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Mobile game app reconnects Guatemalans with cultural history and ancient sport

By Anna-Claire Bevan

An ancient Mayan ball game has been brought back to life by a Guatemalan company aiming to encourage youths to reconnect with their ancestry through modern technology.

Mayan Pitz is the first-ever videogame for mobile phones that has been produced in Guatemala and the company behind it, Digital Partners, says its appeal isn’t just in Central America – the game has already been downloaded in an array of countries throughout the world.

“Since the game launched at the beginning of June we’ve had downloads in the USA, France, Russia, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia and Japan. I wanted to develop a product that was memorable, that would salvage the lost cultural value of our history [..] and could be used to educate,” said Daniel Monroy, Creative Director of Digital Partners.

Guatemala's Digital Partners team creates mobile app game resurrecting country's cultural history.
Guatemala’s Digital Partners team creates mobile app game resurrecting country’s cultural history.

The game is set at the end of each Baktun, a period of time in the Maya long count calendar, when the Mayans used to choose two warriors to compete in the ceremonial ball game.

In Mayan Pitz, the contestants are Hun Hunaphu and Ixbalanque and their objective is to pass each of the 15 levels, by defeating other warriors at the ballgame, and arrive at Gumarkaj, the entrance to the underworld. Here they must then destroy “los Señores de Xibalbá” to be crowned the winners and save the Mayan people.

With its emphasis on salvaging Mesoamerica’s ancestral culture, Mayan Pitz includes an educational section where players can read information and learn about the story of the ancient Maya and where they lived. Each of the levels is set in a different archaeological site, which has been made to look like the original, and contains brief facts and links to further information about the ruins.

The scoring system is similar to that of tennis: with games, sets and points being awarded per set. “We tried to integrate something modern with something old so that it was more understandable,” said Monroy, who hopes that there will be enough demand for Mayan Pitz that his company, Digital Partners, will be able to develop a sequel.

“We’re working on launching another two games this year: one based on football and another about places in Guatemala called ‘Expedition to Guatemala’ that we hope to launch in December.”

Mayan Pitz is available for download on iPhones, iPods, iPads, smartphones and Android tablets, and a web version of the game will be launched in July.

Anna-Claire Bevan is a British journalist based in Guatemala City. She writes about political, environmental and social issues for magazines, newspapers and websites in the US, the UK, Guatemala and Spain. Anna originally set up her first blog Vida Latina as a result of her travels in Latin America and frustrations at the lack of media coverage that this area of the world receives.

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