Afrofuturism, if you are unknown, is a movement in literature, music, art, video games, movies, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes that incorporate elements of global black history and culture, or better yet, making them central themes. We’ve seen some games that take the concept to heart, like Facial treatment, but few go beyond including black or African characters to actually include their stories or experiences.
We are the caretakers is an unapologetic afrofuturistic sci-fi squad management RPG about protecting endangered animals — and your planet — from extinction. In the game, you recruit, train, manage and build teams of spooky protectors called Caretakers. Seen in the land of Shadra, a fictional nation in Africa, the story revolves around defending Raun, rhino-like creatures, from human and alien poachers. The game attempts to go past the usual western wildlife conservation lens to see what people living in areas where poaching is a common lifestyle go through. Some people need a way to survive, so they are not involved because they want to be, but out of financial need. We also see people who are in it for sports. And in between, wildlife is on the verge of extinction.
When it enters a match, the game turns into a turn-style match. RPG fans know the goal: Wear the poachers down by Will, indicated by a blue bar, or Endurance, indicated by a red bar. Then use one last move to send them packing. The most surprising thing about fighting enemies in this game is that it is extremely difficult to diminish their will.
The inspiration for We are the caretakers came from previous titles in the turn-based RPG genre, which Ogre Battle, XCOM, and Northgard. The game is well polished, but it is an even better representation of the Afrofuturism genre.
Scott Brodie, founder of Heart Shaped Games and lead developer of the game, told WIRED: “I see Afro-futurism as a way to center stories around black people and the wider diaspora and not be so western-centered. I was first introduced to it through Black Panther. Also during this project, I have really become a fan of Nnedi Okorafor, ”the two-time Hugo Award-winning Nigerian American author. “It has been great to learn about other works in the genre while working on the game. I think we eventually saw that there is a non-Western story here that we could tell, and Afrofuturism really suited what we wanted to try to do. ”
Afrofuturism not only promotes representation of the black diaspora; it can also create a sense of understanding between black creators and viewers with all backgrounds – or at least a desire or need to understand the lived experiences. Black people are often told that these experiences are untrue. Afro-futurism often works to reinforce elements and themes of black culture: people, history, persecution, liberation, joy, community, and more.