The popularity of video games as a form of entertainment in Kenya, albeit an expensive hobby, has inspired many entrepreneurs to establish video game lounges across the nation; not only is it the perfect place for those who don’t own consoles or PCs but it also serves as a hangout joint for teenagers and young adults. This is no surprise as gaming has become a predominant leisurely activity worldwide. Video game cafés in Nairobi cost anywhere from KES 150 to KES 200 for an hour of play. If you’re a gamer, you know this just isn’t enough time to finish a mission (depending on the game) but the majority of customers who frequent these lounges do so for FIFA, Mortal Kombat, or PES: games that don’t require much time investment, namely Destiny or Division. However, some still find themselves spending no less than an hour playing games. It’s fun, it’s addictive and that is a problem or so we’re led to believe. Some lounges get so packed that gamers have to wait in line to get a turn at what really isn’t the latest tech: PS3 and Xbox 360. The reality of the matter is gaming lounges have been portrayed as a sweat fest of testosterone imbued addicts high on a social craze and other motor inhibiting substances. This may be the case for some but not all and recent articles written by what we can only assume are non-gamers gives a bad rep for what is otherwise a legitimate form of entertainment.
The truth is gaming cafés in the past were often small enclosed spaces hidden from public view. In other words, if you didn’t know where it was located, you wouldn’t find it: a small sign in a sea of other better advertised shops in the Central Business District. This meant that addictive substances and illicit activities inside these lounges were often unregulated thus prompting a point of view that was misleading. An article last year goes so far as to say that gaming lounges were also sites of pornographic videos and “green” cookies. Though it’s difficult to speculate whether this information is true, it’s important to note that this is largely not the case today.
Gaming lounges have evolved into professionally run and legally licensed businesses offering a convenient gaming experience for you and your friends. Nevertheless, the gaming industry in Kenya is young but making great strides in the right direction. Various eSports tournaments have been held with prize pools ranging from 100,000 KES to 1 Million. It’s no longer a back alley, hidden staircase sort of scene: it’s out here and it’s here to stay.
With that in mind, how sustainable is your gaming hobby in a video game lounge and are you better off investing in gaming hardware and software? Let's start with the average number of hours that gamers spend playing. It's 6 hours a week but let’s face it, if you’re like me, you’re probably online for at least 2 hours a day which is alright if those are post work hours. If you’re spending an afternoon at a gaming café, your bill can be anywhere from KES 800 and this isn’t including the cost of drinks and snacks you might purchase in between. The cheapest options for gaming hardware is the console way however you’d still have to purchase the software (the games and the online membership). Though video games in Kenya generally range from KES 6000 to KES 8000, there are alternatives online for cheaper options and of course you can always find other gamers who are more than willing to trade games or who are selling games at a reduced price. Furthermore, Xbox and PlayStation both provide the option to Game Share, Xbox has the Netflix version of video games (Game Pass) and both platforms always have amazing deals. Alternatively, there are console renting services in Nairobi that charge for as low as KES 2000/month to rent a console with a game.
If gaming is your hobby and/or you’re seeking to pursue an eSports career (currently not a great source of income in Kenya), then investing in hardware and software is the better option. However, if you’re looking to blow off steam now and then, Kenya’s booming gaming lounges and console renting service is professional and reliable.
Nahita plays a lot of FPS and indie games, her favorite being Ori and the Blind Forest. She is passionate about growing the community and shedding light on the positive aspects of gaming as a whole.