New video gamer: Africa needs more technology

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Busan, South Korea (CNN) -- Cwi Nqani doesn’t drive. He doesn’t have a phone. And even if he did, the nearest place he could charge it would be a 10-mile walk from the thatched hut where he lives in southern Namibia.

But against all these odds, the 32-year-old who wears bracelets made of ostrich eggs and a loincloth competed last week in a car-racing video game -- played on mobile phones -- at the World Cyber Games here in South Korea.

Nqani didn’t win a single match in the game, "Asphalt 6." But the experience of attending the Olympics of video games, along with 600 of the best video gamers on the planet, was eye-opening and humbling, he said.

“I will take the experience and maybe next time I will be the winner,” he said, “because I will learn from others.”

    Nqani’s journey to this video-gaming tournament is nothing short of incredible.

    This fall in Namibia, he happened to be selling bracelets and other cultural artifacts from his ethnic group, the San, at a trade show in Windhoek, the country’s capital. Coincidentally, nearby was Lubomir Lang from the World Cyber Games, who had set up a big white tent to host Namibia’s preliminary national championships in gaming.

    Nqani had never seen a video game, or even heard about them. But he was intrigued, so he went in the tent. He was so taken by the games he found -- FIFA soccer, "Tekken," a fighting game and the mobile racing game "Asphalt 6" -- that he decided to compete in the tournament for a chance to attend the world championships in Korea.

    As he was the only competitor in "Asphalt 6," he was automatically chosen to attend.

    To practice for the international tournament, Nqani said Samsung sent him a free mobile phone, the Galaxy S II. They had to send a solar charger, too, so Nqani wouldn’t have to walk to another village when its battery died.

    When the phone arrived, Nqani and his family were overjoyed.

    “They were all trying to grab the phone from me when we played,” he said, a broad smile coming across his face.

    Last week, a film crew took him on a tour of Busan, the coastal metropolis where the World Cyber Games were held. He went ice skating for the first time. Rode a high-speed bus. Went to a spa. And even a disco, where they music was far too loud for his taste (“Oh! My ears! Boom, boom, boom!” he said.)

    His main takeaway from being plucked from a village of nomadic hunters and dropped in South Korea -- arguably the world’s most technologically advanced country -- is that Africa needs more technology.

    That’s because it could help people advance and find new jobs, he said.

    But also because it’s fun.

    “Everybody should have a chance to play,” he said of video games.