New paths for video games in Cuba – a view from Cuba

The Superclaria had its genesis in an event in 2015 developed by UCI students under the name of Pachamama Games. On that occasion, musician Osmel Francis, leader of the sociocultural project Cubanos en la Red, expressed his concerns about invasive species and their environmental impact. Shortly after, the project came to life thanks to the ICAIC animators and the knowledge acquired by the UCI students.

Almost simultaneously La Chivichana was developed. Both video games had added value videos and the presence of the leader of Cuban rock music duo Buena Fe, Israel Rojas, providing the soundtrack.

Thus began the path of the Cuban video game where titles such as ‘Sagua, the haunted village' and the lively ‘Fernanda' and ‘The Restless Neuron', whose first version was presented to great public success, Armando Alba Noguera, deputy director of Production of Animation Studies at ICAIC, has repeatedly stated.

How attractive are these products? There is no doubt that in them is the imprint of the so-called Cuban School of Animation, the one that from the beginning has always sought to find the best creative solutions without allowing itself to be held back by the material deficiencies.

In that sense, the studio has been a permanent laboratory to learn and teach traditional animation, thanks to a knowledge that, over five decades, brothers Juan and Ernesto Padrón, Jorge Oliver, Tulio Raggi and Mario Rivas have all shared.

The National Film Award winner, Juan Padrón has posed that the Cuban School of Animation is characterized by jocosity, authentic and original stories, vertiginous montage, colourfulness and the use of a cheerful soundtrack .

In my opinion, these elements are also present in this line of audio-visual products that are being produced today by the new ICAIC animators in conjunction with the ICU. I think that none of the above would have been possible without the tools acquired as a result of the 3D animated Cuban feature film Meñique, which demanded a great technological challenge for those who embarked on this great film adventure.

On the other hand, these video games could not have materialized if the ICAIC Studios did bring together young people who come from the field of design, visual arts and computer science.

‘The Restless Neuron' – unlike games made in other countries with greater technological development – does not encourage the cult of violence and seeks to expand the field of knowledge among the new generations, the so-called "digital natives" born in the age of technologies of information and communications, or simply TICs.

Taimí Tovar Oropesa was the director of the first version of ‘The Restless Neuron' project. It is a video game of mental agility and knowledge, which seeks to maintain the essence of the Cuban television program (of the same name) but which has an identity of its own from a visual point of view.

As a result of the opinions expressed by users of the website – where you can download the game, the app, wallpapers and tones for mobile phones – a few days ago the second version, The Neuron 2, was launched, at a party in Havana's Pabellon.Neuron 2 is a game for mobile devices, cell phones or tablets. For Android version minimum Android 4.0 is required and for iPhone or iPad iOS 7 or higher is required.

Juan Miguel Rodríguez, technical director and programmer for the Android version of La Neurona 2 explained during his presentation that this version has new features such as achievements, challenges and ranking as several players can make use of the application from a single smart device.

Five new video games for mobile phones and tablets were also presented at the Cuba Pabellon recently: Villa Tesoro, Escape, Chaos Numérico, Guardian of the Forest, Team 009: The invasion of the Pálidos and Tutu. The latter is aimed at children between 2 and 6 years old and based on the digital animation series, made by Ficción Producciones, from Galicia, Spain, with Animation Studios ICAIC in Cuba.

‘Team 009' is part of the same concept created by the young Cuban animators Alexander Rodriguez and Isis Chaviano for the TV series that premiered last December on Cuban TV's Canal Cubavisión. The video game Team 009 instills values to children such as friendship, fidelity, honesty, the value of truth and the importance of looking after your environment, but designed in a way that pays homage to the spy films of the 70s, to cinematographic soundtracks and other animated classics of the national cinematography. "We aspire to create new heroes that become reference points for Cuban children" commented the director of ‘The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin', and winner of the award for the best animation in the 37th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.

In general, Team 009 … has been conceived as a transmedia product: with posters, cartoons, comics that tell what happened before the series in the parallel worlds, as well as the stories of each character. All these new products can be downloaded for free from La Base website, at La Base is a portal that wants to become the virtual community of the Cuban video game.

Undoubtedly, this is a necessary project and a great step forward in the democratisation and socialization of technology as a function of society. However, there is still a lack of computer training in our country, where there is a large aging population. Some people who attend the presentation of video games do not know how to install them on smart devices. The same happens when you access La Base. This site should create some simple menu that explains the procedures to follow to achieve the desired purpose. The same applies to video games that are presented in DVD format. It is not always clear what the technical requirements are for the better functioning and it happens that the applications run on some computers not others. There is still a long way to go.

In August there is the launch of other new video games made jointly between Egrem and ICAIC Animation Studios : Tutu, Regina 2 and 3, Captain Plin and What does it mean? These have been produced at ICAIC, a brilliant factory marked by innovation, inventiveness and creativity. Some of them will have their premiere in 2018, says Armando Alba. Perhaps by then my appreciations on the subject have a greater depth.

Link to original article in spanish here

Translated from Spanish by Google Translate/cuba50

More about La Neurona video game here