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Meet the man who started a gaming magazine for township gamers
Xolani Bongani Nkosingiphile Ntuli is a gamer from Katlehong in Johannesburg. When the hardships of 2020 hit, he made the most of the downtime by starting a magazine.
Project Blerd was started as a way to introduce Xolani’s love of gaming to underprivileged communities in South Africa. “For the Township Gamer”, Project Blerd provides the usual gaming reviews and geek culture stories but also tackles issues directly affecting its readers - covering topics which explore purchasing pre-owned games and utlising emulators.
Xolani says he can’t remember when he started gaming, but his first solid memory was in 2010 when his father brought home a PC which had a Sega Genesis emulator with a few games on it. 2021 marks around 11 years since he started spending coins to operate Spaza shop arcade machines. Xolani grew up in Katlehong, an underprivileged township in the south east of Johannesburg. He is currently studying English Literature at the University of the Free State. He believes his beloved hobby has the power to change the lives of many young South Africans, saying gaming can help people going through tough times in their lives and has the ability to tackle the issue of unemployment in the country, because of the different career paths in the gaming industry.
“There were times growing up where I didn’t feel I’d amount to anything. When my father set up that computer and I discovered the Sega Genesis emulator, I confided in it, even though it was just some blocky graphics. It was Nirvana for a 10 year old me. My parents thought I had a problem because of how much I gamed but I thought every moment playing was amazing. It helped me deal with tough times and tough thoughts.”
When much of the world shut down in 2020, Xolani used the “down time” to bring an idea to life: Project Blerd was born. The digital magazine includes game reviews that cover a host of titles accessible to most but Project Blerd also digs a bit deeper to start conversations around identity and mental health - as well as the role gaming has in impacting South Africans interested in these topics. Another stand out section in each magazine is the “Budget Content” which focuses on cost effective ways for gaming fans to access games and play the titles they love.
Xolani says he has a mission with Project Blerd:
“The magazine is aimed at under-privileged communities and its mission is to introduce gaming to these communities. The writing style is friendly and simple so that everyone can understand the context of the content. It also aims to introduce geek content such as anime.”
Each issue is written, edited and laid out by Xolani, who is doing the whole production on his own.
For most young writers, a project like this would be done to form part of a CV or application for a job but for Xolani his writing goals are far more lofty:
“I want to make gaming an activity and potential career opportunity which is relevant in our communities. It is looked down on and seen as a time wasting thing. I really want to change that. I also hope that my writing and Project Blerd can influence people struggling to use gaming as a crutch instead of abusing substances that can cause mental and physical harm.”