Women in the gaming industry have historically been seen as unicorns. In an industry regarded as male dominated, many women are met with surprise when they announce that they work in gaming.
However, Sony’s smash hit, Horizon Zero Dawn, proved that there was a want for games that portrayed strong women leads who were resourceful and smart. The game’s main protagonist, Aloy, has become a hero for women looking to enter the industry and forge a career in gaming. Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to Zero Dawn, which released on 18 February 2022, will likely usher in a new wave of women gamers and women wanting to work in games. While Aloy continues to be the hero, here are some gaming heroes who share their own journey in the industry and some of the things they wish they’d been told before embarking on their gaming career – we all know I’m not a gamer, so let’s hear from the experts!
Pippa Tshabalala has a BAFA and MAFA (Digital Animation) from Wits University and lectured 3D animation at Honours and Masters level at Wits Digital Arts. She is best known as the host of South Africa’s first locally produced television show on video games, The Verge. Pippa is also a gaming content creator, reviewer and writer. The advice she wishes she’d known early on?
- Every aspect of the gaming industry is different. Do you want to MAKE games? I wanted to do that once upon a time and then I changed my mind when I realised the reality of what went into it. It’s not to say that it’s not for everyone, it just wasn’t for me, but making games could be anything from animation and art, to coding, to producing, narrative scripting, quest design – what is it exactly you enjoy? If you’re planning on writing about them or making content about them, that’s an entirely different skill set! And you can totally learn on the job, but you have to be willing to show people what you’re made of and work hard to prove it.
- It’s not just sitting around playing games all day! I know that this is what most people think reviewing games involves, and then they start doing it and realise how much work goes into producing a piece of content – whether written review, television, YouTube – whatever it is, you’re going to have to work hard at it. And there will be times when all you want to do is lie down and have a nap, but you have to finish playing a game you hate or you’ll miss your deadline.
Sharon “Shazz” Waison is arguably one of South Africa’s most successful esports players. She was one of the first local players to win an international esports competition, when she formed part of the then Team Karma, who went on to win the 2015 Copenhagen Games. Sharon has travelled to China to compete and before her retirement was on the line up of some of the top CSGO teams in the country, constantly going head to head with all male line ups and coming out on top. She says it wasn’t easy, though:
- I wish someone told me how hard it would be, as a female gamer, to break into a male dominated industry. You need to be better than the best and put in double the effort to be recognised.
- Early on, I wish someone had let me know how much time you need to sacrifice to practice. South African esports is not in a space to be a full time career option for competitive players, so you need to give up all your time in the evenings to practice to be the best. You have to sacrifice your social life and “down time” to be grinding on the server.
Sam “Tech Girl” Wright is a full time international esports shoutcaster (commentator) and gaming content creator. She’s worked around the world commentating on some of Europe and Asia’s biggest tournaments and events, including hosting an esports stage at Gamescom – Europe’s biggest gaming expo. She says now, when girls and young women ask her for advice, she shares what she wishes she’d been told when she started out:
- You don’t have to be the best player at a game in order to work in the gaming industry. Unless your goal is to be a top esports player, it’s okay not to be brilliant at the games you play. I think, as women, we have this notion that we have to be extremely skilled at every game we play to be taken seriously, but that same is not expected of men. Whether you want to make games, stream your gameplay or even commentate on esports, it’s okay not to be a prolific player. You can be a mediocre player and just love the games you’re playing.
- Seek out other women in your chosen field. You might think there are no other women in gaming, but there are. Almost all my friends play games, even if it is just on their phone. Find other women and reach out to them. They’re usually full of advice and ready to help you navigate the industry. You’ll also find they’re usually the most talented and skilled at what they do, so they’ll be able to teach you and then, one day, you can pass on what you’ve learnt to the next group of women gamers that seek you out!
We’re giving away a Horizon Forbidden West hamper of limited edition Horizon Forbidden West merch worth R1500 to one lucky reader… Let me know in the comments what your top gaming tip is or tell me a funny story – we know I could use all the help I can get!
This competition is only open to South African residents and will close next week Friday, 1st April 2022. A random winner will be drawn and contacted privately, so make sure you’re putting down the right email address! Good luck!
The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition.
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