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The Story of Oscar Esio and Africacomicade’s Community Impact

I have always wanted to visit Nigeria, partly fueled by my Nigerian brother-in-law. Unaware of this fact, in 2023, Michael Oscar Esio made my wish come true when he invited me to visit the bustling city of Lagos. During my stay, I had the incredible opportunity to witness Esio, the founder and program coordinator of Africacomicade, take charge of video game industry discussions at Lagos ComicCon and work the room at the tight-knit Xbox game developer community meetup at Microsoft’s Lagos offices. 

The highlight of my trip was experiencing the electrifying atmosphere of the Africacomicade Gamathon, where Esio’s charisma and influence left a lasting impression on the audience. It’s no surprise that Africacomicade was awarded the title of community of the year by Games Industry Africa in 2023. Esio’s journey has been marked by daunting challenges, but 2023 proved to be a miraculous year for him and his team. Before we delve into that, let’s start from the beginning and uncover how everything fell into place.

Negative stereotypes

Esio’s creative journey began when he was 6 years old while taking artistic classes in Church. He fondly remembers falling in love with poetry and art and spending nearly 5 years honing his skills. Esio’s father supported his love for comics, introducing him to a variety of titles from Archie, Marvel, and DC. However, video games remained a contentious topic in his household, with his parents associating game houses with negative stereotypes. “There was a perception that people who hang out there were miscreants prone to doing drugs and stealing.” added Esio.

Xbox Meetup Lagos

Nevertheless, his passion for gaming persisted throughout his teenage years, even though it was discouraged and met with serious consequences when discovered. Esio’s entry into the video games industry came through an internship at Center4Tech, where he learned the ropes of game development using Construct. He transitioned from an intern to roles in marketing and communications eventually rising to become the head of operations. They trained thousands across Nigeria and despite his success, Esio became increasingly aware of a pressing issue. The lack of job opportunities for graduates in the industry. “Every time students graduated from our program parents would come back and ask us ‘what next?’”

Cucumbers and maize

After realizing the importance of sustainability, Esio resigned and ventured into entrepreneurship in 2017, founding his first company, Prime Osborne. This venture involved work in embedded systems, IoT projects, animations, and mobile app development. Despite initial success, Esio also ventured into agriculture, cultivating cucumbers and maize. However, these endeavors proved to be challenging, ultimately resulting in their closure in 2019. Seeking new opportunities, Esio relocated to Ghana to study software entrepreneurship at The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) Africa.

During his time at MEST, Esio adopted a data-driven approach, conducting thorough market research and learning from African peers. This experience shaped his Pan-African approach, evident in his current company, Africacomicade. The connections and skills gained at MEST empowered Esio to build a platform that facilitates collaboration across Africa, connecting stakeholders and resources efficiently. Without MEST, Esio believes he wouldn’t have developed this expansive perspective.

More than just a game jam

Initially, the founding team of Africacomicade worked mostly on their own, occasionally aided by volunteers. Today, the team has expanded, transitioning from remote work to a small office and employing more full-time staff. Founded in 2020, Africacomicade began as an idea sparked by the desire to create something more impactful. Esio explains, “In 2020 my co-founders wanted to organize a Covid Game Jam. I have learnt a lot since I resigned in 2017. I didn’t see the value of just another game jam. It was going to be more than just a game jam and that is how Africacomicade came to be.” 

Gamathon 2023

The three founders, Esio, Oluwatosin Ogunyebi, and Adewale Abdulkabir, met during their time at Center4Tech. Esio, serving as the head of operations, introduced the other two to the games industry. Their collaboration evolved over two years before they became co-founders. Abdulkabir handles the technical aspects while Ogunyebi, known for his community engagement skills, is also gifted at XR game development. Their combined strengths complement Esio’s focus on numbers and partnerships, forming a dynamic team.

New adventure

Esio credits trust and flexibility for the founding team’s strong relationship, stating, “I’m happy and honored that at least to a large extent they trust my decisions.” While Ogunyebi and Abdulkabir balance full-time jobs alongside their commitments to the company, Esio remains actively involved. However this year he is going to be embarking on a new adventure. He’s preparing to venture into a role at TikTok where he will handle the gaming side of the platform in Nigeria. Reflecting on the 2023 Gamathon, Esio describes it as a “full-blown miracle,” highlighting their ability to attract stakeholders from outside Nigeria and accommodate unexpected guests, including university students. 

He celebrated another major achievement, stating, “We started the Ark Pitch in 2021 and it’s been a struggle to get people to back us. But last year we gave out 30,000 dollars in cash prizes.” This initiative aims to bolster the African games industry by fostering more businesses and creating job opportunities. The trio structured fellowships to allow game developers to learn in the Spark fellowship and intern with the winning companies, which progressed to the Ark Fellowship. “In 2023, we leveled up in terms of value.” remarked Esio. In the same year, Africacomicade received a grant from Unity and Jobs for the Future for the Spark fellowship, a milestone that marked their first major grant for the program. 

Lazy Sundays

In 2021, Esio joined the IGDA Foundation NEXTGEN Leadership Program, where he met his mentor Guy Blomberg. Blomberg runs Games Industry Gathering. Despite minimal interaction, Esio learns passively from Blomberg’s work which he says is similar to his. Esio acknowledges the challenges of community-building but finds excitement in progress. In 2023, Africacomicade’s referrals led Nigerian-based Dash Studios and Deluxe Creation Entertainment to win competitions and funding. Africacomicade itself won the AOT 5.0 Gaming and Entertainment Innovation Award, and Esio attended the GITEX Global 2023 pitch event in Dubai on a fully sponsored trip.

Africacomicade Team

Esio attributes much of his success to his support system, particularly his sister and close companions who have become like family. He also values partnerships with organizations like CCA, Nest Hub, and Esports Africa, which offer valuable support. Despite struggles with balance, Esio prioritizes self-care, taking breaks from work during holidays and dedicating lazy Sundays to rest. Finding equilibrium remains a work in progress for him, but he recognizes the importance of maintaining boundaries and taking time for himself.

Out of Africa

Esio finds fulfillment in connecting with people, hearing their stories, and collaborating to solve problems. Through these interactions, he learns valuable lessons and refines his vision. His journey has been marked by challenges such as funding, intra-Africa collaboration, and communicating innovative ideas to potential funders. To overcome obstacles, he breaks them down into manageable parts and prioritizes documentation and process-building to facilitate team integration.

If Esio would go back in time before establishing Africacomicade he would have traveled out of Africa and built from there. He explained, “People who build outside the continent have an unfair advantage. It’s easier to raise funds. Bootstrapping is not glorious. But the tricky part is I don’t know if I’d come back. I think once out there you can lose sight of the vision and the reality on the ground. So I’m okay where I am and I’ll continue building from here.”

Wendi Ndaki
Wendi Ndaki
Wendi Ndaki is a versatile visual artist, writer, and passionate technology enthusiast with a keen interest in the intersection of art and technology. With a Bachelor's degree in Information Systems Technology, Wendi has accumulated 5+ years of experience as a writer in the gaming industry. She is deeply committed to merging her two passions: art and IT (technology), finding the perfect harmony where they converge. The video games industry, with its seamless fusion of art and tech, has become her chosen home. Through her writing and animated videos, Wendi aims to bridge the information gap, empowering creative tech businesses to thrive and flourish in their endeavours.
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