Accessibility and expanding the reach of games have already been themes that I presented in other texts of mine here, in Tecnoblog – and a lot of people seem to actually put this into practice. One of the good examples is the Villages Cup, in Free Fire, focused on the indigenous community in Brazil. The initiative seems “different”, as it really is – it is unique at the moment, although it is not new.
I was taken by surprise when I came across the Copa das Aldeias, when producing a news story. As much as we think that the Free Fire, by itself, it is an accessible game, we never imagined the totality of its reach and penetration in groups of people who, for various reasons, are further removed from the main discussion groups and the attention of the media and other sections of the population.
So I had the idea to know more, to know how it works, who organizes and what are the plans for the future of the Copa das Aldeias, which is just one of the many cups and tournaments organized by different communities across Brazil – and not just indigenous.
That was why I decided to talk to Igor Gabriel Santos De Souza, or simply “Igor Cai por Terra”, as he is best known in his streamings and in the entire community. Free Fire. The organization and transmission of the Copa das Aldeias belongs to him, which is currently finalizing its third edition and is already on its way to a fourth.
But how did a mobile game, in the style of Battle Royale, attract the attention of so many people, to the point of reaching indigenous communities that are not even in the same state? It’s time to understand all of this better, starting with where the game propagates with great ease.
A place for the village
The Village Cup is completely online. With the support of social networks, such as Instagram and Facebook, Igor makes his own disclosure, equipped with press relations from the platform where he chose to broadcast, Nimo TV.
Nimo, for those who don’t know, is another streaming platform that has been hugely successful among young audiences, alongside big names like Twitch and Booyah – the latter, by the way, specializing in Free Fire, but open to other titles .
Free Fire is also a very important part of Nimo. The game is always among the most played. In fact, entering Nimo’s “Top Games” section makes it easier for you to understand the appeal that the platform has among players – Free Fire, Mobile Legends, League of Legends and Valorant are some of the most popular titles. Free games and, in some cases, compatible with more modest computers or cell phones.
The pandemic, of course, contributed to an increase in the consumption of this type of content. In 2020, Nimo TV recorded growth of 20% in the number of streamers and 25% in the audience of the platform. Each person who watched the broadcasts was connected on average 50 minutes a day and the most watched games were Free Fire, GTA 5, Valorant, Among Us and League of Legends.
There are 25 million users on Nimo worldwide, 60% of which is in Brazil! Here, the platform also had more than 200 amateur and professional championships broadcast, which represents an increase of 80% for the platform, when compared to 2019. Only 120 free tournaments were held in Free Fire.
We add that to the fact that Free Fire is extremely accessible in technical terms. It is quite common to see this statement in matters involving the game, as it is not something so widespread out there. It requires “only” a cell phone with Android 4.1 (we are on version 11 of the system) or with iOS 8.0 (we are on 14.4). Even if the person has an iPhone, which is more expensive, they can take advantage of that iPhone of 2015, very old, but functional.
So we have a good recipe to increase the reach: fun, free and light game, combined with a platform aimed at young people, friendly to streamers and with incentives to various tournaments and championships.
For the Village Cup to exist, only the protagonists were missing.
Cai Por Terra enters the scene
Igor Cai Por Terra is 23 years old and lives in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. It was from him that the initiative came to create a tournament aimed at indigenous people from all over Brazil. Although he himself is not indigenous, he saw the need for being a community resident and understanding the pains of living in a reality far from privileged locations and accesses.
“I’ve been an esports narrator for three years, and I’ve narrated Free Fire ever since. It was in this work that I met the indigenous people, within my narration, when I met a Tupi-Guarani boy. He said he saw me narrating and asked to pay more attention to the indigenous people, ”said Igor, talking to me.
The narrator and streamer also says that, after this initial contact, he did not speak to his indigenous friend for a few months, but that he strengthened relations with Nimo TV, which meant that he could claim the idea that was born at the time – a tournament exclusively for native peoples.
