Game to stay: Female gamers share why they are optimistic about women in esports, despite gendered stereotypes

  • Two professional ‘Valorant’ players talk about the issues they’ve faced as women in an industry dominated by men
  • Every week, Talking Points gives you a worksheet to practise your reading comprehension with questions and exercises about the story we’ve written
Doris Wai |

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Eugenia Lee (left) and Joanne Fang are better known as Xerrith and Joannenee, respectively, in the gaming world. Photos: @xerrith, @joannenee

The atmosphere is tense as five special agents carefully navigate every street corner, in anticipation of a sneak attack. Soon enough, a blast sets in.

Eugenia Lee, 24, and Joanne Fang, 23, quickly switch between weapons in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

This is something that the two go through almost every day – not in real life, but in a first-person shooter game that is hugely popular around the world.

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Lee and Fang – known as Xerrith and Joannenee, respectively, in the gaming world – are two of the best professional gamers in Singapore. They specialise in Valorant, a five-player, team-based shooting game.

The two women became professional gamers earlier this year in an industry that is dominated by male players.

“Being a female gamer, I have experienced multiple incidents where I was looked down upon due to my gender,” said Lee, who is in the top one per cent of Valorant players in Southeast Asia and currently holds the rank of “Immortal”, the second highest in Valorant.

Both Lee and Fang are pro-gamers for Valorant, a team-based shooting game. Photo: Shutterstock

She recounted instances of when she was accused of being a “boosted player” – someone who gives their account to a professional player so they can get to a higher rank – just because she is a woman.

“That is offensive, considering the fact that I have achieved a high rank and high K/D [the ratio of kills and deaths a player achieves] through hard work,” she added.

Lee said her competitive spirit played a huge part in why she became a gamer. When she was young, she said, she and her twin brother would constantly try to outdo each other in every way.

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“We were introduced to online games when we were 13, and I started out playing to beat him – which of course, I did,” she recalled.

The more she played, the better she became. She joined the WildSphinx team in June this year to become a professional esports athlete.

For Fang, she got her first taste of gaming last year when a friend who knew she was curious about first-person shooter games encouraged her to try Valorant.

Putting gender equality into perspective

She got hooked on the game and, in June, joined the Wildfire Sphinx team.

While female gamers like Lee and Fang are proving to be formidable forces in the esports world, many still face stigma and have to prove themselves in the male-dominated environment.

Fang agreed that there were gender stereotypes in esports, but stressed that budding female gamers should not be discouraged.

Female gamers face a lot of pushback in the industry, with some men suggesting they did not earn their accomplishments themselves. Photo: Shutterstock

“Do not let others’ words affect your mentality. And follow your heart – gaming is supposed to be fun and enjoyable,” she explained. “I have a huge sense of satisfaction when I see my gameplay has improved … and that is what keeps me driven and motivated.”

Just like Lee, Fang also holds the rank of “Immortal” – a rank she has maintained while also pursuing a degree in business management with communications.

“Being a pro-gamer also means you now need to invest more time in strengthening your tactics, which can be challenging for a full-time student,” Fang said.

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She and her teammates train two to three times a week, holding practice matches with other teams or on their own. Fang’s team is currently ranked sixth in the Female Esports League (FSL), which is open to female gamers in Southeast Asia. This is no mean feat as the team only debuted in competitive esports in September last year.

Lee’s team only took part in their first tournament in June this year, but they have already clinched two top eight finishes in the recent FSL open qualifiers in August.

Reflecting on her team’s successes, Fang said, “Female gamers are on the rise, and the community is growing.”

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Lee agreed, expressing gratitude for groups that have allowed female gamers to turn their passions into a career.

“There are more industries, leagues and competitions specifically for women in recent years,” said Lee. “This is a huge step in attracting more females … whether they are looking to be a pro-gamer or an esports content creator.”

“The future for female gamers definitely looks promising,” Fang stated. “We can also slay the game.”

Click here to download a printable worksheet with questions and exercises about this story. Answers are on the second page of the document.

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