Many in the games industry worldwide may know Sithe Ncube, an ambitious young lady, Founder and Director at Prosearium, regional organiser of the Global Game Jam for Sub-Saharan Africa, Director at Ubongo Game lab among other things.
If not, I invite you to read about Sithe’s journey, her entrepreneurial initiatives in the games industry.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Sithe Ncube. I’m a Zambian, and my hometown is Lusaka. At the moment I live in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I’m in my final year of a degree in Computer Science and Information Systems where I’m researching Natural User Interfaces for Meditative Games. I love games, and I’m always excited about their social side that encourages us to interact with each other and learn about each other. I’m currently working on an initiative called Prosearium.net that aims to document 1000 African women and their contributions to games. I believe that Africans of all backgrounds should be able to receive benefits from the games industry, and that’s what I hope my work in the next few years contributes to.
How did you get into the video games industry?
I’ve always loved games, and I’ve been playing games my whole life with my brothers. But it never crossed my mind for the longest time that the games industry is an industry that could be accessible to me. In 2013 I learned about a Zambian game developer called Ifunga Ndana who created his own RPG style fighting game in Java and had other experience making small games. That is precisely what opened my eyes to the fact that it was possible for Zambians to make their games and the prospects of that were quite spellbinding to me. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any other game developers, so I decided to create a small community called Ubongo Game Lab dedicated to game development. In that community, we hoped to learn more about game development ourselves and pursue our own goals creating games, but we also hoped to find other game developers in Zambia. I didn’t know it just yet, but this community engagement is what catalysed my interest in being more involved in the African game development scene and being a part of the efforts to move things forward. Whether it’s changing people’s perspectives of game development on the continent, bringing more opportunities to people who are working hard with no support or creating more inclusive spaces.
When we got involved in Global Game Jam after helping organise the first Global Game Jam site in Zambia, I was invited to be a Regional Organiser for Sub-Saharan Africa. The opportunity exposed me to more communities on the continent and got me more excited about the work in games happening in Africa. From there, it was just a matter of time before I got involved in the South African game development community and events like A MAZE. / Johannesburg and A MAZE. / Berlin.
In your opinion, what efforts can the video game industry make to attract and retain black women talents?
Deliberate efforts and programs to address the lack of black women joining and remaining in the industry would be best. And there is no better time than now. Over the years, I have benefitted from programs that encourage women’s participation in technology in a way that has made me feel more comfortable and confident in my abilities and the value that I have. These programs were scholarships, workshops, fellowships and awards specifically requesting women in tech to participate and share their experiences. But other initiatives have been around for years geared explicitly towards increasing women’s participation in tech. And I believe those initiatives have made a difference. So making more deliberate efforts to support black women in games is something much needed, through funding opportunities, scholarships, fellowships, programs, hiring, etc. The key is to be deliberate about this, and once you have these women together, the most important thing to do is LISTEN to them and keep listening. If it means changing the culture, we have around games, that is something we can work towards step by step. The benefits of having more black women in the games industry, are far more beneficial than clinging to what many might see as a comfortable space that unfortunately excludes a lot of black women whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?
For anyone interested in being in the games industry: make friends with people of all genders and experiences and be an ally with everyone. All around the world, people are struggling and silently suffering in this industry though its products are joyful and entertaining experiences valued by many consumers across the globe. The games industry is still growing, so there is an opportunity to improve the lives of those that work in it. Make friends of diverse backgrounds, inform your perspective and understand what’s happening around you. And if you’re ever in a position to speak up and make things better for people, try to do that. I would love to see an industry growing where more people have each other’s backs. That starts with everyone, so when you become a part of the industry, be prepared to listen to the experiences of people around you.
To contact Sithe: Twitter: @_LadySith or email [email protected] about the 1000 African Women in games.