Digital All Stars is a series of articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.
You wouldn’t think this was the case as an outsider, but South Africa has a vibrant game development community.
Between high-profile releases, experimental fare and everything in between, South Africa’s game developers are a force to be reckoned with. But just who are the standout people you should follow on Twitter? We gathered a few notable personalities/developers you should keep in mind.
For a look at more about the local gaming scene, our sister website Ventureburn published 18 SA gaming startups you should know about [Digital All Stars].
As head of the division of digital arts and game design lecturer at Wits, Geyser is clearly nurturing the next generation of South African game developers.
Even if a developer hasn’t come from Wits, chances are good that they’ve felt Geyser’s influence anyway, being a founding member of Make Games SA.
Gardner is the driving force behind studio Made with Monster Love, which is currently developing musical puzzler Cadence for PC and also has Error Prone under its belt. But his contributions to the industry don’t stop there.
The developer is also one of the co-founders of the Super Friendship Arcade movement/series of events, which became a high-profile way for indie devs to showcase their wares to the public.
Another well-known name in the local gaming scene, Joubert made his name thanks to being one of the three people behind the original release of Desktop Dungeons back in 2011 (with the full release in 2013).
Following the seminal title, Joubert became a freelance game designer, working on Gardner’s Cadence. But he’s also been showing off various experimental titles at local gaming events.
We already featured him in our rundown of the most popular South African YouTubers, but Sebastian Lague’s game development tutorials have been indispensable for thousands of people.
Lague, who mainly focuses on Unity development, boasts 66 000 YouTube subscribers as well as a mildly successful Patreon.
Alongside Joubert and Marc Luck, Day was part of the trio behind the development of the critically acclaimed Desktop Dungeons. Day also served as a founding member of Makes Games SA and the community that preceded it.
Day has kept a relatively low profile since then, working on some intriguing experimental stuff for game jams.
The title went on to achieve international fame after its release on PC and PS4 — think Contra meets The Expendables (they even released a videogame tie-in to the movie) and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect.
Greenwood and Free Lives’s latest endeavour? Why, it’s the rather NSFW and peculiar Genital Jousting…
Another Free Lives developer enters the fray in the form of Lead Director of Penis Fixation (hey, that’s what LinkedIn says) Richard Pieterse.
Of course, the position sort of makes sense given the fact that they’re working on Genital Jousting at the moment, currently available on Steam Early Access.
Pieterse is also one-third of indie outfit Team Lazerbeam, with another member on the list as well.
A prominent and respected name in the SA landscape is that of developer Regina Kgatle, being a key figure behind the Educade initiative.
Kgatle achieved prominence for the Mandela Day-inspired 67 games initiative too, which pushed for 67 educational games being made and eventually showcased at 67 schools.
The developer and techie has also made her way onto the 2013 M&G 200 Young South Africans list, being highlighted for her contributions towards gaming for good.
A prominent voice in the South African game development scene, Hall is a developer and lawyer specialising in digital entertainment.
Hall is often the go-to person for interviews, tackling everything from the Film and Publications Board (FPB) to the government’s role in video game development.
Along with the legal side of the industry, Hall is also a founding member of the Make Games SA body/community.
Kimani is one of the people behind Nyamakop, notably having degrees in computer science, mathematics and digital arts.
When Kimani isn’t programming at the notable studio, he’s crafting his own games, such as Boxer and Raptor Polo (collaborating with Ben Myres and Ben Crooks in the process).
Formerly an editor at SA gaming institution NAG, Burrows turned to game development and released Among the Innocent: A Stricken Tale.
A point-and-click adventure title, the game has you step into the shoes of a writer, stuck on a remote farm in the Free State. The title is currently greenlit for Steam.
A stalwart of the SA game development scene, Myres is one of the key figures behind the A MAZE Fest indie gaming showcase in Johannesburg. Myres is also a key member of the Glitch Face community of Johannesburg game developers.
His contributions extend directly to game development as well, being one of the founders behind local studio Nyamakop. The studio is currently working on Semblance, a playdough-themed puzzle/platformer.
One of the newer names to the general public, Bischoff made a name for himself thanks to the release of Stasis last year, being the debut title for Bischoff’s The Brotherhood studio.
A point-and-click horror title, Stasis was well-received by international critics such as Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, praising its atmosphere and puzzle-solving mechanics.
Fouche is one of the more active Twitter users on the list, and he’s also the founder of Rogue Moon Studios.
The studio’s most popular game is System Crash (available on Steam), being a rather interesting collectable card game with an overarching cyberpunk theme.
Along with Gardner, Richard Pieterse and others, Rausch is one of the key figures behind the success of the Super Friendship Arcade.
But Rausch is also a member of Team Lazerbeam, making some of the more eclectic titles around. Their most notable addition to the SA gaming scene? It might just be the utterly bizarre yet charming Wrestling With Emotions.
South African developer Steven Tu is the founder of Twoplus Games, with Dead Run being arguably its most high-profile release yet.
Tu is another active participant in the experimental scene, releasing a slew of fare on the likes of itch.io, such as No More Boxes and 2D Cat Wants Out.
Along with Leon van Niekerk and Hilgard Bell, Francois van Niekerk is one of the founding members of the Clockwork Acorn studio.
The studio’s released games include Luminare and Monsters and Medicine, but they’re also working on a variety of games and prototypes in general.
A firm fixture at indie gaming events in Cape Town, Megan Hughes has quite the background in gaming and related fields.
Hughes was previously the brand manager for prominent local studio RetroEpic Software before moving to Formula D Interactive. Hughes has also crafted a few games that tackle more serious topics, being available on itch.io.
One of the pioneers of the South African video game development scene, Bulford formed Celestial Games in 1994, making history in the country.
Celestial and Bulford’s crowning achievement was 1996’s Toxic Bunny, which stands out as the first successful South African game by many accounts (it even received an HD re-release on Android).
One of the more high-profile figures in the SA interactive entertainment scene, Rosa’s claim to fame is as MD of Formula D Interactive and the co-founder of the Learning Innovation Design Lab.
Rosa is one of the leading proponents of the serious gaming movement, while also at the forefront of the educational gaming push.
Thank you to Graham van der Made of Ventureburn and Danny Day for assisting with the feature. However, we want to assure our readers that Day has had no influence over his name appearing on the list.