“I said that I knew the crowd, that I had an affinity with some indigenous players and Nimo accepted the idea. Together with another company, Smile One, they support the tournament with the entire online structure and also donate cards that serve for the prize. We have distributed R $ 2 thousand among the top five, for now, but we have plans to increase it to R $ 10, R $ 15 or R $ 20 thousand maybe! ”, He explained.
As the Copa das Aldeias is still in its fourth edition, being a monthly tournament, it can be said that the project is starting its journey. Igor pointed out that there are tournaments on the platform that have the “prize pool”, a technical term for the amount distributed among winners, of up to R $ 70 thousand. “This brings competitiveness and is very good, in addition to having the chance to give some prominence to the players, they can become influencers and earn more money on the outside,” recalled the narrator.
And this external highlight was exactly what happened to one of the Guilds – as the Free Fire teams are, in general – of the Copa das Aldeias. The WK Walkers – Gabriel, Naubert, Darllan, and Eric – were hired by NQT Elite, the first to hire an exclusively indigenous team on the game’s main circuit.
How does the tournament work?
Igor explains how the Village Cup works, which is as simple as possible: Each team, or guild, presents its lineup of five players – one of them being the reserve, who signs up with the chosen nickname, fills in personal and local data, sends photo and video with documentation, to prove ethnicity. The third edition of the World Cup, by the way, had no less than 288 guilds, all composed only by indigenous people.
In fact, there are many subscribers, and from all over Brazil: Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Maranhã, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, Rondônia, among others. Among some of the participating ethnic groups are Kaigang, Kaiowá, Guaraní, Karajá, Xakriabá, Kalapalo, Paresí, Amondawa, Xokleng, Sabanês and more.
With all the guilds registered and verified, the tournament starts with matches between the teams, using the well-known system of running points, coming from other traditional sports. The top six finishers advance to the next round, which is eliminatory. So they go on to the semifinals and then the finals.
Each team plays from their respective homes, whether in the city or in the village. “Any indigenous person can participate, from the city or the village, but the vast majority are from the village. This also raises some problems, as not everyone has a cell phone, so they use the device borrowed from a family member. Others need to walk a few kilometers to get a strong 3G or 4G signal for the game, but everyone can always participate ”, commented the organizer.
Igor also says that creating the Copa das Aldeias brought his challenges. He started organizing the tournament alone, but with so many people participating, he saw that it was necessary to expand the team and today has 11 people, including indigenous people, who also take care of other points, such as social networks and more elements of production.
In addition to the people who help with the organization, Igor also says that today he seeks broader support from indigenous communities for the initiative.
“Because I am not an indigenous person, sometimes there is a barrier, an insecurity about having someone who is not part of them, speaking for them. But nowadays most of us already know us, have already joined and respect the idea. Most young people are won over by the appeal of the game, the elderly are afraid, but today many of them are already on our side, ”he said.
The organizer also reveals that many chiefs and leaders have already recorded videos supporting the World Cup and that he has been trying to speak with official organizations to increase the tournament’s exposure. “In addition to the game, we want to make another strategy, which is to deliver basic food baskets within the villages. They liked the idea and we are going to organize something like that. I have a plan to make these people’s dreams come true through the game, helping to spread their culture to the world through the game, ”he added.
He also guarantees that the Cup of the Villages does not aim to hinder, only to add. “Cai Por Terra” reports that in addition to studies, all indigenous players have their own tasks in their communities, so training schedules are flexible and take place between the teams themselves. “The Copa das Aldeias overflows the competitive, fostering unity, collaboration and fraternization among peoples”, he concludes.
On Instagram and other social networks of the tournament, these concerns are expressed in the form of posts that call attention to indigenous causes, such as struggles against violations suffered in Brazil and in the world, incentive for vaccination against COVID-19, among others.
What do the indigenous people say?
This is perhaps my favorite part of the story, as it was the most curious to produce in terms of difficulty. I explain: of course, to talk about an indigenous video game tournament, it is necessary to speak with the protagonists themselves. But this was a mission … Complicated to complete.
