Africa gears up for e-sports

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Mind Sports SA (MSSA) is developing electronic sports (e-sports) into Africa as well as driving inter-school gaming leagues.

Colin Webster, president of MSSA, says that the organisation will be looking to assist Namibia and other African countries to create more events in the future.

“Our motive is to develop a high standard of e-sport gaming in African countries such as Namibia. It is important, from a world stage, that Africa is brought into the e-sports arena.”

Last month, MSSA participated in the first official gaming test match between Namibia and SA. The test match included games Call of Duty 4 and Fifa 10.

In the spotlight

During the International e-Sports Federation tournament held late last year, around 12 European countries competed together with eight Asian countries. Yet, Webster notes, only SA represented the African continent.

Webster adds that MSSA is working with similar sporting organisations in Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria with the aim to have the required number of African countries to compete in the Commonwealth Games.

According to Webster, MSSA made significant strides last year to run school leagues, in which students can earn school provincial colours and have the opportunity to apply for sports bursaries at universities.

“This year, we will be having a big drive focusing on our inter-school league and we've already signed up our first all-girl team from Rhodean School that has come on board.

“For the schools, we are concentrating on three of the PC games that are played at international level such as Warcraft II: The Frozen Throne, Dota and Counter Strike 1.6.”

Last year, MSSA attracted 14 South African schools to enter the league. Webster says the interschool leagues provide an alternative sport to students who do not play much physical sport, yet have the opportunity represent their school and earn colours.

World Cup disruptive

Webster told ITWeb that the 2010 World Cup, as well as the following union strikes, had a disruptive impact on MSSA looking to hold championships mid-year.

“With SA being the host of the 2010 World Cup, all sports were advised by government not to hold any provincial, national or international events of their own at the same time, so as not to dilute the interest in the football.”

Webster adds: “This did pose many problems for MSSA, as we had to change our calendar of events to accommodate this truly spectacular event. Only the Eastern Province ended up being a casualty with its Provincial Championship being cancelled.”

He says even with the additional pressure, MSSA was still able to hold five provincial local area network (LAN) championships and its National LAN Championships as well as its Online Championships.

“It is through participation at the LAN and Online Championships that gamers can earn provincial and federation colours as well as earn a spot in the national team trials. It is at such National Team Trials that gamers can be selected to officially represent SA.”

Government eyes gaming

One of the key highlights this year, says Webster, is the fact that MSSA is in talks with local government to organise a national e-sports LAN event that will have the same stature as a national sporting event. Gamers from all over the world will be able to test their skills against South African gamers.

“The biggest obstacle to this is that many people in SA do not have access to computers. And this is where we see mobile gaming coming in. Mobile gaming is the entry level to PC gaming today.

“At the moment, SA has 120% mobile phone saturation and most the mobile devices today are java enabled for gaming. Having mobile gaming in the event, we believe, will drive e-sports development in the country.”

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