No, this is not another of those feminist discourses or one of those whiny “oh we are so marginalised and misunderstood” posts.
I’m going to dissect my motivations and my growth in the past 15 years of competitive gaming.
So, buckle up, we’re in for a long ride.
If someone asks me now, what draws me to competitive gaming, I can give you my standard reply whilst playing a match, singing to a song and planning what to eat for lunch tomorrow. I would give you a half truth, one honed through repeated recitals at various interviews : I used to do competitive team sports, then I broke my ankle and had more time to devote to gaming, then took it to another level because of my competitive streak.
It’s not false, but it’s only part of the truth.
You see, it’s because I’m in an all female team. And by default, that means attention simply because of my gender.
Flashback to 1998 or so, I was pretty content to go LANshop hopping and making friends whilst playing casual counterstrike. And quite happy to be the rare gamer girl and talking point among the guys. Not to say that I didn’t like the game, I played hours of that game for the longest time, but the added attention was mostly nice.
Maybe it was because I enjoyed being seen differently, I didn’t like conforming to the stereotype of a girl, and I’ve gotten along better with guys than other girls. Whatever it was.
Soon after, I was introduced to The popular hangout and all the popular people of the community, and I have to admit there’s a certain pressure to stand out and want to be the best, of all the popular girls, that is. And that in itself is a motivation to play and improve. (I remember a public game where I ended up pking a girl, and one round, we happened to be the only 2 left standing. The guys crowded around my com to see the final moments, saying things like “eh, you better not lose to her ah!”
But! This limited me to wanting to improve only to be better than all the GIRLS.
Then came a day, I was having a 1v1 sniping match at LAN against my guy friend, when he suddenly became really pro halfway through. I found out shortly after that one of the local well known snipers had taken over his com to play against me. And the satisfaction I felt, at knowing I’d managed to give him a run for his money! It wasn’t so much the fact that I’d held my own versus a guy that made me feel real good, but that I’d held my own against one of the local competitive stars.
Moving on to DotA, I started out in a guys clan, invited by my schoolmate. I wasn’t good enough for their first lineup, but I managed to eventually lead their second team as commander and drafter. And I guess this isn’t something every female can say, that she led a team of guys.
Admittedly we had limited success, but it was a great experience.
Somewhere around this time, I started hearing about other girls in the community, and there was always this comparison thingy going on. Like “oh, her (insert hero name) is the best I’ve seen for a girl” or “she quite strong but I think (another girls name) still better”
So… Once again I guess the being compared with other girls surfaced…
I still haven’t figured out why we aren’t compared to other guys, other than in derogatory ways (eg, “this guy feeds as much as so and so girl” , rather than “so and so girl is better than so and so guy”)
What made me form a female team though, was something not very significant, or even a compelling reason.
The guys on my team either left the clan, lost interest in the game or had life to attend to, so the line up lasted maybe a year. In 2005 for some reason, I’m still not clear what the aim was, but there was to be a female DotA showmatch at the WCG grandfinals in Singapore. And I was invited to form a line up to pk some other girls.
And that was it.
Maybe after the win, I felt ownership over the team and decided to take it somewhere. I can’t really say it was a conscious choice to ditch mixed teams and throw in my lot with girls. But it did help that I had a great partner in crime – pinksheep.
As a team of 5 girls, it has brought me untold opportunities, and an equally untold amount of grief.
I can’t say that I knew the marketing value that we had as a team, but it eventually became clear that for our standard, we were getting a lot more than we deserved.
Which is why, if a female gamer tells me it’s oh so difficult to be recognised, I’d give them the skeptical 3rd world baby look.
What are you asking for? What have you DONE to deserve it?
I guess this almost guaranteed support makes everyone think “oh it’s cos they are girls”. But before you think that way about Asterisk*, let me ask you this: how many teams, male teams female teams mixed teams whatever, do you know that have survived for 8 years?
Call us fake-professional or unaccomplished or noob, but can you see that we are taking this seriously? And that maybe we really like the game and are trying to get somewhere by playing it?
It has NOT been easy keeping a team together. It’s like being in a relationship with 4 boyfriends at the same time. And the number of arguments and disagreements we’ve gone through have either led to falling outs or stronger relationships.
I do sometimes think about being good enough to play for a professional DotA squad on an international level, and I often think my team and I are just a mockery of a competitive team because our standard is just so far off. And many times this drives me into a state of “why bother and care so much… We will never amount to anything… Why not just give up and spend more time on social outings and life? ” and I believe I’m not alone in having these periodic down moods.
But honestly, how many people can do that? How many people qualify?
Maybe hmm… 20 people per country?
So, if the chance comes up to be the best at something, even if it’s segregated by gender, why shouldn’t I want to take it?
I guess the closest a guy can relate to would be an amateur competition where certain pro teams are banned from participating. Just because your team cannot win the real professional teams, and decide to take part in an amateur competition because the chances of success for you are higher, does it mean you should be harangued and made to feel ashamed?
I think we need to forgive ourselves for not living up to how we want ourselves to be. Speaking for myself at least. But at the same time, keeping my motivations in sight so that I will consistently be pushing myself.
On to another topic of female teams.
I guess I used to feel threatened by the formation of other female teams. For a couple of reasons I guess, mostly stemming from how girls are always compared to other girls and always made to feel that there is this bitchy I’m better than you tension.
Over the years though, I’ve realised that this is so counterproductive. OK, yes your team might survive a year or so, but if life calls one or more of your players, how will you find replacements if you’ve spent all your time trying to eradicate all other female competition?
Which in part is why I set up femaledota2.com. The community of females needs to grow so that it reaches the size of the male community, which in turn leads to the possibility of there being more talented females. Only then will there be a chance that of the 20 possible pro players per country, some are female.
Yes, I agree that technically there’s no reason why females cannot succeed where guys have in competitive gaming, but look at it this way – China has the greater likelihood of having more talent than Singapore simply because of sheer size. And I’m really trying so hard to even out the odds.
To this day, I can’t say the ugly green monster in me doesn’t get insecure about other female gamers/teams or sink into low moods about how I’m so lousy, but I can say that how I manage it is different. As my teammate always says, “if you feel like that, then make sure you train and dedicate yourself to the game until you’ve made yourself irreplaceable.”
And then, train some more so that no one can ever catch up.
And that, is how every competitive (or aspiring competitive/professional) gamer should think.
End notes: through writing this, I’ve actually managed to realise certain motivations and reasons that I guess I never really thought about deeply. So some things you’re reading here, you’re actually discovering with me…