The Women of Esports
Where are the Women of Esports?
Whether they be game producers, CEOs, managers, designers, streamers, or gamers themselves, women are in inundated throughout the esports industry, you need only take a closer look. “We started looking at the female players and noticing that they were just as good, if not better than the male players,” said Jordan Sherman, Gen. G’s head of partnerships. “But no female players were really given the opportunity to come into a professional environment and play competitively as part of an organization” (Variety). Although finding increasing visibility is the current uphill fight for women in esports, there remains a slew of noteworthy accomplishments by these women over the many years of esports.
The Denver Post notes that women account for about 45% of U.S. gamers. Strangely enough, they are rarely seen in the professional esports player pool. “LoL’s Championship Series hasn’t had a female gamer since 2016, and the Overwatch League’s inaugural season featured just one” (Denver Post). Some do not even have the desire to participate in these competitive spheres and are “reluctant to embrace the spotlight as female role models” (Denver Post). These women do not merely want to be known and looked up to for being successful women in esports, but they want to be known for their competitive gaming capabilities.
Behind the Success of the Immortals Gaming Club
To rid some of the stigma about gamers being only male, The Esports Observer has created a monthly interview series to expose professional women in the esports industry and their successes. In May 2019, an interview series with women working for the Immortals Gaming Club (IGC) set the tone for this new series (Esports Observer). Originating from various types of professional backgrounds, some relating to esports and some not, these women have shared summaries of their journey to and through the world of esports.
Among the eight Immortals women interviewed, Debbie Chun, Manager of the Los Angeles Valiant team, expressed her passion for esports while maintaining a successful career in the industry. Formerly a part of the U.S. Navy, Chun “has managed Tier-3 teams, moved up to Contenders,… began the 2019 OWL season with the Toronto Defiant, then moved over to LA Valiant as Team Manager” (Esports Observer).
Equally as successful, IGC’s Production Assistant, Anna Eastman, began her career at a cosmetics production company before moving over to IGC. “I never expected to collaborate with other content creators to bring my illustrations to life, and to have such freedom to pitch my own visual ideas,” said Eastman. “The company has given me great artistic latitude by way of making content for MiBR as well” (Esports Observer).
Competitive Esports Women
Along with its all-female U.S. “Fortnite” team, including Tina Perez “TINARAES” and Madison Mann “Maddiesuun”, Gen. G “also recently hired Kristen Valnicek as its Head of New Gaming Initiatives. Valnicek is a popular Twitch streamer who goes by the name KittyPlays, as well as the Founder of Team Kitty, a network of over 100 (mostly) women broadcasters on Twitch. In her new role, she will work on new sponsorships, partnerships, recruiting, and community engagement. She told Variety she’s the first woman streamer to transition into a business role in the esports industry” (Variety).
Valnicek’s success continues to reach the top of the charts. “In that gaming world, A-list male players are still, by far, the headline acts. But Ms. Valnicek, 27, represents a rising group of talented, charismatic and business-savvy female gamers gaining ground, in part, with help from a blockbuster benefactor: Fortnite. On Twitch, Ms. Valnicek is the third most followed female streamer…Last year, Ms. Valnicek was named Head of New Gaming Initiatives at Gen.G, an esports company that has been recruiting a cadre of professional female Fortnite players. In February, she was a commentator for a major Fortnite tournament in Los Angeles. She’s now moving to California, in part, to prep a new, monthly interview show called “Playtime with KittyPlays,” which will stream live in front of an audience in a Las Vegas esports arena. Her first guest will be Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns” (The Globe and Mail).
Did You Know?
Although continued and consistent growth is needed for the visibility of women in esports, their presence has grown rapidly over the past couple of years. “Women’s viewership of esports grew from 23.9 percent of all watchers in 2016 to 30.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a report by market researcher Interpret. That 6.5 percent change is a considerable leap, considering the heavy representation of men in both esports audiences and professional athletes in the past” (Venture Beat).
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