Brazilian favela players dream big – science & tech

Having come of age in the Brazilian favela of Vigario Geral, Luiz Augusto Jr spent his money playing video games.

Now he makes a living as a player.

Augusto, 23, was working in construction as an apprentice stonemason three years ago when his life took a turn.

An avid gamer, he got involved in AfroGames, a charity project aimed at giving young people in poor neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas access to the multi-billion dollar gaming industry.

The project gave him training and a grant to start his own online channel, where he publishes game content under the nickname “AFG Sr Madruga” and plays a medium game of “Grand Theft Auto” live for his fans. .

“I used to spend a good chunk of my salary playing at a local network house (a game center or cyber cafe) here in the favela,” he said.

“When I went to AfroGames my mom and grandmother thought I could never make any money playing video games. But they supported me and here I am,” he said. AFP.

Augusto is the first live streaming player sponsored by the project, which was started by AfroReggae, a non-profit organization that runs arts and education programs.

Around 100 young players now participate in AfroGames, whose activities are sponsored by companies such as Brazilian airline GOL and media giant Grupo Globo.

The project offers English classes and programs, and has set up a play center in Vigario Geral, with high-end computers and mentors to help young players learn.

He also started a professional gaming team – AFG eSports – whose six members earn the minimum wage, 1,100 reais ($ 210) per month, and prepare for tournaments with the help of a coach, psychologist and of a physical trainer.

They made their debut at the World League of Legends tournament in 2019. The Popular Fighting Game Championships handed out $ 2.2 million in prizes that year.

Augusto, meanwhile, receives a monthly grant of 600 reais for his webcasts.

“It got me recognition in the favela. And I want to go even further. I want to be an influencer and a content producer. I’m learning how to do that here,” he says.

Bringing diversity to the game

The global gaming industry will generate estimated revenues of $ 180 billion this year, according to specialist company Newzoo, more than double the $ 74 billion forecast for the music and film industry.

It’s not a world easily accessible from the favelas of Brazil, where computers and game consoles are far too expensive for the budgets of poor families.

The idea for AfroGames came from Ricardo Chantilly, a former musical director who was friend of the directors of AfroReggae.

“They wanted to do a music project, but I told them eSports was the way to go. We had a meeting to show them my idea,” he said.

In his presentation, he included photos from international and Brazilian games tournaments, with crowded gyms where no black or brown faces could be seen.

“We realized we weren’t pictured in those photos. So we said, ‘Why not form a favela team?’” Said William Reis, co-director of AfroReggae.

The project now plans to expand to another favela in Rio, Cantagalo, with an eSports arena to host what Reis touts as “the first favela gaming championships.”

“When I was a kid, friends would get together and make a rock band,” Chantilly said.

“Today they’ve put together an esports team. Gaming is the new rock and roll.”

Next step: sexism

Members of the AFG eSports team train five days a week, in addition to English lessons.

In another pioneering movement for the video game world, which has been accused of sexist player abuse, the team includes a young woman: Gabriela Evellyn, 19, known by her player name, “AFG Haru”.

“When we play it makes no difference being a woman,” she said.

“But if someone tells some kind of joke, I just play harder so I can beat them. Then I say, ‘See? You just lost to a girl.'”

About Douglas Torres

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