If there’s anyone in South Africa with as rich a connection to both gaming and tattoos, we are yet to meet them. Pippa Tshabalala became a familiar face to most during her time as a presenter of ‘The Verge’, but she is more than simply that. Presenter, writer, gamer, lecturer, producer and mother. So what have you done with your day then?
You are probably best known for your time as the presenter of ‘The Verge’, but you also write about gaming and present a radio insert about gaming. Obsessed by video games much?
Haha, yeah that’s probably an understatement. My obsession started quite young and has managed to work its way into pretty much every facet of my life in some or other manner.
You also have a Masters Degree in Fine Arts (with Digital Animation specialisation) – ever considered getting a team together and making a game?
Not really. I interned at I-Imagine Interactive, South Africa’s first game development house, when I was doing my Masters, and I realised that I much preferred playing and writing about games than making them. That said, I would still probably like to be involved creatively in something like that.
Other than all that, what else do you have that keeps you busy from a work perspective?
Well apart from the freelance writing work I do for NAG Magazine and Gamecca, as well as for a couple of websites, I’m currently the On-Air Producer at MTV Networks Africa. I make as well as supervise the production of promos and short form for MTV Base.
Given all that keeps you busy, do you find much time to play games?
Haha, yeah I do manage a lot of the time, I just need to be more disciplined about playing stuff for review. It takes me a little longer than I used to especially now that I have a child, but luckily my husband is also a gamer so we both give the each other time to play uninterrupted.
How long have you been gaming and can you remember the first time you ‘gamed’? And on what console or platform?
My first clear memory of gaming is around the age of 8, when my father bought us a PC. The game I loved was Alley Cat. There is however a photo of me in nappies, I must have been around 18 months old, playing our “TV Game”.
What’s your current gaming platform of choice and why?
That’s such a difficult question because I own a PS3, an Xbox, a WiiU and a PC as well as a couple of handhelds. I’m currently quite pleased with the gameplay experience on the WiiU, but generally it doesn’t make too much of a difference when it comes to consoles. My favourite will always like be my PC, I feel most comfortable playing RPGs with a keyboard and mouse.
Favourite game at the moment?
Is it wrong for me to say I’m only now playing the Skyrim DLC? I never got to it before this, and I bought it on special on Steam over the holidays. I’m also playing The Walking Dead which is brilliant.
Which upcoming game or games are you most looking forward to?
I’m a complete GTA fangirl, so I’m looking forward to GTA V coming out in April/May.
You must have other hobbies outside of gaming – what keeps you entertained in your downtime?
I read. A lot. If I’m not playing games that’s the other thing you’ll find me doing without question.
What’s the most embarrassing or worst game you’ve ever bought or received as a gift? In fact, what’s the most embarrassing gift you’ve ever received (don’t worry, the fan who gave it to you probably won’t be reading this)?
Haha, luckily most of my family and friends know me pretty well but I have received a really hideous photo frame from an extended family member that “fell and broke” when our house was flooded. Worst game I’ve ever bought was Beowulf. The fact that I spent money on it still makes me feel vaguely ill.
Is there any gaming character that best reflects you as a person? Or a gaming character you wish you could actually be?
I don’t know really, mainly because my obsession with different characters changes depending on what I’m playing. There are also so few good female protagonists that I’m not inclined to go with any of the more well known ones. I love RPG’s where my character can be whatever I want it to be, male or female, and that is kind of what I’m like as a person, I hate people dictating to me or trying to force me into a mould.
I have a couple of pieces by other artists but for years my primary artist has been Milo “Mr Lucky” Marcer in Cape Town. I started going to him when he lived up in Joburg, and didn’t even consider switching to anyone else when he moved. Milo completely gets me and the style I like, his work is amazing, and I trust him implicitly.
What was your first piece and when did you get it?
Haha! My first piece was a really awful Chinese symbol meaning (I checked) “Night/Calm/Resting”. I haven’t had it covered up because I believe all your tattoos are right for the time in your life, even if they’re a bit embarrassing in later years. No I wouldn’t get that again, but hey, I was young and it was popular at the time.
How long have you been getting work done and why do you keep going back for more?
I got my first tattoo at 18, and for a while there were long breaks in between getting more. My first big piece was by Milo about 6 years ago, and then the bug had me.
Which piece would you consider your favourite?
Wow that’s actually quite a hard one. Um, probably still my sleeve. The theme, the poetry that’s incorporated, the colours, it always stands out and it means a lot to me.
You’re as regular an attendee of the Cape Town International Tattoo Convention (or Southern Ink Xposure) as you are an attendee of rAge. Planning to get some more work done at this year’s SIX?
You know it! I’m already booked in with Milo to finish a piece he started on my side towards the end of 2012.
For the first time, SIX will see gaming featured as a breakaway for attendees. Do you think that to grow gaming in SA it needs to start being introduced into the other spheres of life to really help it grow? Music festivals, non-gaming events, etc. are all potential breeding areas to introduce gaming to people who may know about it but not partake in it. Potentially it’s a partially untapped market?
To anyone telling me they’re not a gamer, my argument has always been – You just haven’t found the right game yet. Gaming is so much a part of our culture that people don’t even realise that they’re gamers at all because they still categorise us as the stereotype. Every opportunity that is taken to introduce people to gaming is in my mind a good thing.
You’re stranded on a desert island and a genie grants you five items. Name them:
A game: The Witcher. No, Mass Effect. No, wait… ummm, just one you say?
A CD: Portishead: Dummy
A movie or TV series: The Nightmare Before Christmas, although a TV series would probably be a better bet as I’d get more longevity out of it. Provided I actually had something to watch it on. [We will chat with the genie to make the necessary arrangements. 'Cos we're awesome zombies like that.]
An organic life form: My son.
Something edible or drinkable: The healthy answer would be water because a desert island would likely be surrounded by salt water which isn’t drinkable, and you can survive longer without food than without water. What I really want it chocolate though…
The zombie apocalypse has happened. You’re facing down a ravenous zombie horde (which may or may not include members of ZG in bikinis). What weapon do you grab?
I once did one of those stupid Facebook quizzes that determined which weapon I would use. Mine was a baseball bat. This is completely and utterly accurate. I’m too trigger happy with bullets so my guns would be empty in no time, and although I probably wouldn’t last very long, I would go down swinging.
In the aforementioned zombie apocalypse you humans are all toast. Become a turncoat and assist the superior zombies or stay with the soon to be wiped out human resistance?
Human Resistance for sure, not sure I could get used to the somewhat limited zombie menu…
Thank you for taking the time to answer our silly questions. What game are you off to play now that you’re done?
The Walking Dead of course…
Pippa Pictures courtesy of Adriaan Louw from We Are Awesome.