Here is a game whose lead character is a Afro-Brazilian boy named Quico who lives in the favelas. It has a beautiful soundtrack by Venezuelan composer Brian D’Oliveira. It is based on the personal story of Creative Director Vander Caballero who also co-founded Minority Media Inc., the development house of Papo & Yo. And, their web address is weareminority.com.
I love it. I love it because it’s an inherently Latin video game. l love it because it’s really good.
Papo & Yo is a puzzle platform about a young boy who is trying to make sense of real world problems, namely his abusive father. He imagines that his father is a big pink rhino named Monster who is a harmless sloth when he’s eating yellow fruit but becomes violent when he eats frogs. To help Monster, Quico and a mysterious little girl decide to lure him to a mystic to cure him of his problem. The subtext of course is that Monster is Caballero’s alcoholic father.
The result is a wonderfully magical and tragic experience that rekindled memories of my childhood. Yes, like many people who were moved by the game, my father was an alcoholic but that wasn’t what really moved me (my pops was more a lazy drunk). As a young boy I grew up in low income communities that were filled with real world problems that affected me but that I had absolutely no control over. So, I did what most kids do: I imagined my own fantasy world. We see these type of fantasy world all the time in mass media. I reminded of childhood classics like The Neverending Story or The Goonies. I loved those movies but I was always aware that as enjoyable as it was to watch Bastion defeat the It (coincidently an unknown, unexplainable enemy) his fantasy was not mine. I was a black kid from the hood. Where was my fantasy at the movies, on television and in a video game world.
The favelas of Papo & Yo is that fantasy world. It’s a world where project homes stack on top of each other to form a bridge. It’s a world where a cheap toy robot is actually a jet pack that lets me fly above trash cans and broken bottles. It’s a world where the Monster isn’t a threatening outsider, he’s my father turned monstrous by things that are out of both of our control.