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Gaming rages on in SA

The rAge gaming expo this past weekend pointed the way to a booming computer games industry in South Africa, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the first of a two-part series. (All pics by Arthur Goldstuck)

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It even has an all-female team, called Finesse, which competes in CS:GO, and is sponsored by Dell’s Alienware.

The team captain, who prefers to be identified by her gamer name “Salty Monkey”, says she stumbled on CS:GO accidentally, and then heard about an all-female team. She has now been playing competitively for more than two years.

“Salty Monkey”, captain of Bravado’s CS:GO all-female team, Finesse, sponsored by Alienware.

“When we started Finesse, there were very few female gamers in the CS:GO scene, and we were one of only two female teams. We decided that playing together as five girls would show other girls you can enter this space, and be competitive. In the last year we have seen it increase from two to 40 girls’ teams. We are very friendly with them, and make sure we mentor them.”

For now, she says, it is necessary to have separate leagues for female teams, as gaming was seen as a boys’ arena until a few years ago.

“It’s still a very male dominated space, and often you find they are extremely derogatory towards you, even sexualising you, asked for your phone number just because you’re female.

“Ever since started we started the Finesse movement, that has changed drastically, because people are now used to females being on the circuit. Girls only started catching up recently, so unfortunately there is still a skills gap, but we are hoping one day there won’t be any segregation.”

Salty Monkey still can’t make a living from gaming. She is a business analyst for a software company by day. Her team trains for four hours every night, and competes for eight hours every Sunday. Alienware supplies all their hardware, which means they can play equally effectively from home or at competition venues.

Similarly, Logitech G will sponsors the Aperture Gaming MGOO’s all-female CS:GO team,  ApG FE. They provide the brand’s latest devices and peripherals from the G-Gear range, as well as covering players’ expenses for attending events.

None of this enables them to make a living from gaming. Only the top South African teams, competing internationally, are able to “play” full time. Bravado’s male CS:GO team was able to base itself full-time in the USA to compete in – and win – a championship called the ESEA Mountain Dew League, one rung below the top professional CS:GO league in the world.

Is eSports too immature for more local players to make a living from it? 

No, says Vasili Girasis, chief business development officer for Bravado Gaming: “It’s not eSports that’s behind, it’s lack of investment in eSports that is preventing it from going forward. We have a CS:GO team ranked in the top 20 in the world. There’s not a lack of skill, but lack of an investment model.”

(Next week: How the gaming industry is evolving)

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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