Competitive console gaming in South Africa is still running a number of steps behind its PC cousin, so it’s quite unusual to find a sponsored clan on Xbox 360 and PS3, and even more unusual to find a sponsored individual.
A few months back, Gioteck and Apex Interactive announced that Stephanie Fouche (known as Steph1401 on PSN) would be their first “female gamer in SA to be sponsored”. This sponsorship meant Stephanie got kitted out with Gioteck’s range of headsets, controllers and other peripherals.
We got the opportunity to chat with Stephanie at rAge this year to find out a little what this sponsorship means for her and where she thinks gaming is at locally. We were joined by Vaugh Golden the Product Manager (Accessories) for Apex Interactive.
ZG: So how did the sponsorship come about? Did Gioteck approach to you?
Steph: What actually happened was Quinton [Davies – Product and Marketing Director at Apex Interactive, and Baroque on PSN] and I were playing online together. Apex had sponsored the clan SASS. And when I left NiN and joined Legion [The clan formed from SASS after they disbanded – Undead Ed] I was still playing with a headset which died all the time. I was also just starting to make my video montages and that…
ZG: Yeah, you’re known to run around stabbing people in your videos.
Steph: *laughs* Yes. And people hate it… *laughs*. Quinton then suggested that if I mention Gioteck in one of my videos he would try and organise a headset for me.
ZG: Nice deal that.
Steph: For sure, so I did a mention in one of my videos and Quinton called me a while later to say: “By the way you’re sponsored.” I was quite surprised, but it was awesome, and I had put a lot of time and effort in to making the videos.
ZG: But it’s easy for them to say they will sponsor you. Surely they want something in return?
Steph: Absolutely. Although there were a few people upset about it as I wasn’t actively looking for a sponsorship unlike others. I was just in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I’ve put in a lot of hours in and I think I have the some of the top hours for Battlefield in South Africa. It becomes a routine – you have to do everything before you switch on the console – because for me it was difficult to balance my actual life with gaming. I wanted to become better and better so had to put the time in.
I didn’t know about the Battlefield community that existed in South Africa until April last year when I joined my first clan and found the SA Gamer Forum. And that’s when things really skyrocketed.
ZG: So that’s been an impressive year and six months then…
Steph: Yeah. I’ve always played games my whole life, I just didn’t realise there was this whole scene out there. I thought it was me on my own with my game, but now it has gripped me and pulled me in.
ZG: Has Gioteck put any stipulations on what you have to do for them? Do you have to mention them?
Steph: Well I kinda just do it anyway. But they’ve also asked I carry on making montages and report to them every month with what I’ve been doing [gaming wise] along with which games I’ve been playing. So this month I will mention the rAge thing, and I’ve started a non-competitive Battlefield clan for girls with over 30 members.
ZG: Do the lobbies with men it feel a little abusive towards you?
Steph: I have a very strong personality.
ZG: That makes you a great spokesperson for other female players then…
Steph: Yes, there are a lot of girls that are very quiet. I will say what’s on my mind – I’m very straight forward. That helps me push past all of that crap.
ZG: So in return what is it that you get from Gioteck? Headsets obviously? Do you have a headset for every day of the week?
Steph: *laughs* Almost. At least now if one of my headsets die I have one available that’s charged and ready to use, so that’s pretty awesome. Controllers too. The support has been amazing too. As have the people. They’re awesome people. Steven, the community manager, is always there to help.
ZG: Yeah, Apex Interactive appears to be a really approachable bunch of people generally. No airs and graces. So I assume they surround themselves with similar sorts.
Vaughn: Brownie Points!
ZG: I assume the relationship with Gioteck must be very similar too. They appear to be really interested in South Africa. In fact they’re very quick to spot when their products are being reviewed or mentioned locally.
Steph: That’s a lot to do with Apex I think.
Vaughn: Yeah, they’re also very approachable too. It’s a give and take relationship and not a one-way street with them. It’s a proper relationship we have with them.
ZG: I assume that relationship was what meant they were interested to become involved with the Battlefield 3 tournament that Ruan [Mr-Beefy_PS and clan leader of Legion SA] set up about a year ago? Apex were obviously also involved, but it happened so quickly at a time when other sponsors weren’t interested in console tournaments.
Steph: Yeah, we struggled for sponsorship for at the time. And since…
ZG: I think I know which tournament you referring to there…
Steph: Yes, that was disappointing after all the planning, but that one was cancelled due to lack of interest. However, Apex and Gioteck just get involved and say “let’s do it, let’s see what happens”.
ZG: I think it’s just that Call of Duty is favoured – probably because Battlefield 3 is a complicated game for spectators to watch online. That should change with Battlefield 4 a little, but it would be cool to see more Battlefield console LANs too.
Steph: Yeah, online is a nightmare against international teams, but there’s so many good players putting the time and it would be great to get more opportunities to play in international events. Some local console servers would be awesome.
ZG: PC hasn’t been a problem, but it appears a real struggle to get EA and DICE to agree on giving SA console servers?
Vaughn: That’s really all about the market share perspective from their side. The numbers compared to the US make it seem a little unfeasible. With bandwidth growing and the demand for online gaming growing in South Africa I think that will be changing.
ZG: Local console servers will definitely help the community.
Steph: For sure.
Vaughn: It will definitely help the industry too.
ZG: So what are your impressions of Battlefield 4 based on the beta?
Steph: I have no internet at the moment… I’ve just moved, so waiting for my line, but got a chance on Thursday to try it out. I had to get used to the slightly altered controls – I wanted to crouch but landed up knifing someone – but you quickly get used to it. I also tried the PC version, and can’t wait to see that number of people in a lobby on PS4. I will never leave the house. *laughs*
ZG: Will you be going straight over to the PS4?
Steph: Yes, hopefully soon.
ZG: Maybe that needs to be sorted by your sponsors… they need their best player on the best platform right?
Steph: *laughs* Working on that. Wait… where’s Quinton now? But yeah, I’m Battlefield 4 all the way, but every now and then I will go and join Jakez [Team Adept] to show off my n00b skills in Call of Duty… The two are quite different, and if I played that competitively I would have no friends because I rage… so mic off. I’m really excited for Battlefield 4 though – I can’t wait for the launch.
ZG: I just wonder if the community will be split on PlayStation due to the two platforms?
Steph: I think that everyone will eventually go over to PS4 in Legion SA, but will stay on PS3 for a while at the beginning. We’re gamers though, so we will not eat for a year to buy the new console. *laughs*
ZG: What do you think console Battlefield needs to do to grow to the levels seen on PC at DoGaming this year? Sponsors I suppose?
Steph: That’s the issue. There’s not that many willing to put the sponsorship in.
ZG: More players then?
Steph: Yes, but Battlefield takes a lot of work. Once you have got the clan together you then need to go through maps and strategies and practice, practice, practice. It’s a lot of time which not a lot of people have. It has been growing over the last year though.
ZG: That growth is thanks to the guys at community level though. If anything is started it appears to originate from the players. There have been more tournaments started and hosted by clans than sponsors.
Vaughn: I think as long as the community continues to support those events, things will change. Nagging will help.
Steph: Battlefield 4 is going to bring a whole new level to things. The changes are exciting. The counter-knife scares me… I’m a knifer… *laughs*
The final word of the day eventually came from one of Steph’s clan mates who was nicknamed Deseree (most likely for my amusement and his embarrassment for the day) who claims that it’s them “that made Steph what she is today.” The parties concerned are reportedly still looking for their dog tags.