Lucrative gaming industry is not child's play

09 October 2017 - 08:32 By Nico Gous

What does it take to become a full-time video game player in South Africa? Probably living with your parents.

Ruan van Wyk‚ 24‚ is from Port Elizabeth and studied engineering‚ but his dream is to become an international Counter-Strike player.

"My parents were never supportive of the fact that I played games until I showed them two years ago how big [the rAge expo] is‚" he said.

For five days a week from 6-11pm he becomes "Elusive"‚ his alias in the Bravado Gaming team. They participated in the finals of the ESL African Championship at the rAge gaming‚ technology and geek culture expo in Johannesburg this past weekend. They lost in the finals against Energy eSports from South Africa‚ but earned about R157‚000 ($11‚441) in prize money. Energy eSports won about R314‚000 ($22‚833).

Van Wyk said top international players earn about $25‚000 per month and teams live together under one roof with the necessary game and physical training.

Aran 'Sonic' Groesbeek from Bravado Gaming CS:GO minutes before the ESL African Championship final on Saturday.
Aran 'Sonic' Groesbeek from Bravado Gaming CS:GO minutes before the ESL African Championship final on Saturday.
Image: Scott Peter Smith

The Bravado team consists of four full-time gamers and one member who is currently in matric.

"We've got a doctor in the team. He is taking a gap year now."

Van Wyk believes if you want to draw people into the gaming industry‚ you have to "talk numbers".

The global video gaming industry is worth about R1.3-trillion. According to a report by Serious About Games (SAG)‚ South Africa's game development industry increased its revenue from R29.7-million in 2014 to R100-million in 2016‚ on the back of 103 commercial releases that year.

"The older generation‚ they feel like we are all wasting our time. You are sitting in front of the computer. You cannot possibly make money off of it‚" Van Wyk said.

The 15th rAge expo was expected to draw about 38‚000 people this past weekend to the Ticketpro Dome.

Michael James‚ senior project manager for rAge‚ said the expo personifies the "geek culture" of television shows like the sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

"If you only watch rugby and you don't care about science fiction‚ you don't play games‚ not interested in comic books‚ there's not going to be a lot here that is going to grab you."

The expo has an annual growth in attendance of 8-12%. Most attendees are between 18 and 36 years old and split 60/40 between male and female.

Kendall Parker‚ 28‚ from Secunda‚ said: "I have a serious phobia of crowds‚ but when I get into this place I just want to move around. I don't care how small the space is I am in."

Quinton Manamela‚ 19‚ from Vosloorus‚ said: "I would do anything just to get here for these three days."

Tshepang Moremi‚ 19‚ from Pretoria‚ said he got into gaming by watching cartoons.

"Then you find out there is a game of that. Then you want a PC or a PS1 (PlayStation 1)‚ or a PS2 just to get the game."

VIDEO: Cosplay also features prominently at the annual Rage expo.