Women in Gaming - The African edition
FibreFor Her
12 August 2021

Sam Wright

Women in Gaming - The African edition

Shoutout to the South African women who have made their mark on gaming culture in the last few years:

Each year South Africa celebrates Women’s Day on the 9th of August. On this day 20 000 women of colour marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against amendments to the Apartheid laws. Over time the month of August has become a celebration of women and their strength. While gaming has predominantly been seen as a male-dominated space, there have been and continue to be incredible women making their mark in the gaming space - paving their way for other women to follow.

Here are three women who have made their mark on gaming culture in the last few years:

Pippa Tshabalala

Pippa holds a BAFA and MAFA in Digital Animation from Wits University. Between 2007 and 2009 she was a lecturer at the university for 3D animation at Honours and Masters level. While playing a significant role in helping many local game designers start their careers, her next step in breaking the glass ceiling was to begin hosting South Africa’s first locally produced TV show on video games - The Verge. Pippa’s face on national television talking about video games not only normalised gaming at a time when the mainstream media wasn’t covering the popular pastime, but being a woman in front of the camera inspired a host of young girls to pursue careers in the space.

Pippa’s television debut was only the beginning - over the years she has written a host of thought leader pieces and featured in a host of events to grow gaming in a small region like South Africa. She has played an instrumental role in building the foundations for a burgeoning scene. Pippa now works as the on-air and creative services manager at The Walt Disney Company Africa. 

We spoke with Pippa about the responsibilities parents have with their children’s gaming habits in our Tech Talk podcast series. Check out the episode here.

Sibongile Mlambo

In May 2020 Ubisoft introduced a South African operator to their popular first-person shooter title, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Defender Melusi was not the usual Afrikaans male mercenary but instead, the character’s back story was far more nuanced. Melusi worked in the South African National Defence Force - after suffering an injury she set up the Inkaba Task Force Anti-Poaching unit where she trained local women in tacking, interception and surveillance. A story similar to the Zimbabwean based Akashinga women rangers who form part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

Melusi is voiced by Zimbabwean actress Sibongile Mlambo. Mlambo was born in Zimbabwe but moved to the United States in 2005. In 2011 she based herself in South Africa for a time before heading back to the USA where she has featured in shows like Netflix’s Lost in Space, Black Sails and Teen Wolf. 

Sharon “Shaz” Waison

Competitive CSGO player Shaz is one of only a handful of South African esports players to win an international competition - after she formed part of the all-women Team Karma that won the 2015 Copenhagen Games. Shaz began playing Counter-Strike 1.6 in 2003 and began competing two years later. In South Africa she was the only woman to form part of team lineups contending for top 10 placements for many years. She has competed with some of the best teams in South Africa as well as travelled internationally and found success. Towards the end of her competitive career, she actually focused on playing in all women lineups in South Africa, sharing her expansive game knowledge and experience with a new generation of players.

As her career began to come to an end Shaz began to commentate as well, adding years of insight to a growing scene. To this date, no other woman player in South Africa (and the majority of men competing) has been able to match Shaz’s numerous accolades. She did all of this while fighting Lupus and waiting for the life-saving kidney transplant she desperately needs. Shaz retired from competitive play in March 2021 and is currently waiting for her transplant. 

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Sam Wright