Interview: Pippa Tshabalala of the Verge

Pippa Tshabalala is the host of SA’s two gaming TV shows; The Verge and PlayR. She has lectured digital animation at WITS, and the first game she ever played was Alleycat on a 286. She kindly allowed MyGaming to pick her brain.

Firstly, would you like to introduce yourself, and explain what it is exactly that you do within the local gaming media space? I’m the presenter of PlayR and The Verge on DSTV, Channel 123, both video game shows. 

What sort of background do you have, from a presenting as well as a gaming point of view? I have a degree in Fine Arts and a MA in 3D Animation. I’ve been playing games since I was about 8, and most of my research and art deals with video games.

Apart from presenting, what else do you? I lectured at WITS until the end of last year, teaching at honours and masters level in digital animation, as well as theory in those areas. In 2010 I began working at Don’t Look Down Productions, which is the production house behind The Verge, as a creative. I work on a number of different projects, including The Verge, doing research and design.

What do you make of the gaming industry in SA as it stands currently?  In terms of development I think it’s not very big, but it has a great deal of potential. We have very talented people here, and what we really need is money and commitment to turn that into something great.

Do you see gaming growing locally in the next five years? What do you think needs to happen in order for growth to be possible? I think I might have jumped the gun and answered that in the last question. Money, commitment and training – and all of those things have the potential to grow in the next five years.

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Being a female gamer, do you find yourself on the receiving end of unwanted attention from guy gamers when online? I guess. I’ll be honest I’m more of a solitary gamer. I prefer LANing with friends to playing in an online space, not because of unwanted attention, but more because I like playing with people I really know. 

Why do you think gaming remains a male dominated past time? What do you think needs to happen for this to change? I think the perception is that it’s still a male dominated past time. A lot of research shows that this is not the case – that said, research doesn’t delineate genres, and it’s often taken for granted that many women play “social” games online as opposed to other more violent games. I’m speculating but I think many women feel intimidated, not because they don’t want to play, but because the perception is that they don’t. Regardless – for anyone though it’s really about finding the game that is the hook. 

What sort of advice would you give to someone in SA considering a career in game development? Decide if you want to go into programming or art design. If the former then you need to find a more technically oriented science course that will give you that grounding. If the latter you need to find an art-based course that will steer you in the direction of animation and character modelling. There are a number of different avenues you can take in this regard. WITS offers a Postgraduate degree in Digital Animation, and as of 2011 they’ll be offering a course that is geared towards video game design in the Engineering school. Boston Media House offers an animation course, as do a number of colleges. UCT also offers a technical game design course. 

Quick fire questions

What was the first game you ever played? Alley Cat on a 286

What are you playing right now? Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age Origins: Awakening and currently replaying Batman: Arkham Asylum. I tend to return to games that I enjoy.

What platforms do you own? PC, XBox, PS3, PSP, DS – I love my PC best!

What was your favourite game of 2009? Batman Arkham Asylum.

What game are you most looking forward to this year? Red Dead Redemption and Starcraft 2 (just thought I’d squeeze two in there)

CoD4 or Modern Warfare 2? Modern Warfare 2

Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect 2? Aaaaaarrrrrrgggghhh! You’re making me decide!? Ummmm, Dragon Age… no, Mass Effect…. No…. 

StarCraft or Command & Conquer? Starcraft without a doubt!

Five favourite games ever? That’s actually quite difficult for me – my favourite games change regularly, but there are always a few that stand out. Full Throttle, Morrowind, Warcraft III, GTA (at a push I’d say San Andreas, but rather leave it at the series), and The Witcher. 

Thanks so much for your time. My absolute pleasure.

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Interview: Pippa Tshabalala of the Verge