Cwi Nqani’s brush with video game greatness could’ve been mapped on the plot points of The Air Up There, Cool Runnings or The Gods Must Be Crazy or really any shallow movie where people from different cultures collide in an explosion of hilarity. As reported by CNN, the 32-year-old was selling his rural ethnic group’s crafts in Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek next to a tent where a World Cyber Games representative was hosting the country’s national championships. Despite never seeing or playing digital games before, Nqani was the only person to play the Asphalt 6 mobile racing game, which automatically qualified him for a spot in the world finals. Those finals happened two weeks ago.
Here’s the description of the World Cyber Games from their official website:
The best gamers around the world gather into different cities to share the excitement and fun of the game tournaments.
To lead the development of the digital entertainment culture by promotion harmony of humankind through e-sports and its embodiment in the “Cyber Culture Festival.”
WCG is a comprehensive Digital Culture Festival, where language and cultural Festival barriers are stripped away, and international exchange and harmony are Promoted through extensive events including tournaments, conferences, exhibitions.
Maybe Nqani became Nambia’s best Asphalt 6 player simply by showing up. Sure. But, there’s also the possibility that Samsung saw a juicy publicity stunt in the offing by giving him a phone and solar charger so they could eventually bring him to the finals in Busan, South Korea. The South Korean electronics giant looks like it’s pulling a techno-Tarzan here, striding into Nqani’s homeland and swinging him off into the wonders of the modern world where they can trot him out as a curiosity. “Look at the bushman who we taught how to play video games!”
Or, maybe he’s symbolic proof of how benevolent the World Cyber Games and its sponsor partners could be to people where the infrastructure’s less developed than South Korea. You’d like to think we live in an era where the kind of facile nativism apparent in this sequence of events is beyond Samsung or other companies. If the electronics giant had altruistic motives — like initiating Nqani into the global community of gamer — they’ve made them really tough to parse. Instead, he just looks like an exotic specimen put in front of cameras so he can be ogled and snickered at. These pictures from Korean news sources just make him look like a curiosity.
And, after all the World Cybering’s said and done, what’s next for Nqani? Does he go back to the open-air market where he and video games found each other? I’d love for Samsung to show that they care about the answers to those questions. We’re reaching out to them for comment.