Itís true, all of it, everything youíve heard. Elephants roam our back yards; rebel soldiers parade along our streets with AK47ís; people live in mud huts with gasoline generators for electricity; weíre all racist; and of course, EVERYONE HAS AIDS!
I hate my country, really, I do. Itís a third-world nation with third-world problems, and of the few positive attributes it does possess, none of them are uniquely found here. Iím certainly no patriot Ė as a matter of fact, I plan on leaving South Africa as soon as possible Ė yet there are two things I find quite amusing: firstly, that people in general still know very little about Africa and its constituent nations, and, an ironic second, that they are nevertheless remarkably quick to characterise all Africans on the basis of this nonexistent knowledge.
This isnít going to be a moralizing column, just an informative one. In keeping with the topic of this website, Iíll try to make the geo-socio-political commentary brief, and focus more on the local gaming community.
Right, hereís the breakdown: South Africa is a country of roughly 45 million people, with a population spread of 80% black, 10% white and 10% other. Itís found at the southern-most tip of Africa, and borders Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique, among others. The institutionalized racism known as ďapartheidĒ (separate development) ended in 1994, with the election of Nelson Mandela as president. Thabo Mbeki took over leadership in 1999, and today the government is just as corrupt as it has always been. Racism is still commonly found amongst all race groups, with occasional incidents, but in day-to-day activities people generally get along. Twenty-five per cent of the population is infected with AIDS, with most cases to be found in the mainly rural province of Kwazulu-Natal.
Johannesburg is the largest city, and has been referred to as the ďmurder capital of the worldĒ since the 1990ís. An extremely high crime rate, widespread poverty, and the prevalence of AIDS infection result in an average national life expectancy of 43 years.
These facts can be a bit misleading though. South Africa is about as divided as a society can get, with a relatively well-off middle class living right alongside the impoverished lower classes. Due to the effects of apartheid, the middle class is mainly white, but this is gradually changing. Itís not at all uncommon for an ordinary family to own a lavish house on a big property, with three or four BMWs. Most (if not all) gamers fall into this category, and will have had an upbringing very similar to the average European.
South Africa has the largest gaming community in Africa, with the vast majority of players being involved in Counter-Strike. 15000 accounts are registered on http://www.langames.co.za,
and of those, approximately 2000 are regular members of the online community. We have no professionals, but perhaps twenty or so ďsemi-prosĒ. In addition to CS, we have also competed in Quake 3, UT2004, Warcraft and Starcraft, FIFA, and Age of Kings over the years. There is one local gaming publication, New Age Gaming Magazine
, with a circulation of (as far as I know) just over twenty thousand. (Thatís where I work).
Our first international tournament was Babbages CPL, where
Viper competed in Quake 3 but didnít get particularly far.* The first World Cyber Games tournament the following year saw
Aim in a tie-breaker to finish second in his group, eventually making top 12 overall. In 2002, Ph4ntom bettered his performance, winning his group (which included
Socrates) then knocking out
Cha0ticz in the double elim before facing Socrates a second time and losing, to finish 7th.
The only other achiever of note was
Mielie (42_Ml), who won his UT2004 group at WCG San Francisco (which included
Tears) but had to face
Chip_Mask in the first single elimination round. Mielie was not outclassed, but beaten nonetheless. As for the other game types, no local strategy player has ever won more than two group-stage matches, and the closest a South African Counter-Strike team has come to advancing past the first round was at ESWC 2004, where
Evolve needed a victory against
Virtus-Pro to qualify, but only managed an 11-13 loss.
Antib0dy (Q2, Q3, CS)
Deathsbane (Q3, CS)**
Destroyer (Q3, CS)
Gandulf (Q3, UT2004)
Lickwid Ice (Q3)
Mburr (UT2004, D3, T2)
Mielie (UT2004, Q3)
m00p (Q3, War3)
Ph4ntom (Q3, UT2004)
sWoop (War3, SC)
tb0ne <3 (Q3)
Viper (Q3, D3)
Identity Gaming (CS)
Now, if youíre wondering about the reasons for our mediocrity, the first and most obvious is our geographical isolation. With the best connections, one could not hope to ping less than 200 to Europe, America or Australia. Having only twenty semi-pros in an entire community is simply not enough to push any players to the highest level, and the only time we can compete with others beyond our borders are at the international tournaments themselves. Since we only attend twice a year, the pressure to perform usually means we fall flat on our faces.
The second reason is that internet growth in South Africa is continually retarded by a company (or perhaps a branch of hell) called Telkom
. Broadband services have only been made available to the public in the last three years, and according to a report by NUS consulting (a South African company), our overall communication costs are the most expensive in the developed world. Local calls cost 2.6 Euros per hour, national calls 8 Euros per hour, and international calls, on average, a whopping 56 Euros per hour, which is apparently more than double that of the next most expensive country. Today the average ADSL user still pays approximately 130 Euros per month, which is more than the national per-capita income.
Our accounts are port-shaped, and usually capped at 3GB.
In spite of all this, we survive. South Africa is, on the whole, a disadvantaged nation, and because of this I view our community as relatively impressive. We have managed to produce a number of competitors over the years who may not be top of the international scene but are at least able to compete with it. Itís only a matter of time before someone of Ph4ntomís calibre surfaces again, and with the imminent release of Quake 4, the time could be close at hand.
* I've been reminded that Viper, Antib0dy and Chenome participated in the Razer CPL as well. Thanks to Antib0dy (now calling himself Risque) for pointing this out. Incidentally, he should also be in the player list and I've added him accordingly. There were other South Africans participating in the events I mentioned in the article, but these names I left out for the sake of conciseness. However, Azul deserves a mention for attending Babbages CPL, as well as being the only South African to beat Ph4ntom in a tournament Quake 3 game.
** Added Deathsbane to the player list. I'll blame my forgetfulness on his emigration to Australia.