This is one of the few videogame events aimed at indigenous ethnic groups that have been held and there are even fewer people speaking directly to the participants, giving a voice, in addition to publishing a mere note about its realization. Perhaps for these reasons, or distrust, or a certain level of shyness, I found it a little difficult to talk to the tournament participants.
You can’t really blame them.
Igor and Nimo TV’s press office tried everything and happily put me in contact with one of the participants, the young woman Luna, or Mirim Gonçalves, 22 years old. She was in the third edition of the Copa das Aldeias, where she won the fifth place with a lot of determination, among the more than 280 teams.
Luna, or “9â Luna”, is from Palhoça, Santa Catarina, of the Guarani ethnic group. She played for the 9-angle guild, in a team that was entirely female. Shy, but extremely communicative and willing to talk about her career as a pro player, she told me that she met Free Fire by her brothers and that she didn’t have much time to play – the young woman is also a teacher at the school in the village where she lives.
Teacher, professional player and gamer in his spare time, of course. Luna says she likes other games, but only Free Fire runs well on the cell phone that it has within reach, which leads us to what I said in the opening of this article.
She divides her time between classes and training. “I work during the day and at night I train. It is a little tugged, but I’m doing it. There is still time to enjoy with the family ”, said the young Guarani, who started recently and already considers herself a pro of Free Fire.
“I have been playing for a year or so. With the pandemic I started teaching online and had more time to get into the game. When I started, I liked it because I made friends from all states and started playing with my relatives who live far away ”, said Luna.
Just to explain: the expression “relative” is widely used by indigenous peoples in Brazil, when referring to each other, even if they do not share the same blood. What gives a new meaning to the family relationship that young indigenous people, like Luna, are creating through Free Fire and electronic games.
She also reports that the tournament and the game helped her to reassert herself in the world as a participating woman in this medium. “I enjoyed playing as a woman in the gamer world, representing girls. That is why I created my ‘line’ which is feminine, as there are few girls who play, I want to encourage others ”, he added.
Luna also says that she had difficulties, at first, to start playing. And not just because of your commitment to the village school. “In the beginning, my father thought it was bad, because of our culture, but he ended up accepting it. Today, he doesn’t lose any of our championships and he keeps rooting, now he’s fine, since all his children are playing and participating in the championship ”, said the player.
She also adds that she is very satisfied with the position that her guild reached in the last tournament, as it represented a great evolution. “I will participate in the other editions, we will train more to show our gameplay and reach the final,” he added.
Finally, she leaves her message:
“My message to other people who want to participate is not to give up. It is not wrong. It’s just that some people don’t play because of our culture, which has a lot of laws and stuff. It does not mean that those who play will forget their culture. We can show that through games and other things ”.
– Mirim Gonçalves, or Luna, 22, indigenous professional Free Fire player
The Village Cup is one of the few video game tournament initiatives focused on indigenous people, but it is not the only one.
In September 2020, the first – and so far only – Indigenous Free Fire Tournament also took place, with 56 participants, distributed among 14 teams of eight ethnic groups. The initiative was of the Movement of the Indigenous Youth of Rondônia and awarded the winners, of the guild of the people Cinta Larga, with R $ 200.
To the newspaper The globe, Walelasoepilemãn Cristovão Surui, organizer of the event, also stated that connectivity was a problem and that the idea was to have a tournament with several games, but the Free Fire was chosen because it runs on almost any cell phone and does not require as much network.
It was also The globe that the organizer commented something similar to Luna’s statements: “We try to reconcile, show that technology and culture have to go hand in hand. We have to maintain our culture, but we can also use technology, and it is very important, because it is through technology that we are showing the world who we are ”.
For now, there is no apparent news related to the Free Fire Indigenous Tournament, but the next edition of the Copa das Aldeias starts on the same day that this article is published: March 8, 2021. There will be 16 days of matches, with a forecast of 192 participating teams. The award, until then, will be the same: R $ 2 thousand among the winning guilds.