Sharon “Shaz” Waison, a business management graduate from CTI Education Group, says she did not know she would end up playing video games professionally. She played her first computer game, Counter Strike (CS) 1.5, at age 13 after watching her brother and his friend playing. “I was obsessed with my computer and very drawn to the game that my mother hated it because my school work started to suffer.”
But now Sharon’s mother is her number one supporter and has a good understanding of what her profession entails. “Back then, gaming for women was very small, so my mother has seen its growth and knows that being a gamer makes me happy,” says Sharon.
From South Africa to Denmark to winning competitions
Shaz has gone from playing competitively in South Africa for the past eight to nine years, representing Multi-Gaming Organisations (MGO), to playing internationally. She went to Denmark to join Team Karma, an all-female Counter-Strike (CS:GO) team from the United States. In April 2015, they competed at the Copenhagen Games, an eSport tournament and a gaming event, where every member would take turns to play against another group. “Thulani Sishi, a close friend of mine I’ve known for six years through gaming introduced me to the team,” says Sharon. “They took a gamble on me, as I had never competed on an international level, so they decided I should go with them to Copenhagen Games, where we won.”
She says winning felt amazing, “More like a dream come true, but it was also scary because no one knew about me. I was the new player from South Africa while the other players were straight from the United States, but I held my own and made South Africa proud.”
Julia Robson (19), a gamer and Sharon’s friend from Cape Town, says Shaz deserved that opportunity of going international to compete: “She’s good at the games she plays.”
Don’t let the stereotypes hold you back from gaming
At 23, Sharon is part of Aperture Gaming, a South African-based Competitive Battlefield 4 team competing in multiple leagues and competitions. She used to play for Aperture Gaming in the beginning of 2015 until March, where she began concentrating on Team Karma. At the rAge Expo she coached and taught some of the players on how to win.
“She’s my idol, I’m striving to be as good as her one day,” says Julia, who says there’s lots of sexism in the sport. The stereotypes fuel them on, she adds. “I like the stereotypes because when we play one-on-one games with the guys, they become shocked at how good Shaz and I are.” Julia says she loves to see their facial expressions of confusion and shock at being beaten by girls.
Image supplied by Sharon.
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Photos by Abigail Javier