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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

From Atteridgeville to Vancouver: Mbuso Radebe on being an EA game designer

South African game designer at EA has contributed his skill in producing games such as 'Solitaire', Age of Empires and FIFA.

A number of people grew up playing video games and getting lost in the universe. Most still do. But not a lot go on to become designers of games.

Born and bred in Atteridgeville in Pretoria, Mbuso Radebe has been a gamer long before moving to Vancouver.

“I’ve always been a keen gamer since as far back as I can remember.  Games I’ve loved from back in the day when I was younger, I remember playing Mario Brothers, Pacman and even playing Street Fighter,” Radebe told The Citizen.

The 42-year-old has been residing in Vancouver since 2006 but became an employee at video game company, EA in 2018.

“The game Metal Gear solid is actually the one that really got me into being interested in doing it for work,” said the God of War fan.

Radebe studied Game Design at the Vancouver Film School, acquiring a Diploma and has been in the gaming industry for 16 years now.

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Mbuso Radebe’s life as a game designer

Radebe said the day-to-day operations of a game designer are centred around communication, starting off the day with what he calls “stand-up meetings” in the morning.

“During these short meetings we meet with the rest of the team and talk about what everyone’s planning on doing and what they did the day before and understand what the focus is,” he said

Once everyone has gone through and spoken about that at a team level, “there’s a lot of documentation-putting together design documents and getting those designs documents reviewed,” he said.

“Building reviews; these look at features within games once they’ve already been built, to see if they’ve been designed as intended and to see if there’s any changes that need to be made.”

Radebe has had a hand in games on Microsoft like Solitaire, Age of Empires.

“With Age of Empires it was specifically Castle Siege, that was a version for iPad and for PC.  I’ve also worked on Puzzle Fighter,” Radebe shared.

But the most popular title he’s worked on was FIFA. “I’ve worked on four FIFA titles and currently I’m working on a game called Skate, which is the next version of a popular game the EA has.”

Radebe has contributed to FIFA 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

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SA gaming landscape

“It’s still in its early or fledgling stage, there’s a lot of development going on there which is exciting. A lot of the companies operating there are either start-ups or companies that are now finding their footing in the industry,” he averred.

Radebe said the international market is more risk-averse than the Mzansi gaming landscape which is still finding its way, something South Africans can build on.

“There’s a lot of experimentation and people are trying to find their voice and niche. It’s different in comparison to the global stage of other markets, in North America and Europe and Asia, in Japan particularly, that are quite mature.”

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The gamer from Atteridgeville said he misses South African people more than anything.

“I’ve got family that lives there, siblings, my mom, family friends. After that it’s the food,” he said laughing.

He remedies the homesickness by calling his loved ones.

“[I do] video or voice calls with family and friends to catch-up. I also buy food at the South African shop whenever I want South African food if I’m missing it. Listening to South African music and radio sometimes, when I do that I feel immersed in the culture.”

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