Op-Ed

Crowdfunding is building their video game — and Cuba’s future

Cuban artist Josuhe Pagliery, right, and computer programmer Johann Hernandez download components for their video game “Savior” at a WiFi hotspot in Havana.
Cuban artist Josuhe Pagliery, right, and computer programmer Johann Hernandez download components for their video game “Savior” at a WiFi hotspot in Havana. YOUTUBE/EMPTY HEAD GAMES

HAVANA At a relative’s house in Miami’s Coconut Grove, Cuban artist Josuhe Pagliery is showing me something on his laptop that looks what he calls “super cool.” (That’s the English translation. I can’t print the Spanish expression.)

A petite robed figure is squaring off against monsters against an eerie backdrop of jagged peaks and mystical music. It’s a scene from a video game Pagliery is developing called “Savior.” More important, it’s Cuba’s first independent video game. As in, not produced by Cuba’s communist government. And the stakes are high.

“If our game goes really bad, maybe it’s like we close the door for developing independent games in Cuba,” says Pagliery, who is 35. “But if our game goes well, I think a lot of young people in Cuba will say, ‘Hey, we want to try that, too.’ 

The international “gamer” community seems to think “Savior” can be a hit. This year Pagliery has promoted his project in Miami and New York — and raised more than $10,000 in crowdfunding to finish the game’s demo.

Along the way, “Savior” is pushing the boundaries of Cuban art, computer tech — and private entrepreneurship.

“We feel like pioneers in this,” says Pagliery’s partner, 30-year-old Cuban computer whiz Johann Hernández, at his home in Havana.

Though Hernández and Pagliery are both devoted gamers, their techie and artsy mindsets don’t always mesh. (Their gaming sensibilities are different too: Hernández is a computer guy; Pagliery is console.) But when they met last year, Hernández was so impressed with Pagliery’s art he signed on as the tech brains for their new company, Empty Head Games.

“Almost all the gamers here in Cuba, nobody plays Cuban government video games,” says Hernández. “The government video games don’t entertain.”

To read the remainder of this article, go to: http://wlrn.org/post/why-cubas-first-indie-video-game-finding-its-crowdfunding-saviors.

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