Albert Tadros excitedly opens a plastic box, revealing a satisfyingly neat display of coloring markers, tin boxes, and piles of paper squares. “It’s the Crit Kit,” he announces proudly.
Out of context, it may look like a complicated craft project, but the ‘Crit Kit’ actually holds the prototypes for newly established Egyptian startup Crit Gaming, for which Tadros is the Chief Product Officer.
Crit Gaming launched its first card game, Bee3 (which translates to “sell”) in September 2020. The game allows players to utilize their social and negotiation skills to build businesses in different districts.
Chief Marketing Officer Taher Medhat explains that the paper squares in the Crit Kit inspired the unique shape of the cards used in Bee3. “We got used to their shape and it sets our playing cards apart from the standard size,” he says.
The primitive appearance of the prototypes helped its creators focus on the game mechanics before it was brought to life through its fresh and playful design, which, according to Chief Operating Officer Ali Salama, was meant to be Egyptianized in a contemporary way to provide the Egyptian market with a game that’s both original and relatable.
A Game for the Egyptian Mindset
“Bee3 is a strategy game based on negotiating, which Egyptians love doing,” Salama says.
In a nutshell, its gameplay is centered on establishing businesses (a fool cart, a microbus, or a koshk) in different Egyptian districts. Each round is considered a new fiscal year, and players have a chance to auction on new items to increase their assets. The players also have access to different satirical characters they can use to their advantage, including the humorous Mekhallasati (who streamlines business procedures), 7arami (thief), and Baltagi (goon) character cards.
Medhat notes that the choice of characters and events in the game helps provide context to make it easier to understand; since players already know how an auction works or would immediately understand that the 7arami and Baltagi cards can be used to steal or destroy other players’ assets.
After watching friends play Bee3, Tadros, Medhat, and Salama realized that the game can be played very differently depending on the personalities of the players. Some players focus on negotiation and making deals, while others are more reliant on strategizing.
“It’s the negotiation factor that makes this game very unique. It’s not just about buying properties or conquering countries, there’s a lot more emphasis on interpersonal skills when you’re debating during the auction, for example,” Medhat says. Salama agrees, noting that strategizing is also important because players have to consider the money they have, the money they bargain with, and how to make deals with other players to get what they want.
Tadros adds that this is what makes the game engaging since the players aren’t focusing on just executing their plans single-handedly.
The journey to create Bee3 and launch it in the Egyptian market was a long one, but the three creators are grateful for how it helped shape the future of Crit Gaming.
“One of the key things we believe added to what Bee3 is now is the time that it took. It allowed us to revisit the game, be critical about it, and give it room to breathe and figure out its own identity – and that time allowed us to figure out our identity as Crit Gaming and what our next steps are,” Salama says.
Avid Gamers with a Vision
After meeting through mutual friends, it didn’t take long for Tadros and Medhat to bond over their mutual love of gaming. The pair began meeting for long rounds of Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) where players create their own characters and embark on adventures. Eventually, the two gamers began creating their own game prototypes.
Soon after, Medhat introduced Tadros to Salama and the three young men realized they had a lot in common.
“We moved away from Dungeons and Dragons and onto tabletop RPGs in general. And from there we started creating a good synergy where we would make games together, and then we’d test them out,” Tadros recalls.
The group wanted to create something more concrete and tangible, which is when Tadros came up with the idea for Bee3. He adds that the skills they farmed during their Dungeons and Dragons sessions helped them throughout the prototype process because they were used to relying on their imagination.
“We all wanted to make games and Salama wanted to develop a company, so we all met in the middle around Bee3,” Tadros adds. The group’s cumulative skillset helped them form a powerful force, as Salama’s background in research and testing and Medhat’s marketing expertise helped complement Tadros’ passion for creating games.
And with that, Crit Gaming was born.
Tadros emphasizes that it wasn’t just about creating a company, the three genuinely wanted to create a good game, which is why it took them around four years to release it into the market.
“From the very beginning, one thing we knew for sure was that whatever game we wanted to create had to be related to the Egyptian theme; it had to be by Egyptians, for Egyptians,” Salama says.
He adds that regardless of the specific games to be released by Crit Gaming, they will all have one thing in common: “They’re Egyptian games from the ground-up with mechanics tailored to the Egyptian taste.”
Medhat explains that they worked hard to bridge the gap between what they thought was a fun game and what the market generally agreed was a fun and simple game by playing with different people and listening to their feedback.
“It’s not about bringing in a product that doesn’t add anything to the [gaming] scene or just slapping some Egyptian names on the cards, it’s about [creating] something that’s actually local,” he adds.
What’s Next for Crit Gaming
Bee3 is currently offered in Arabic, but the creators are planning to release an English version soon. “Our hope is to eventually make it as global as possible; you don’t have to be Egyptian to appreciate the nuances and social dynamics of the game,” Tadros explains.
The company has a variety of new games in the pipeline, including a startup-themed extension for Bee3 – but that’s only the beginning.
Tadros explains that the group is excited to continue creating timeless, compact games that can include more players with shorter gameplay to accommodate the Egyptian market. Currently, Crit Gaming’s plans fall under three categories representing ancient Egypt, present-day Egypt, and futuristic Egypt, respectively.
Another game in development is a Pharaoh-themed one about the curse of Akhenaton, which Medhat believes will “play on a different side of the Egyptian identity.” Its condensed gameplay will last five to ten minutes, and because it will only have 30 cards in the deck, it will be offered at a more affordable price point.
In an attempt to further expand its presence in the market, Crit Gaming will also begin developing B2B games, where businesses will have an opportunity to gamify their brand so customers can create an emotional association with their brand.
Driven by passion, Crit Gaming is a refreshing addition to Egypt’s growing gaming market. The three creators are excited to see how the market responds to their game this summer season.
Bee3 Card Game is sold for EGP 250 through the game’s Facebook and Instagram pages and can be found in Hamley’s branches in Cairo Festival City Mall, Mall of Arabia, and City Center Almaza.
While this is not an advertorial, the creators of Bee3 are offering a 20% discount for anyone purchasing the game through their social media platforms if they mention Egyptian Streets.