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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

P.o.o Weekly: New game allows you to step into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s shoes

Poo Weekly is an engaging president simulator game, where players have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a political leader and make decisions that shape the future of their nation.

As a way of promoting critical thinking and civic engagement, a group of creatives has come up with a game to help their peers navigate the murky political atmosphere ahead of the 2024 General Elections.

Award-winning indie game studios SpaceSalad Studios has come up with P.o.o (Point Of Order) Weekly which is an engaging president simulator game. In it, players have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a political leader and make decisions that shape the future of their nation.

“With P.o.o Weekly we aim to provide players with an engaging and interactive experience that educates them about political processes while promoting critical thinking and civic engagement,” SpaceSalad Studios co-founder Thabo Tsolo told The Citizen.

“The game provides a realistic and immersive experience where players can navigate through various scenarios, make policy decisions, and address critical issues facing their country,” averred Tsolo.

The game is in development but Tsolo said the PC prototype is available for download from their website.

“This prototype offers players a glimpse into the gameplay mechanics and features of the game, allowing them to experience first-hand the unique and thought-provoking gameplay that Poo Weekly has to offer.”

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Reflecting the times

With the number of 20 and 29-year-olds at more than 4 million on the IEC’s voter’s roll, it is clear that young people will play a big role in this year’s election, despite always being seen as non-participants in the country’s politics.

Found in 2019, SpaceSalad has since inception, been deliberate in its prioritisation of societal issues in their games.

Poo Weekly isn’t the first game where they dip into serious issues for inspiration in their gaming.

One of their most interesting games to date is Doba Dash which is a 3D combat racing game about recycling, climate change and the champions racing to beat global warming.

If you’ve been around South Africa’s metros, the game will look very familiar and quite realistic in how reminiscent it is of street surfers with recyclable material in their big sacks.

SpaceSalad describes this as their attempt at educating and entertaining the youth while inspiring a new generation of champions to rise up and play their part in saving our planet.

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Making the salad

SpaceSalad Studios consists of three members who are 26 years old and two members who are 27 years old.

Their name is reflective of a cocktail of skill and know-how within the group, who are all directors at SpaceSalad.

The other members are Wandile Matsebula, Rethabile Koma, Visual Development Artist, 2D Animator Neo Ramathinyane and Sound Designer and Business Administrator Minentle Ndzala.

“The name SpaceSalad reflects this expansive vision, drawing inspiration from the concept of a salad – a dish comprised various ingredients coming together to create a unique and flavourful experience,” said Tsolo.

The five members have studied a variety of things from business, game development, Psychology and Archaeology but are tied together by their passion for gaming.

“Gaming serves as the common thread that ignites our collective passion. However, it’s important to note that our passion extends beyond just gaming; it encompasses all aspects of the creative industries. From music and animation to art, storytelling, and coding, we are deeply passionate about exploring and innovating within these diverse realms,” Tsolo shared.

SpaceSalad has eight games under its belt and they own all the content they create.

“SpaceSalad Studios retains full ownership of the games we create. This means that we have control over the intellectual property rights, including the game’s design, code, artwork, and content,” averred SpaceSalad Lead Developer Koma.

“Owning the games allows us to maintain creative control, make decisions about how the games are distributed, and retain the rights to any future adaptations or expansions of the games,” Koma said.

While all the music used in their games is also produced -in-house.

“Our team is dedicated to crafting music that not only sets the mood but also serves as an extension of the storytelling and gameplay mechanics,” said Lead Sound Designer and Social Media Manager Matsebula.

“By producing our own music in-house, we ensure that every aspect of our games aligns seamlessly to deliver a cohesive and immersive experience for our players.”

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SpaceSalad approach

“Integrating societal issues into our games, such as in Doba Dash and P.O.O  Weekly is of paramount importance to us at SpaceSalad Studios,” said Tsolo.

“We believe that games have the power to not only entertain but also educate and inspire positive change. By addressing social issues within the immersive and engaging space of a game, we can reach a wide audience and spark meaningful conversations about important topics.”

Their games have been well received by those who interact with them.  

SpaceSalad was nominated for a couple of awards at the Game Connection x China Joy Indie Game Development Awards, including Best Upcoming Game, Grand Award, and People’s Choice Award for one of their games Hot Bunz last year.

But people see games as a cathartic exercise, where they can detach from real life issues – so SpaceSalad’s approach to their games can be off-putting to some gamers.

 “We understand and respect that some individuals play games as a form of escapism, seeking to temporarily disconnect from real-world issues. However, we believe that our approach to integrating politics and elections into our games is both respectful and balanced,” Tsolo defended their modus operandi.

“It’s important to note that we take a neutral stance in our games, presenting events based on actual political occurrences referenced from credible sources such as published articles. By doing so, we aim to provide players with an accurate portrayal of political events without bias or agenda,” he said.

Tsolo added that they find inspiration from satirical cartoonist Zapiro. “This artistic approach adds a light-hearted and visually appealing element to our games, further enhancing the entertainment value.”

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