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Women in gaming: The female gamers who are paving the way in a field dominated by men

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From top left to bottom right: Jenny Nguyen, president of the UA Gaming Club (photo courtesy of Hasenstab Brothers), Shanna Register, varsity Valorant player for UA Esports (photo courtesy of Register), Braelyn Smith, UA alumna (photo courtesy of Smith), Cayla Belcher, Varsity Overwatch & Rainbow Six Siege player for UA Esports (photo courtesy of Belcher).

The video game industry is filled with hundreds of millions of players worldwide, yet there is still a lack of female representation within gaming communities.

A once male-dominated field, video game centers and groups have shifted in recent years, extending acceptance to women who are equally as interested and qualified as their male counterparts. 

Here at the University of Arizona, the Esports program is home to hundreds of women gamers. According to its website, UA Esports offers gamers varsity-level video game competitions and career advancement.   

Jenny Nguyen, a senior studying information science & eSociety, is the president of the UA Gaming Club and spoke about the importance of women's representation in gaming communities.

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“I feel that it’s very important to have women representation within the gaming community. When I first joined the club back in 2017, I can recall counting only two to three other women involved with the club. Now there is a significant amount of women actively participating in our club events, applying for leadership positions and chatting in our discord,” Nguyen said via email. 

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According to NPR, for years, the gaming industry has been highly geared towards male audiences. From storylines and character development, right down to gamer safety that many male players take for granted, the video game industry has long been a space made for men. 

For female gamers, this can feel isolating, according to Natalie Benton, a UA pharmaceutical science freshman and varsity Rocket League gamer for UA Esports.  

“There’s kind of this expectation that I have to do well. I wouldn’t actually get on voice chat or make it known that I was a woman in online spaces because the vibe would change completely. I would hop in a voice chat and I would tell my team ‘Hey, we’re starting', and it goes from ‘oh you’re cool’ to ‘we’re going to lose the game,’” Benton said.  

Madeline DeLeon, a UA freshman, is a varsity Super Smash Bros gamer for UA Esports and noted similar experiences to Benton. DeLeon explained that males often expect poor performance from female gamers, something she has fought hard to combat. 

“Being a girl in the gaming community is more anxiety and rage-inducing than it should be. People automatically expect you to be bad at the game, or to only be there because of the guys or something stupid like that,” DeLeon said. 

Spaces like Twitch and YouTube have made efforts in the past few years to become more gender-inclusive, according to British Esports. Braelyn Smith, a 2016 UA College of Fine Arts alumna, is a Twitch streamer who runs a women’s coworking space in Arizona.  

“I have had a small amount of trolls and harassment being a woman on Twitch, but honestly I have had a really nice time overall. The negative messages I do get I often don't see because they are deleted by my mods before I have a chance to read them. I used my social media following to grow my Twitch, and my social media pages are around 85% women following or more, so my Twitch community is heavily female as well. This has been nice because it’s created a really safe space for women and nonbinary folks,” Smith said.

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According to Diamond Lobby, female involvement in video games has been heightened in recent years, especially in the sector of voice acting. Valorant, a widely known video game, recently introduced their newest character, Neon. Neon is voiced by Vanille Velasquez, a Filipino voiceover actress, who has been able to bring her own personality to life in the video game. 

“Other than recording the lines and occasionally adding some of my own or tweaking some, I’m very grateful for even just that little contribution that I do because that doesn’t happen all that often. They gave me some form of creative freedom, and I’m very thankful for that,” Velasquez said in a Zoom conference.   

The impact of Valorant’s first female Filipino character has been both recognized and appreciated here on campus, with members of UA Esports noting the new wave of diversity for the gaming industry.   

Shanna Register, a senior studying information science and eSociety and games and behavior, is a gamer for the varsity Valorant team at UA Esports. Register spoke about how Neon’s character and Velasquez's role have impacted the gaming community. 

“It was just so awesome seeing this entire community of people hyping up this Filipino girl. I know people from the Philippines, and they really liked it as well. It was really cool seeing that diversity,” Register said. “It’s interesting to see how impactful it was seeing these people really appreciate her like that.” 

According to CNBC, the rise of the Nintendo Switch consoles since 2020 helped bring attention to the gaming community. Video games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley became a way for people to relax from their stressful day-to-day lives and helped improve mental well-being for many players.  


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Emma Teece, left, and friend Cielo Bejarano, right, pose outside of UA Esports Arena. 

 

Emma Teece, a UA environmental science senior, plays on the varsity CSGO team for UA Esports. According to Teece, gaming has helped improve her overall happiness as well as brought her closer to people with similar interests. 

DeLeon had similar remarks to Teece and noted the importance of UA Esports' acceptance of women gamers, expressing how some players never experience this.    

“Girls can play videos games, it's not that complicated. When you buy a game, there's no fine print written on the case that says boys only. I think the reason for the lack of gender diversity is not due to a lack of girls who play games, but rather a lack of an accepting and encouraging community that understands that games are for everyone,” DeLeon said.


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