Pippa Tshabalala says gaming is not just a boys' club


Pippa Tshabalala has been in the game for over a decade and has still not lost her drive and passion for all things tech and gaming related. Some of you may even recognise Pippa from Vuzu's The Verge, which aired in 2012.

Need a quick reminder?

The rAge Ambassador has since gone on to make it onto Mail & Guardian's list of Top 200 Young South Africans as well as BrandSA's 40 under 40 list.

You studied fine arts as well as digital animation – were those degree choices (digital animation in particular) based on an interest in gaming or was your interest in gaming piqued during your studies?

I’ve always been interested in gaming, so the degree choices were with an initial goal of going into game development. I realised while interning at I-Imagine Interactive that I didn’t actually want to do that for a living, but was more interested in the industry as a whole.

When was the first time you realised you could make a career out of gaming?

I couldn’t give you a concrete time period – I just drifted into it as a result of other opportunities, but it’s also something I knew I could do from a young age – I had a family friend who used to work at Virgin Media in their gaming division.

I’ve also been attending South Africa’s longest running gaming expo, rAge pretty much since the beginning and it’s 15 years old this year, so I was aware it was something that could actually be a viable career option.  

Image: Supplied

How was the career transition from The Verge, which had a mostly teen audience, to your day job (and other publications you write for)?

Actually that’s a misconception. We had people from every age group watching the show, some well into their 40s. The gaming industry is not dominated by white, male teens at all. Global research shows that it’s primarily people in their 30s and the gender split is approximately 50/50.

I don’t think the transition was problematic for me. I wasn’t just a presenter - I was working in the production house that made The Verge, so I was in the TV industry. Even after the show ended, I stayed in TV.

Likewise, I continue to write for a variety of sites because I enjoy it and in other respects I’m still very active in the gaming industry. This year for example I’m partnering with rAge as a brand ambassador, which is hugely exciting - not just because of the games, but also because it’s the opportunity to work with like-minded people who love video games as much as I do. 

I think it’s important to support others who are being bullied as part of the gaming community as a whole.

Do you think turning a passion into a job/career can kill that passion?

It depends. If it becomes all you do then I think it can become repetitive, but in my case I do a variety of things, which means I don’t really get tired of doing one job all the time.

You got into the industry at a time when it was still rare for women to enter into male-dominated fields. How did you navigate this new territory as a woman?

I just got on with it. Yes, irritatingly I had people question my knowledge of the field and had to “prove” myself so to speak, but the longer I was at it, the more people realised I knew exactly what I was talking about. 

Read more: Meet world renowned CrossFit champion and entrepreneur, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet

If you spread yourself too thin over everything, then the quality of your work isn’t good anyway.

Would you say making it onto the M&G list of Top 200 young South Africans and the Brand SA 40 under 40 were some of your best achievements thus far? What other top lists would you like to make it on?

Haha, I honestly don’t know. They were great honours certainly, but it’s never something I aimed for. My feeling is that if you get on with doing what you enjoy then the accolades and achievements will come. 

From your March blog post, titled “The blogging dilemma”, it’s clear that you’re a multifaceted woman and you would like to be perceived as such - so what else do you feel is important that people should know about you or that you wish people would just stop asking you?

Haha, you’ve stalked me!

Well I suppose it’s more a rundown of things people don’t know about me. Yes, my surname really is Tshabalala! I married my high school sweetheart. I work in the TV industry. I have a Masters degree. I used to teach in academics. I have 2 kids. I used to do Irish dancing (for real). 

Image: Supplied

Another thing you mentioned in this blog post was that juggling a day job, freelance work, and your own personal digital platforms is neither a lifestyle that’s easy to keep up with nor one you care to keep up with all the time. So given that a lot of young creatives are trying to juggle as best they can in order to kick start (and maintain) their digital careers, what advice would you give them?

Be authentic in the way you interact with people. Don’t burn yourself out. If you spread yourself too thin over everything, then the quality of your work isn’t good anyway.

I say this even though it’s still something I struggle to do – I try to be strict in certain areas of my life though. For example, I always leave the office on time so I can spend time with my kids. Much as you might love your job, if you died tomorrow they’d be sad for a few weeks but then life goes on and they’d replace you.

Your friends and family will mourn your passing. Make time for them. Make time for yourself. 

Follow Pippa on Twitter or head over to Unexpected Pippa for opinions, reviews and chats about gaming and tattoos.

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