Setting the pace for African female eSports athletes

female eSports athletes
Photo Credit: Ace Pro Gaming via photographer Juma Daniel (JD Photography)

Although eSports has not been in existence for a long period of time, it would not be wrong to suggest that there are more male athletes involved in the industry than females. This assertion is backed by the fact that there are more male eSports athletes than female eSports athletes. An article by Ipesports.com indicates that although 48% of gamers are females, only 5% are into it as professional eSports athletes.

The question then is: will the eSports industry have more females competing actively with their male counterparts? Certainly, yes. At least, if for nothing at all, an African female has been gaining so much attention in the world of eSports, and has succeeded in joining other female eSports athletes such as Sasha Hostyn, Katherine Gunn, Ricki Ortiz, and Marjorie Bartell in providing a glimpse of what females could be doing in the industry in a few years to come.

Born in Kenya as Sylvia Gathoni and a law student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Sylvia has been officially signed by USA based XiT Woundz as a player of the team after some impressive performances in Kenya.  She is known in the eSports industry as Queen Arrow, a name she adopted from watching Arrow- a popular American television series.

In an exclusive interview with JBKlutse’s Papa Kayson, QueenArrow walks us through her journey in the eSports industry so far, her thoughts on some challenges facing the eSports industry in Africa and then suggest some solutions to aid the development of the sports on the continent.

The eSports journey

I started gaming professionally in 2017. I started with a Mortal Kombat XL tournament held during the East African Gaming Convention that year and came in 4th. This really encouraged me to involve myself more in eSports tournaments. So in 2018, I joined the Tekken 254 Circuit and began learning about Tekken and its inner workings. I came in 19th that season and bettered that position in the following season as I came in 17th.  In between these seasons, I was signed by my current team XiT Woundz, which is based in New Jersey.

The eSports motivation and benefit

My motivation has just been doing something that I greatly enjoy. I’ve never really seen eSports as exclusively for men or women, and so I am not really bothered by pursuing an eSports career as a female. The most important thing for me is pursuing something that I love.

Personally, I have used gaming as a way of studying, and I think it is just one of the many benefits that being an eSports athlete brings. I don’t only play competitive games like Tekken. I also play Assassin’s Creed, which has some important historical contents. This has been really helpful because in my field of study, you need to get some historical knowledge to succeed.

Games, eSports competitions, and honours

I play Tekken 7, SoulCalibur VI, Assassin’s Creed, Apex Legends, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Horizon Zero Dawn Uncharted and a little bit of FIFA. So I am into fighting games, adventure and RPGs mostly.  For competitions and honours, I have participated in the EAGC: Mortal Kombat XL which I came in 4th. I also came in 19th in the first season of the Tekken 254 Circuit and 17th in the second season.

Challenges facing the eSports industry in Africa

As a female, I would say that one of the greatest challenges in the industry is the pressure to do really well. There is that expectation of being super good since not many women participate in the sports. Related to that is some sexist attitudes that some guys show towards women in the industry. I don’t think it is very good for the industry, especially if we want the industry to be gender balanced. But I have to say that regardless of the sexist attitude that some people show, the industry has been welcoming and I would encourage any female to pursue a career in eSports.

Another challenge has to do with the fact that the African eSports community is not getting the necessary support it needs from the relevant stakeholders to help improve the sports. There is no doubt that there are people in power who have the capability of investing and supporting the industry. But they are not doing so, probably, because of some wrong perceptions they have about gaming. I just wish that we can all be open-minded and realize how positively eSports can impact this continent.

The way forward for eSports in Africa

If we are to develop eSports in Africa, I strongly believe that relevant stakeholders such as the government and public and private corporations should come on board and support the sports. Again I believe that the government should enact laws that will govern the industry in the right manner and also place tax subsidies on gaming hardware as well as make the education system more flexible to accommodate eSports.

Most importantly, we should reconsider how we raise our kids. I believe that if we raise them to think that eSports is for everyone, then they will not be scared to pursue their dreams if only they have an interest in eSports.

I strongly believe that we need more servers to help grow the eSports industry in Africa. We do not have dedicated servers that serve our needs, and as such, game publishers and developers are reluctant to invest in the industry.

Words of encouragement for upcoming eSports athletes

I would encourage any female who has the passion of becoming a professional gamer to pursue it with all her might. If eSports is your passion, then nothing should hinder you from starting the journey. We have a great community who will help you in the journey as well as people who will be lifelong friends. It won’t be easy but the truth is nothing is easy in life, and it is always up to us make every adventure worthwhile.

A bright future for QueenArrow

Clearly, QueenArrow’s journey has just begun, and with hard work and consistency, she could be on her way to becoming an inspiration and a role model to many female eSports athletes not just in Africa but across the globe.

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