This article is an unedited version of a piece written by Zombie Dredd and published in the Tech Magazine: Issue 34 June 2016.
‘eSports’ is a real catchword around the world at the moment, and even in South Africa, competitive gaming is growing at a phenomenal rate with more tournaments and larger prize pools being offered on almost a weekly basis.
While the players are becoming the rockstars of eSports, there are those that I have previously referred to as ‘box-carriers’ – the crew that makes the tournament work and the viewing audience informed. Nick Holden – aka HoldenZA – is one of South Africa’s unspoken heroes of eSports, and with his organisation Clan Connection has played a part in operating many competitive events as a tournament organiser and broadcasting.
It was his passion for growing the local competitive scene when no-one else was looking that has helped take South African eSports to where it is today, and it’s time he stepped into the light.
Give us a history of you introduction to gaming and ultimately eSports.
My introduction to gaming started at a young age. If I wasn’t playing cricket or soccer, I was competing on the edge of the couch against my two older brothers. Unlike cricket or soccer, gaming offered me an even playing field to take on my older pubescent siblings.
My competitive nature coupled with my love for games, stuck with me all the way through to high-school. After a tiring session of soccer practice I would rush home to play games with or against my brothers. We eventually started to play online where I was introduced to eSports (competitive gaming). I was hooked.
After a year or two of competing, I reached a point where I felt frustrated at the lack of opportunities bring presented to the South African competitive gamers as there were extremely few tournaments to showcase gaming talent. That’s when I decided to make a big decision, to put down the controller and start running tournaments for some of the South African gamers.
You’ve essentially stopped playing competitively now to focus on operating and shoutcasting and tournaments. These are both pretty unique fields. What is usually needed to operate a successful tournament?
Structure. Tournaments need structure to run and require rather large degree of backwards planning in order to operate successfully.
What is the shoutcaster’s (and broadcaster’s) role in eSports?
A shoutcaster (now simply referred to as a caster) essentially has the same job as a commentator of any sports that you may watch on TV. In the competitive gaming sphere we refer to them as casters. It is their job to present the game to the audience in an articulate and entertaining way.
You’re very passionate about growing eSports in the country. What is it that drives you like that?
I’d have to say the drive comes from my love of competition coupled with my frustration of the slow development of competitive gaming scene in South Africa. There are so many talented local gamers, and the sad truth is that many of these individuals will leave competitive gaming to follow more traditional career paths.
Looking abroad, however, we see a blossoming industry where players earn steady salaries and are competing in packed stadiums, with millions of viewers online. It is that gap between the international and the South African level is what drives me. I want South African teams to be competing against the best in the world, and the only way for them to do that is to first have a proper structure set up here.
Do you think South Africa is on par with the international standards – competitively and in broadcasting? Has it changed much since you first started in the scene?
The plain and simple answer is: no. We are currently not up to par against the international standard when it comes to eSports. We are improving with time, but not at the rate that we need to in order to give the international competition a real go for their money.
With regard to broadcasting, I believe that some of our casters are of international standard but the footage as a whole is well below. While it may be improving, the international standard is setting the bar really high with full TV production crews running the big events. South Africans are rather limited in that regard, as most events are run off of the backs of a few individuals who are multitasking behind the scenes.
As I said earlier, we are improving and that’s the encouraging part. I believe that South African eSports is reaching an exciting time, where we are finally seeing more interest being generated which, in turn, is attracting more sponsors. As the financial backing starts to come through, I believe that we will begin to challenge the international standards which have set the bar so high.
We have come a long way in the past two years alone; I can’t wait to see what happens in the next couple of years.
What are you looking to do in the next few years to ensure the continued growth of a healthy South African competitive scene?
I’m looking to take my shoutcasting to a larger audience by doing some international events in the not too distant future. We are also in the process of creating a website which will allow us to host more regular events online.
- eSports revenues are expected to $465m in 2017
- Viewership of eSports in 2017 will reach almost 150 million
Clan Connection and Nick Holden:
- Clan Connection was founded in 2012
- Since then Nick Holden has broadcast well over 100 matches
- Tournaments and broadcasts have included the Astro Gaming Cup, MWEB GameZone Masters Series and more
- Prize value of the tournaments managed or broadcast by Nick Holden is over R250,000
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