Game for a Good Cause With ‘Wild Warriors’ App
Crushing candy and running through temples is fun, but Kaydabi’s Wild Warriors mobile game wants to educate you about global issues as well as entertain.
If you fancy saving the planet while distracting yourself with a new puzzle-slash-RPG game, check out Wild Warriors from Kaydabi, a startup founded by two University of Southern California grads via the USC Incubator program.
PCMag met up with co-founders Kameni Ngahdeu and Kwabena Osei-Larbi at Grand Central Market in downtown L.A., a tech industry hangout due to its proximity to the Bradbury Building, as seen in Blade Runner. Kaydabi, like many young start-ups does not yet have a physical headquarters; it uses co-working spaces when necessary. The two co-founders are based in L.A., but Kaydabi’s team of freelance engineers, developers, and designers are as far flung as Brazil, Pakistan, Romania, and Slovakia.
Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi both hail from Africa; Ngahdeu from Cameroon and Osei-Larbi from Ghana. Their company name, Kaydabi, is derived from the Ghanaian saying: “to learn from your past in order to build a better tomorrow.” Ngahdeu graduated from USC in 2016 with degrees in Human Biology and Entrepreneurship. Kwabena Osei-Larbi studied International Relations and Business Law, graduating a year before his co-founder.
While living as roommates their junior year, they started talking about games, and their potential to be fun and mission-driven. Both had also joined a progressive fraternity on campus that focused on training future leaders in highly diverse environments, in terms of fields of study, ethnicity, gender, and national allegiances.
“It gave us a great foundation to build the company itself,” said Osei-Larbi. “Because, in the first year, in the fraternity, we were put into a lot of challenging situations — in a good way — that really honed our leadership skills and taught us a lot about true entrepreneurship to sustain through failure or improvise at short notice.”
“Then a Paris-based friend of ours from the fraternity recommended we check out the USC Incubator,” added Ngahdeu. “We met Professor Paul Orlando, an amazing person by the way, and he told us we needed a lot more than office space, which was why we’d contacted them originally. He said, ‘Let’s talk about your business first.’ The USC Incubator really grounded us as we built out Kaydabi.”
It was time for a demo of game play. Ngahdeu grabbed his Samsung Galaxy S6, Osei-Larbi had his iPhone 6s (refreshing to see a game that launched on Android and iOS simultaneously) and took us through the higher levels, where the pressure mounts.
“Imagine monsters have invaded the world with a plan to capture the world’s most endangered animals and take them back to their planet to build their own galactic zoo. Your job is to protect your animal friends,” Osei-Larbi explained.
So the “monsters” are symbolic forces that seek to destroy the global habitat? Both founders nodded. “Yes, everything from poaching to deforestation — all the causes of endangerment,” said Ngahdeu.
Built in Unity, the game is a fast-paced, level-based puzzle with role play action for deeper identification. The aesthetic is a curious mashup of vivid and deeply saturated colors, a nod to their Africa roots, yet with huge Manga-style eyes on the appealing-looking animals (including a particularly charming parrot). But it’s the mission behind the game that gives Kaydabi’s Wild Warriors its strength.
“We know you can find thousands of puzzle and RPG mobile games on the app store,” the founders pointed out. “But we have a differentiation in the ability to create real change in the world. Dotted throughout the levels are random factoids about the different animals, as well as links to find out more, and we’ve partnered with some stellar organizations to raise money for endangered species.”
Kaydabi cold-called and did presentations to the world’s largest wildlife conservation organizations about their game. Many responded positively and they’ve now set up agreements (they drew these up themselves, keeping overhead costs low) with several, including the African Wildlife Foundation, Sea Turtle Conservancy, and World Parrot Trust.
“The game is free to play, with optional in-app purchases,” Ngahdeu pointed out. “Ten percent of our revenues go to the various organizations and we give them regular reports on the game’s performance.”
The game also includes a through-line of democratic consensus building where players vote for the animals they’d like to support. Funds from the 10 percent revenue pool are distributed along these lines, too.
So what’s next? Without overstating the case, Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi have been witness to many of the world’s iniquities and are determined to effect change. Ngahdeu had a particularly challenging route to the US from Africa, coming to L.A. as a teenager with a younger sibling, only after his mother had established home and immigration status for them here. Osei-Larbi, although born on the US Virgin Islands to Ghanaian parents, lived in Nigeria and then Syria before the deadly civil war broke out. Both appear older than their years.
But there’s also an engaging levity, and a fluency with global digital networked culture, together with the power of games, that runs throughout Kaydabi. It’s still early days; Wild Warriors was in an open beta last summer but only officially launched October 2016. Neither co-founder has been able to give up their day job yet. Osei-Larbi works in business development for a leading alternative legal services provider, and Ngahdeu handles supply and operations for an environmentally friendly farm-to-table flower delivery start-up.
They’re not releasing numbers for Wild Warriors yet, and still in seeking investment mode, yet the momentum is clear. The company was recently voted one of the Top 50 Los Angeles-Based start-ups To Watch in 2017 by Built in L.A, while the co-founders were named among the Top 20 Most Successful Young Entrepreneurs of 2016 by L.A. Business Journal.
“Games have a real impact and an ability to reach and entertain millions of people via mobile devices,” said Osei-Larbi. “Meanwhile charities have a hard time in getting support and interest, particularly from our generation. At Kaydabi, we want to close that gap, and tap into this huge passion that people have to make a difference and do something good. Our focus today is endangered species, but we are already working to adapt our model, business plan and connections to address other important issues next.”
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Originally published at http://www.pcmag.com/news/351827/game-for-a-good-cause-with-wild-warriors-app.