The RUSH Esports event coming up in Pretoria this weekend is much like any other top-tier gaming event in the world: Filled with scintillating battles, inspiring underdog stories, average and overpriced food, and, to be fair, men. Until this year, that is.
We spoke to Rachel “rayChil1za” van Dyk of Bravado Gaming’s CS:GO Academy team, one of three all-female teams who managed to nab themselves a spot in the Vodacom 4U CS:GO Cup to be hosted at RUSH this weekend, about the growing role ladies are playing in the South African esports scene.
But before we dive into rayChil1’s answers, it’s worth noting that, like many other countries, South Africa’s gender split is roughly 50/50 (GLHF: No big surprises there.). However, the three ladies teams at RUSH will only represent 19% of the field – and no female teams attended last year’s event. While this growth is promising and exciting, it still shows up an imbalance in the scale.
Are we trying to say that tournament participants should be decided purely based on demographics? Absolutely not. What we’re trying to find out by talking to rayChil1 is what’s been holding women back from feeling comfortable enough to toss their hats in the ring at this level up until as late as 2018.
“Personally I feel that females did not really receive recognition before the Valkyrie events. Females feel more encouraged to take part in tournaments now that they have competed and know what the experience and level of competition truly is, after Mettlestate giving us the opportunity by removing the first-time confusion and fear and by making it an enjoyable experience.
Mettlestate have successfully created an open space for female gamers to gain confidence, exposure and experience through these tournaments. We now have a community that pays attention to players that previously could have been overlooked in a broad ‘open’ tournament because they were getting lost in the masses.
This is a clear indication of the future and where the local scene for esports is currently heading. The community is growing and awareness is increasing.”
The Valkyrie Challenge, for those who don’t know, is an all-female CS:GO event offering ladies-only teams a platform to showcase their abilities to the local esports scene. The Mettlestate-hosted event gives women the opportunity to compete solely against other women, ensuring that at least two women’s teams learn what it felt like to play in the finals of a high-prestige tournament.
The only issue with that formula is how long it took to come together. The first Valkyrie Challenge was only hosted in late 2017, and up until then our local ladies lacked the springboard they needed to help them grow from an extreme minority playing on the fringes to battling it out in the final of a high-level competition. But the times they are a-changin’, with both White Rabbit Amaryllis and Leetpro FE joining the Bravado Gaming ladies at the Vodacom 4U CS:GO Cup this weekend.
“Having three teams enter speaks multitudes of where the community is heading. Female teams are now more confident and no longer feel intimidated by the whispers and the opinions of people that believe females shouldn’t be gaming.
We are now stepping up to the plate and competing in tournaments we believe everyone deserves a chance to qualify for. This encourages females to show their worth, forget their fears and have fun while enjoying the game that they love.
This promotes growth and encourages more female teams to get involved in future events. It also encourages more female players to try out for teams. I am also hopeful that the more exposure female CS:GO teams get, acceptance will increase and negative opinions will decrease.”
We’ve said it before in previous interviews with other leading esports ladies, and we’ll happily say it again: Female gamers take abuse online. A lot of it. With the rise of female gaming to the mainstream, hopefully that sort of behaviour will fall away as women start feeling less afraid to play computer games.
Now all the ladies need are hordes of fanboys and girls (GLHF: And fanmen and women. And fanchildren.) to follow them around to events, tune into all the tournament streams, and perhaps even arrange meetings at Bayside KFC to defend their favourite female team’s honour.
“I have noticed a few posts on social media speaking about who people are most excited to see in action, and it is very heartwarming to find fans wanting to see us compete on a larger scale against men’s teams. We have our die hard fans and it has been very encouraging to see the numbers growing daily.
Bravado Gaming, our sponsors Alienware and Intel as well as Andreas “cent” Hadjipaschali have given us amazing support and their belief in us builds our confidence daily. We are also all very lucky to have family that supports our gaming and this makes a huge difference. If I could, I’d like to squeeze in a big thank you to all mentioned above for believing in and supporting us.”
Consider it squeezed.
Naturally, when you get big enough to garner public support, you also draw the attention of haters and naysayers (GLHF: We speak from personal experience here because, you know, we’re huge.). If you’re not rubbing at least one person up the wrong way, you haven’t really made any waves. rayChil1 understands this, and is focused on not letting these haters cramp any of her styles.
“I’m of the firm belief that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, be it serious CS:GO players or trolls. In life, you cannot please everybody, there are always going to be a few people that don’t like something about you, whether it’s your playstyle or your hairstyle. I personally prefer to make these people my motivators and turn their negative comments into constructive criticism.
Many people don’t like change and at this point in the community, the growth is exponential and rapid, people just need to keep up. While I won’t say that I am immune to every negative opinion, as long as my teammates believe in me I’m good to go.
As a team we practice just as hard as other teams. We work everyday either as a team or individually to improve our skills. If our team, organisation, our sponsors and fans believe in us, we definitely believe in ourselves.”
With the amount of effort the BvD CS:GO Academy ladies have put into preparing for the big weekend, we’re excited to see how far they can go against the rest of the best teams in the country. Both male and female.
rayChil1 has no plans to back down anytime soon, either.
“My short term goal and goal for RUSH is to be better than I was yesterday, to support my team and to enjoy myself. For RUSH, being the first male and female LAN we’ll be exposed to, I aim to hold the Bravado name high and play to the best of my abilities.
My long term goal is to be considered a top-tier team, not just a top female team. We would like to be known for our talent before our gender.”
That’s a powerful goal. We’re also dreaming of a day when teams don’t feel the need to call their all-female teams names with gender-indicative words (GLHF: Think the classic “Fe”.).
Be sure to tune into the Mettlestate event stream to make sure you don’t miss any of the action on display in Pretoria this weekend.
And remember, boys and girls, no matter what level of competition you reach, at the end of the day, esports is all about enjoying a game we all love to play.
“Something that I believe is key to being successful as a team is the fact that we all still love playing this game and we haven’t forgotten how to have fun while playing.”