Female gamers in Singapore on what it's like to be an pro esports player in a male-dominated industry
Playing video games
Back in September 2019, Louis Vuitton announced its partnership with Riot Games, the publisher of popular fantasy title League of Legends. What followed was unprecedented for both the luxury fashion and gaming brands: True Damage character skins and a small real-life collection designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, as well as a monogrammed carrying trunk to hold the Summoner's Cup trophy. While this isn't Vuitton's first foray into the world of video gaming — the luxury brand has got Final Fantasy's Lightning to be one of the faces of its SS15 womenswear campaign — the unexpected collaboration meant one thing: that esports is becoming serious business.
In fact, it's the next billion dollar industry, what with a growing viewership of nearly 500 million people in 2020. And with the explosive growth of esports, we're gradually seeing more women making their mark in a field dominated by, well, men. (Accordingly to stats revealed in 2017, females make up about 32% of gamers.) So what is it like being a pro gamer girl? What are some of their struggles? We ask three serious female gamers – Tammy Tang, Amanda Lim, and Cheryl Allison – to find out.
"I started playing computer games since I was a kid, but only played competitively in secondary school when tournaments and multiplayer games became more widespread," says Tammy Tang, gaining recognition in Singapore in 2004 when she founded Asterisk*, an all-female DOTA team, "We [also] discovered that there were many other female gamers in other titles and genres who found inspiration from us, and wanted to be a part of us. We grew into an organisation and currently also manage a streamer team. I've been seeing many aspiring competitive female gamers taking part. In 2019, we've had almost 2000 individuals take part in our FSL League. This is a huge increase, from the previous years when we'd get about 30 teams for Dota 2 and LoL respectively. Mobile gaming has also increased accessibility to gaming, and we're seeing a lot of females playing mobile games."
Online harassment and sexual misconduct are rife in the global gaming industry, but "it's really not too bad" in Singapore, according to female gamer and gaming video creator Amanda Lim. "Just the occasional expected discrimination. Extremely minor. I have not experienced anything that made me feel gender is an issue," Lim admits.
"There are pretty obvious differences [how females are treated in game], but I don't feel it happening it to me very badly. I think the community thus far is super encouraging regardless of gender. I don't feel they really matter. Words are just words, doesn't affect us unless we let them."
At nine years old, Lim found multi-player console games as a way to bond with her brother and father. Today, she streams a number of her games online, including Dota 2. "[The female gaming scene today] is still very small but FSL and Asterisk, and other organisations are planning female tournaments every now and then for different games such as MLBB, Dota 2 and LoL."
"Just like males, there are different types of women who game – casual and serious gamers. There are a lot more casual female gamers than serious ones," says Cheryl Allison. "For instance, girls who pick up gaming just to spend time with their boyfriends and hence, the stereotype that girl gamers aren't real gamers."
When asked if she's ever been a victim of discrimination and abuse as a esports player, Allison says no, but "hope(s) that it never happens in the future since there are more and more respectable female Esports figures emerging."
"People respect female gamers a lot more now," exclaims Allison. "Right now, I'm working at Female Esports League (FSL) where we host female-only tournaments and our boss is female."