business strategies in which delivered goods are not physical but digital in nature. In this context, educational institutions, mainly led by private universities, have tried to fulfill the need for digital content creators by implementing courses and programs specializing in video game development,8 digitalart,9 and even virtual worlds.10 Although the economic impact of video game production is still small compared to more traditional areas such as mining and (p.398) manufacturing, its steady evolution will aid in the diversification of the economy and boost the technological drive necessary for the development of the country as a whole.