Usiku Games, Kenya's social impact gaming start-up has developed a fashion dress up game for African girls to help restore their self-confidence and African fashion sense, by reinventing the typically white-dominant fashion industry.
Dubbed BeYOUtiful, the game enables African women to select clothes, accessories, and beauty enhancers to meet their body size, shape, and complexion.
Entering the USD$120 Billion gaming industry, Usiku Games has brought competition to the doorstep of the leading global fashion games who have over 20 million downloads according to AppAnnie.
The vast majority of the existing western originated fashion games feature a white, Barbie-esque model with unobtainable body shape. These games typically place the model in objectifying and irrelevant scenarios, such as red-carpet events, fashion runways, and princess' ballrooms.
According to Jay Shapiro, Founder, and CEO, Usiku Games, beYOUtiful has been designed specifically to make African girls feel strong and proud of their appearance:
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"In a sector that historically has caused millions of girls around the world to feel worse about themselves, we have created a refreshing alternative that celebrates African beauty, skin tone, and body shapes. BeYOUtiful harnesses the power of gamification to subtly convince girls that they can do anything and be exactly who they want to be."
Unlike the existing games, which start with women in skimpy lingerie, the models in beYOUtiful recognize the cultural modesty in parts of Africa, celebrating beauty without objectification.
The game features bold curvy models, and tall slender Maasai women, dark-skinned Ethiopian women, and fairer South Asian models.
The game also features models with albinism and women with physical disabilities to celebrate the fact that every woman is beautiful and deserves to feel so.
The fashion available to place on these models also represent the local African cultures, including kitenge fabrics and Muslim headdresses designed by top Kenyan fashion designer Wanjiru Muriu-Anami:
"The Western fashion games have a subliminal message of what the “standard of beauty looks like", but for millions of African girls, with both smartphones and dark skin, they are led to believe the fashion lie that they can never successfully meet Western society's vision of beauty. As a result, the games do not reflect their real lifestyle and circumstances: circumstances they should embrace and celebrate. We decided to address the issue of body image amongst African women and girls, by creating fashion designs and beautiful looks that they can call their own," says Wanjiru.
The beYOUtiful game features women in positions of power: she is teaching a university class, she is presenting in a board room, she is in a fitness gym, or she is an executive chef in a fancy restaurant. These all subtly give the message that "you are powerful and you can be anything you want to be". That message is reinforced through the amazing soundtrack written especially for the game by the incredibly talented Kenyan singer-songwriter Julie Brenda.
Julia Brenda shared “I was so excited to be a part of this project and lend my lyrics to this powerful game. I want every girl who hears the song to know that Paris and New York don’t have exclusivity on beauty. YOU are divinely crafted, with your melanin glowing, whoever you are, and wherever you are, you are beYOUtiful.”
In the future, Usiku Games will be partnering with NGO's focused on women’s empowerment, to leverage beYOUtiful as a tool for educating girls about their potential, in a fun, unintimidating environment.