#UCTLockDownLetters is a new feature on the University of Cape Town (UCT) news site. Staff, students and parents of students: we want to hear about your experiences of work and life in lockdown. Emails, audio and video clips, prose and poetry are also very welcome. This is your space.
5 May 2020
A few days into lockdown I realised my biggest challenge was going to be staying sane. All of my course convenors pushed out all assignments and tests indefinitely, and this, combined with my staggering social life, meant that I had become a purposeless being. I needed to find something to occupy myself – or risk losing my sanity.
One evening on a voice call with some university friends, we were looking for something we could all do online together with minimal setup. Someone proposed the idea of playing Cards Against Humanity (a popular party game among young people) online. We hopped onto the first site that came up on a Google search, and were soon disappointed to find it was laggy and glitchy – presumably because of higher loads due to the global lockdown.
“A few days into lockdown I realised my biggest challenge was going to be staying sane.”
We tried another site where we were greeted with a message: “Sorry, the server is currently at capacity. Please wait for some players to disconnect before trying again.” A discouraging pattern emerged as we tried different platforms and services. It seemed that with the standard South African internet connection, there was little for us to participate in online during these times of abnormal international internet usage.
And so, as a computer science student already in need of a project, now faced with a clear societal problem, I took it upon myself to build software to help alleviate this issue. I devised a plan for a game platform that would be web-based (easily accessible and no installation needed), independent of operating systems, accessible to any internet-capable device and – most importantly – hosted in South Africa.
Since we’re all stressed from head to toe during lockdown, I decided the best game to implement was one based on humour – I chose Cards Against Humanity.
“I learned two new programming languages and three new frameworks – all to make this game a reality.”
Now, cross-platform real-time multiplayer game development isn’t exactly something they cover in our undergrad coursework, so building this game was going to be mostly up to me and what I can muster. I won’t delve into the nitty gritties, but in summary, I learned two new programming languages and three new frameworks – all to make this game a reality. After about three weeks of coding, sweating, rewriting, testing and deploying, I had completed the game.
The game is accessible globally on any device with a web browser, and during peak times (if it gets that popular), the server will give priority to South African players. The first few players (mostly friends and family) gave absolutely glowing reviews, and I’m proud to have built something South Africans can enjoy during these stressful times; something that we can be certain will be there for us first and foremost.
The game’s purpose is just to spread happiness in times of despair – it is completely free to play, open source, and has no ads at all.
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