Competitive gaming has grown to such a height that it coined its own name. Esports (short for electronic sports) is now bigger than ever. With televised tournaments like ELEAGUE and massive events like the ESL Pro League Finals, there’s a ton of major growth in the space, and enthusiasts are working to make it even greater. Taking a look at tournaments, however, it’s easy to think that esports is a male-dominated domain; as an overwhelming majority of top players and commentators are male, finding a female voice can seem like a challenge. However, there are plenty of girls making waves in the scene, and We Are invited a few of these individuals to discuss their journey in the budding field.

Blossoming into the Esports Business

The panel featured major personalities and behind-the-scenes operatives alike, proving that esports commands a variety of skill sets that are translatable across multiple disciplines. The panel highlighted Eunice Chen of Cloud9, Super Smash Bros commentator Victoria Perez, FGC commentator and host Samantha Hancock, as well as Emily Chow of ESL Gaming. Zorine Te, Marketing Manager at Player 2, headed the discussion. She cited her own past in information and media, maintaining that writing about games and creating reviews pushed her into the sphere of games journalism. Eunice Chen, of professional esports team Cloud9, worked in finance and events before getting her start with Riot Games. “The opportunity came along for me to combine my love of gaming and my expertise in events,” she stated. “I think the industry has been growing in such a way that it can accommodate and be flexible to anyone with any kind of talent.”

Victoria Perez, better known as Vikkikitty, didn’t start out planning to commentate events, either. She was first a psychology major, but quickly switched to Broadcast Journalism after being asked to commentate her local Smash tournament. “I sat down and was like, ‘Woah, this is really cool!’” she stated of her experience. “I really like doing this with an audience that can share the interest with. I wanted to do this for a living.” 

Transforming the World Through Tournaments

Through their combined skills of public speaking, game knowledge, event planning, and journalism, the group found a way to apply their abilities into the sphere of competitive gaming. Now, they have accomplished massive feats, including the League of Legends Worlds event at the Staples Center in 2013. “[It was] a super iconic event for the industry and for me,” Eunice said of planning the tournament. “We really barely had an events team at Riot. It was probably the biggest event to date of that time. During Worlds, we were trying to figure out what swag we wanted to give out for the event. I placed the very first order for thundersticks in esports events ever!”

Samantha (also known by her handle as “Persia”) and Victoria both accomplished an equally major feat in the world of esports. Persia was the first woman to commentate at Evolution, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. “It was huge for me because at the time, I didn’t even realize that I was the first female commentator until Mr. Wizard came up to me and said, ‘Hey, did you know you’re the first female commentator at EVO?’” she recalled. “I was also the first woman to commentate Top 8 at EVO. It’s led to so much more, so I always think back to that moment and the humble feeling I had when I found out that information.” Vikki likewise made a first for EVO, as she was the first woman to commentate nationals for Super Smash Brothers. Evolution’s broadcasting on channels like ESPN2 and Disney XD made major strides for the fighting game community’s involvement in esports, as well as further placing esports in the spotlight of popular media.

Following the Fierce Competition

It’s not every day that hardcore gamers get to accomplish such feats, and the panel knew this firsthand. “You don’t get from playing at locals to playing on the big stage in Top 8’s just like that,” Victoria stated. “It’s a step by step process. As long as you apply yourself, you’ll get there.” 

The group collectively understood that hard work is a necessity in getting ahead and making a difference, including networking and becoming deeply involved with the gaming scene. “You should get involved with the scenes you’re interested in,” Emily advised. “There’s not really one way to do it, but you meet and network with people that you can work with to create the spaces you want to be a part of. If you don’t want to be part of the communities you’re in, why would I want to be there?”

For these women, esports is more than an industry; it’s a passion that they have followed relentlessly, in order to get where they are. Thanks to their efforts, competitive gaming has blossomed in unprecedented ways, and audiences have even more to look forward to in the future. You can hear more about their exploits and advice on the We Are E3 panel, The World of Esports: A Discussion Focused on Women’s Roles in the Esports World.