How to make it as a game developer in South Africa


The South African gaming industry has never been healthier, with new events every week,  eSports gaining traction, and the passion of local game developers who make up the heart and soul of the industry.

Having recently announced Jengo, we sat down with Graeme Selvan of Robot Wizard to talk about the unique opportunities and challenges facing South African game developers today, and what you need to do if you wish to succeed.

Hi Graeme, could you please briefly introduce yourself and your team?

My name is Graeme Selvan, I am the game developer on the project and co-writer. Our lead artist and creative director is Louis Du-Pisani.

Could you describe your role in the gaming industry before starting development on Jengo?

I have been fortunate enough to still work in the gaming industry for some time, my career in this industry started off handling PR for XBOX South Africa, I am now the PR manager at Megarom interactive.

I still work a day job, look after a baby, develop the game, and somehow manage to squeeze in some videogame time.

What are the challenges unique to you as a game developer in South Africa?

I must say you need a lot of passion to develop a game in South Africa, there are so many challenges we face on a daily basis.

Thankfully there are some great local Facebook groups online where you can meet like-minded developers to share your thoughts with.

I think we are all fundamentally stuck with the same issues, making a game takes time and most of us do it out of passion with the hopes of our games making it big enough to work full-time.

We work day jobs to survive and any expenses for development tools come out of our own pockets. I would say that my biggest bug bear comes to kick-starting our game.

I am well aware that there are alternative crowd funding solutions out there but the best ones don’t allow you to register your project if you live in South Africa, it’s a real issue for us.

To get your project launched on Kickstarter it requires we have a bank account in another country and permanent residency.

I often joke to my partner that building the game would be far easier than trying to launch on the Kickstarter platform.

Many long-term problems come into play too like the amount of tax we would pay to bring in our profits as well as getting our game rated locally, the costs are astronomical.

What are the benefits unique to you developing a game within South Africa?

To be completely honest there are next to no benefits to developing a game here as our stage in development, I think our only long term benefit would be if we were to do this full time it would be cheaper to make games here than internationally.

I do firmly believe that we as South Africans could bring something fresh to the global stage, we have different stories to tell that could bring something new to the worlds stage.

Could you give some advice to those looking at getting into the industry in South Africa?

Be passionate is the best advice I can give, you are going to have to want to make a game out of love and you need to back your idea to the hills! Keep your head down and don’t give up because it’s going to be a very bumpy road.

Also study, study, study, there are so many things to learn when it comes to making games so be prepared to burn those candles (when the lights go out) to brush up on your skills.

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