Saturday, 20 October 2018

Women In Overwatch: The Esports Industry From Their Perspective. Ft ChiXiaoTu, Geguri & Noukky

On July 28th, the London Spitfire captured history when they swept the Philadelphia Fusion in Game Two of the Overwatch League Grand Finals to win the series 2-0 and become the inaugural season winner of the league. In a mixture of my overenthusiastic jubilation of the team I followed winning the league and failing to do enough research on the subject, I made an erroneous tweet in saying that Spitfire General Manager Susie "Lil Susie" Kim became the first female Coach, Head Coach or General Manager to lead a team to a major esport title. Thankfully, I was corrected in this as there are a few others who've managed this achievement. It did however, get me thinking. We generally don't know a lot about women who work behind the scenes in Overwatch's top tier and how they go to where they are, so I decided to look into this further.

There's a perception when looking into the Professional side of Overwatch (and esport in general) that it's a male dominated scene, due to the fact that many of the teams have men as the faces of their franchises. While this is true when it comes to the players, with Se-Yeon "Geguri" Kim of the Shanghai Dragons being the only female player in the top tier of a major team orientated genre, It's hard to discredit this observation. However, when you start to look further into team structures you'll see that some of the best and most successful organisations and esports scenes themselves, have women in key positions.

After my error and the fact that there is so little information available on how many women have been successful within esports, I've decided to focus on these achievements and highlight their importance to the scene's. I've able to speak to influential women who are involved heavily within Overwatch to share the reasons they got into esport in the first place, the struggles they've had in their current roles and finally why they feel they've managed to be so successful. What better way to do this than for them to explain the above in their own words!

ChiXiaoTu is an official caster of the Overwatch League to Chinese audiences, she's the current General Manager of China's 2018 Overwatch World Cup Team. China have qualified for the Overwatch World Cup playoffs at Blizzcon in November. 

I used to work as a manager of a LOL team. The team I was working with was defeated in the match for entering a higher level league, and it was just the moment when I happened to get to know Overwatch. I found it very interesting, and had started playing Overwatch since the Alpha-test in the NA server. Then there was the recruit for Overwatch match caster in China, I took the chance, and I got the job. From then on, I have become one of the official Chinese casters in the broadcast of the Overwatch League games, host of the OWL official Chinese programs, and GM of Team China in the Overwatch World Cup event.

I know that there are many splendid pro players in China, and I would love to help them start their international career, letting them be recognised by the world. Yet, at present, among all the OWL teams, few would consider Chinese pro players unless it is a Chinese-titled team. And I want the world to know that Chinese players are as well the best choice to make. 

I guess I just simply have to work harder, yep.

Se-Yeon "Geguri" Kim, Professional Off Tank Player For The Shanghai Dragons

After Overwatch was published, I began to played it madly. Until Team UW Artisan아티즌 found me and invited me, then I entered e-sports officially. Also, I never feel regretted for the decision. Because Overwatch itself is very fascinating, and the identity of an e-sports player attracts me a lot, which always urges myself to make progress and breakthrough. Last but not least, there is a group of amazing fans who grow up with you and stay with you to pass through difficulties, which is very valuable.

As a Shanghai Dragons player, language is the primary difficulty I have to overcome. Another is the ambition that we have to win because the surrounding comments give us great pressure, but I will rise to the challenges and try to solve various difficulties;

As an international player, every single game is a challenge since so many people are watching you, so I have been paying attention and continuing to maintain my self-image;
As the only female professional player in the League, I know it is inevitable to receive relatively more attention, so I want to regard such condition as an opportunity. An opportunity to improve myself from all aspects through efforts ; an opportunity to help more people discover Overwatch, to love e-sports, and to identify its culture.
존버는 승리를 할것이다.: I will try my best to keep going, improve myself. In some day, we are sure to win.

I want to say 존버는 승리를 할것이다 again to my fans. Thank you for working with me, and hang in there! In addition, please support Shanghai Dragons! (Buy League tokens to exchange for Shanghai Dragons gameskins! Nobody has not bought it yet, has he? (LOL) )

What got me hooked on esports originally was the competition. I played games my whole life and always wanted to do good at them, this started as early as super smash brothers on n64, playing against my friends. Once I discovered online gaming this feeling of competition grew and being able to compete against so many people around the world gave me the drive to go through all the hurdles. I have gone through many games, progress raiding in WoW, League of Legends, became semipro in Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. But I was always really interested in working with people too, being organised and helping others be as well and that's why I stopped competing late 2016 to start organising tournaments for the EU region. Back when I was a streamer I already organised a few tournaments for charity in the German community. One of them was a big speed run weekend that brought in over 10k euros for a cancer prevention organisation. Inspired by people I saw at the different games I was following like Sjokz, Joe Miller, Monte from League, Redeye and Soe from DOTA I wanted to go my own path in esports and used this previous organising experience to do so in early 2017 when I ran my first tournament. Being able to do what I love and helping people find their own path in this industry is what keeps me going.

Before I started managing the team formerly known as "Those Guys" not British Hurricane I didn't have much team management experience. I only worked with players from a TO (tournament organiser) or admin perspective. One thing I had to learn pretty quickly was how to take feedback and how to value it when it comes to selecting players. We had a big tryout phase which lasted over a month to find the right people that mingled well together. Some parts of it were really stressful, but in the end I grew from it. Another thing I was really unfamiliar with was how to approach and operate with esports organisations. I build a team deck and sent it around, but finding out where to go was difficult even with the connections I had established through my previous field of work. The most nervous I was when I had my first talk with Dan Fiden, he was looking to pick up an academy team for London Spitfire in EU. I didn't know any formalities and so I just approached it head on and threw my straight forward personality at him, which worked surprisingly well in hindsight. From that time onward it was all about learning inner structures of the org, who to approach for what request.

It was a difficult balancing act early on in my career, making decisions that were best for my team while also caring about the individual players and not wanting to hurt their careers. But then I quickly began learning how it is my job to put the team in the best and most successful position possible, which often involves making difficult personnel decisions. It’s also tricky because I am in a unique position with a team in Overwatch Contenders wherein I’m working with players who have incredible ambition, players who work hard because they want to one day be in Overwatch League. So I also see it as my job to make sure each individual develops as a player and as a teammate. That was probably the hardest aspect of the job early on, learning how each of those responsibilities fit together. But I worked really hard to learn to prioritise and help my players and doing so without losing sight of the common ultimate goal: the success of the team.

I want to thank ChiXiaoTu, Geguri and Noukky for sharing their experience's within esport & Overwatch. They hold important roles within their genre in the scene and hopefully, more women in esport will be recognised. As this isn't as male dominated as it may seem. 

(You can find more Overwatch League and London Spitfire related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts)
(Picture Credit: Blizzard Ent & Noukky)

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