Over the past twenty years or so, the gaming industry has exploded and taken massive steps forward in terms of accessibility as well as cultural acceptance. However, in countries like South Africa, there are still many hurdles that the everyday gamer has to navigate in order to enjoy this pastime.
From a lack of a decent internet connection due to outdated and dying infrastructure to shoddy connections and game servers and more, the South African gamer has a lot to contend with in the pursuit of their Steam achievements. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Let’s take a dive into this country’s gaming scene and learn more about these gamers, their challenges, and some of the things that make those challenges worth facing.
The Price of Gaming
Let’s start with the hurdle that is experienced by gamers the world over but which continues to be a major issue for South African gamers; the price of hardware, games, and the internet.
The South African Rand has long caused gamers no end of grief when it comes to their favorite hobby. The exchange rate, coupled with the fact that most hardware is imported, means that the average gamer can’t afford a top-end machine to play on and many are forced to make do with low graphics settings if they can play newer games at all. Then you have to take into account the price of a new game. New games in South Africa cost more than R1000, double the monthly amount the average person spends on transport to get to work, so your barrier is already too high for many players.
Luckily, there are options for gamers who are looking to satisfy their gaming needs in the form of platforms like Casino.com, which is a legal online casino in South Africa that gives players access to hundreds of casino-style games for a relatively small cost to sign-up (which they also stand a chance at winning back by playing). These types of games, which include things like slots, roulette, and more, are primarily browser-based so you don’t even really need a graphics card in order to play them.
For the gamers that can afford a decent graphics card, and a motherboard and CPU fit to run the most hardware-intensive titles, connectivity is the next biggest hurdle they have to face.
What is that Ping?
When gaming first made its big splash in South Africa in the ‘90s, games like the original Counter-Strike were popular features of any gaming LAN, and gamers flocked to these events in order to compete against other gamers as well as socialize with likeminded people. Fast forward a few years and the era of the always-online game came about and shook up the gaming scene in South Africa once more.
Aside from aging infrastructure that denied gamers a decent connection, and the high cost of having a constant and reliable internet connection, gamers were once again stuck years behind other global gamers as they had to contend with extremely high ping rates to international servers. Gamers who were looking to get a footing in the ever-growing Esports scene were left struggling to compete against players from other countries who happened to be closer to the game servers. Those players with the tenacity to learn how to cope with this discrepancy in ping and the skill to compete with their less-laggy competitors were few and far between and, as such, a different problem started to rear its head - one that continues to plague the scene to this day.
How Shallow is Your Skill Pool?
When only those who can afford top-end machines and decent internet connections can play a game, you are automatically limited in the number of players on a server or in a title. What this meant for the gamers who were trying to break into the competitive scene was that often their competitors at competitions were former teammates.
This problem persists to this day as the number of online leagues remains small with only a few dedicated organizations, such as Mettlestate and VS Gaming, actively running competitions. Most of the top teams in these leagues are composed of players who have been playing with and against each other in various team setups for many years, resulting in a plateau effect in the skill level of the top players.
But there is a Good Side to this Coin
While having such a small gaming community does pose its problems in terms of skill growth, there are certainly advantages to being a South African gamer. Thanks to the many hurdles they have to face together, many of the gamers in South Africa have a close connection with their gaming community, with organizations and teams often appearing to be more like families than professional sports teams.
This sense of community and dedication to building the gaming industry in the country has seen the scene expand massively and shown the world that even a tiny country at the tip of Africa has the ability to take on international competition. Local teams like Bravado Gaming, who dominated locally before taking their spot in the American CS league, have shown that, even with all these hurdles, South African gamers have a lot to offer the world.