2021| Mobile Phone Video Game

In collaboration with Nestor Sire and ConWiro

PakeTown is a documentary mobile game about Cuba’s Paquete Semanal, an alternative offline media distribution network that every week supplies Cubans with new Netflix series, Telenovelas, Hollywood movies, music albums or computer games. Given the restricted access to the internet, digital data circulate throughout the country on external hard drives, through an elaborate network of compilation houses and deliverymen, so-called paqueteros.

This phenomenon has its roots in the 1970s when paperback novels came to be the first entertainment materials distributed outside of government control after the Revolution. By the 1990s there existed an informal video rental system based on VHS recorders and cassettes and illegal satellite antennas that allowed the grabbing of US and Latin-American TV programming. With the increasing penetration of computers on the island that facilitated data copying during the 2000s, these dissemination networks further adapted to changes in media formats, available technologies and user interests. Based on biographical interviews with paqueteros and developed by one of the island’s first independent game studios, PakeTown invites players to become entrepreneurs in the informal Cuban media sector and experience this history of alternative media distribution themselves. Aesthetically and conceptually, it draws on the genre of business simulation or tycoon games. While the Cuban private sector remains very limited, simulation games like Pizza Syndicate, FarmVille, or Resort Tycoon are highly popular and a much-consumed content in the Paquete.

The game is distributed worldwide via the Apple App and Google Play stores. As these stores are not accessible in Cuba due to the US embargo, we are distributing it locally via the official government-run platform Apklis and offline via the offline media distribution network El Paquete Semanal, thus utilizing the same distribution infrastructure that the game is about. The advertising campaign for the game was designed in collaboration with ETRES, the first Cuban PR agency specializing in offline digital advertising.

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