The five-member, all-girl gaming team PandaCute is quickly breaking into a heavily male-dominated eSports scene. Behind the frilly mini-skirts and “kawaii” hair bands are a group of true gamers who have proven themselves to be a serious force to be reckoned with.
In June, the squad took part in the all-girl League of Legends tournament at the HKXP eSports event, which saw four teams based in Hong Kong and Macau compete. PandaCute dominated the competition, winning not only cash and prizes worth a total of HK$10,000, but also fans, sceptics, and doubters.
Already the No 1 female team in Hong Kong, PandaCute is looking to step up to the next level on the mainland. “We want to challenge the Chinese competition and hope to compete in tournaments within that region,” team captain “Deer” Chan Ka-ching explains. “The female LoL teams in China are comparatively stronger and more skilful.”
League of Legends is the most popular video game in the world. Even with 100 million players per month, PandaCute says that finding a team of girls to practise with can be challenging. “There aren’t many female gamers, and finding ones who are good at the game is even more difficult,” says Chan.
With all the team members 19 or 20 years old, the girls are being judged not only by their gaming ability, but also by their looks and age. This does not faze them however, and they train and prepare the same way any other team would.
PandaCute’s coach, “Kane” Li Chi-hung, explains: “We play for 10 hours a day, starting at 10am until 8pm. In the morning, the players will practise in solo queue and at last hitting, then after lunch, we try to scrimmage with high-level Chinese teams.”
Li played for multiple teams in the League of Legends Pro League, the most competitive professional scene in China, and has only recently moved onto coaching.
He highlighted a difference between male and female gamers. “Coaching girls can be more difficult, because they fight a lot. Males are more direct; they will talk to each other, discuss problems and express their discontent right after the games. Female players hold it in more often.”
Team Jungler, “MoMo” Mo Tsz-ching, agrees. Mo says they had communication problems at the beginning. “During moments when we had different opinions, instead of speaking out, we would use the silent treatment.”
But most of the difficulties were soon ironed out after they flew to Taiwan to train with J Team, a top-tier Taiwanese team formerly known as the Taipei Assassins and currently competing in the League of Legends Master Series. “It was the first time we actually lived together. As five girls who didn’t know each other very well, it was quite a scary and uneasy situation,” Mo says.
The training camp wasn’t so much about improving their gaming skills; rather, it was more about giving them a chance to bond as a team. “You won’t suddenly see huge improvements in skill, but living together for a month improved our relationship a lot, and helped us understand each other’s personalities more,” Mo says.
For mid-laner “Dream” Shek Hoi-yee, her love of video games began with the likes of Kirby, while for support player “Rispy” Lau Lai-gong, it was Pet Society that did it. Mo loved Zelda as a kid, while ADC “Godlai” Lily Yim Nga-lai played Snake. Chan picked the classic Mario.
Now, PandaCute have become a truly dominant League of Legends team. Their dedication and perseverance should be an inspiration for all gamers out there – male or female.
Exclusive video of YP Cadet Malcolm McNicol taking on "Dream" one on one in the mid-lane!