Friday, February 29, 2008

History of Gaming in South Africa

Just over a month ago I started writing for a technology based website
So far it has been a very fruitful venture. I'd like to highlight my most popular article from the website.
History of Gaming in South Africa
Before PC fanboys start snarling - this is purely a console only expedition.

In 1972, The first Home gaming console, The Magnavox Odyssey was released in the States.
In 1976, Television was introduced in South Africa

OK. So we missed the first generation of gaming (Game Consoles are broken into 7 chronological generations - I’ll highlight them in this piece)

The second generation, also known as the Atari Generation, started in 1976. Space Invaders, Pong, Pacman and Pitfall pushed the fledgling medium into many homes. But back in South Africa, you had to be an Oppenheimer to get your hands on one.

The third generation introduced gamers to a fat Italian plumber named Mario. Finally, gaming had come to South Africa. The only problem was that most South Africans bought knock offs, instead of the Nintendo Entertainment System. These knock offs (or nes clones), known as Golden China or more simply T.V Games, were extremely popular here, with many gamers owning them along with a variety of compilation cartridges. We all remember blowing the cartridges before inserting them in again. Aah - fond memories (I found six facebook groups dedicated to this activity) Who can forget Super Mario Brothers, Islander, Snow Brothers, Excite Bike. The Sega Master System had a tiny support base, which was reflected in global preference to Nintendo.

This however changed in the fourth generation as South Africans flocked towards Sega's Mega Drive system. Sonic soon replaced Mario as the mascot of choice. This was probably due to a lack of Interest in the African market on Nintendo's behalf. A mistake that Sony would capitalise on when they released the PS1.

Ster Kinekor, the distributors for Playstation in South Africa released the PS1 with virtually no competition. Nintendo's N64 and Sega's Saturn never saw our shores. Those of us who wanted them had to rely on importing them, or getting them from specialist game shops that often charged much more than the market price. Sega didn’t launch the Saturn in South Africa, allowing the Playstation and its successor, the PS2 to have a monopoly control over the South African market for almost a decade.

Riding strong from the success of the PS1, Ster Kinekor and Sony launched the PS2 in South Africa and suddenly, gaming became cool again.(Microsoft didn’t bother to market the original Xbox here, and only Makro and a few other retailers burnt themselves with the Nintendo Gamecube)Sega's Dreamcast wasn’t launched here (some might say thankfully) Even now, as we watch the seventh generation unfold - Sony's PS2 is still shifting machines across the rainbow nation. The sixth Generation came and went and like the generation before, Sony were still the Big dogs in South African gaming.

All this looks to change now, in the seventh generation. Microsoft came in with a bang at the end of September 2006, and since then has slowly built a sizeable fan base with more and more gamers appreciating franchises like Halo, Project Gotham Racing etc. The Xbox 360 launched at the same price in South Africa and the U.K (one of the prime indicators that it was looking to make an impact in the country. The Playstation 3 launched in March last year, with less fanfare than the Xbox ( a few top Billing presenters playing motorstorm doesn’t make for a convincing launch) and a price tag that resembled a down payment on a car as opposed to a new videogame system. Sony it seems, have gotten too comfy at the top and let down their guard. Sony launched the PS3 at R6500 making it wildly inaccessible for most consumers who wanted to upgrade from their PS2's. Then out of nowhere, the Core group got the rights to distribute Nintendo’s revolutionary new console, the Wii. Finally, after three decades, South Africans are now included in the global gaming market like never before. Where to from here? Here's hoping to more 'localisation' in games, and even some South African developers making it in the big leagues.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Concerning Dads

My dad is much older than he looks. Right now he is at that age when he makes foolish decisions. If you ask my mum he has always been ‘penny wise pound foolish’. Thing is, he got too old too quickly it seems and I guess I just try my best to overlook his blemishes. He has given me more than I could ever wish for, and never a day was I ever in need of anything. At the same time he never spoilt me, and if there was one thing I could pass on to my kids is that one must not chase after brand names for status sake or be driven by material gain. My dad could have afforded to get me a fancy German car, but instead he got me a Tata Indica. I love my car. I don’t care that its only a 1.4 litre engine or that every second person has one.

The other thing about my Dad is how he used to drag me to the musjid (drag is a strong word but you get the point) and how he made me stand next to him for Taraweeh – at the time I felt it was so unfair as the other kids were all having fun outside, but as I grew I began to appreciate these little things. My dad has built his business from scratch and now it is a household name that is international.

When I started University, I was one of the few muslim students to choose Media and Communication Science as a field (after 9/11 though, it became really popular) and not a day did my Dad ever tell me to get into Commerce or study Medicine (OK – I wouldn’t have got into medicine but why spoil a good moment with a little thing like a fact) He was always proud of me, and he and my mum pushed me to get involved in different organisations.

So why the sudden post about my dad? Two reasons actually – firstly – I’m listening to a lot of Dawud Warnsby Ali and one of his tracks is called Duty to Parents and it has this widely quoted ayat

Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. Surah Al Israh 17:23

And while I have come across it many times, it stood out this weekend for some reason when I heard it on Dawuds CD. The second reason is that Dad was in the backyard on Monday, getting Papayas off the tree (I’d say orchard but I’d be lying) and as he reached to grab one, he cut his finger on the razor wire of the fence. That little cut just brought home his mortality . We always think that our parents are invincible – they aren’t.

I used to see so many of my friends parents in tears, helpless, because their sons were on drugs and were throwing their lives away. And I could have done something about it, but I didn’t.

Then one day I did. Sure, I ‘betrayed’ the code and all that shit, but I look at my friends now – clean, married with kids, and when I see them now, we both realize that there was a large possibility that it wouldn’t end that way.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Concerning Passion 2

I started a new job this week.

I was offered a position at the Durban University of Technology (formerly D.I.T...formally formally Natal tech City campus) last week. Originally I didnt want to blog about it just yet as I wanted to tell a mate first, but now that I think about it - its no big deal.

So MJ is now a Media Studies Lecturer in the Journalism Department at DUT. I lecture first and second level media studies. I still have my ties with UKZN, and will continue to work as a researcher for the Culture Communication and Media Studies department. I'l also be giving a few guest lectures for the Media and Cultural Studies dept so look out for me there.

I'm going to get into advertising again, but work freelance with two companies. MYDL has been really good to me, so i'm going to write much more for them. Also signed up a few MC gigs. And finally do a bit of consultancy work with Nintendo. I'm putting my PHD on hold this year - I need to save up my money for that dream honeymoon in Malaysia, or Drakensburg.

What else? Oh Yeah - I need to cut my toenails.


MJ'S new office.