On May 19th, I had the privilege attending the Girls in Gaming Summit presented by Microsoft and the L.A. Valiant. The L.A. Valiant have been hosting community events like this for the last few months. The Girls in Gaming Summit was not only an event that brought together L.A. Valiant fans, but also empowered them to discuss the current state of women in gaming and esports. Here’s a in-depth look at the Girls in Gaming Summit. 

Photo Cred: Ashley Canovas Photography for LA Valiant

Meet & Greet

The event began with the L.A. Valiant making an appearance before their game against the Seoul Dynasty. They spent time meeting with guests and taking photos. I unfortunately did not have the time to talk personally with them, but I was curious what they thought in regards to women in esports, particularly their own league. I did have time to grab a quick photo. 

Before the panels begun, guests were provided drinks and activities in the reception area. Here, they were encouraged to fill out a “get to know you” bingo for prizes. Guests had to find individuals who matched the prompted signature boxes: someone who worked in the gaming industry, someone who wrote about esports, etc. I had the chance to talk with many women about video games, gaming careers, how I got into gaming journalism, etc. The energy in the room was joyfully engaging. It was a brilliant way for so many women to network with one another. For turning in your completed pamphlet, you received a plethora of prizes ranging from pins to L.A. Valiant shirts. Within the blink of an eye, the reception was over. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Photo Cred: Ashley Canovas Photography for LA Valiant

Through Female Eyes: A Conversation with Esports Professionals

The first panel was “Through Female Eyes: A Conversation with Esports Professionals”. The panelists featured were Ann Hand (CEO, Super League Gaming), Courtney Williams (Video Game Remix Artist and Content Creator), Sabrina Wong (Community Outreach Coordinator for the Immortals & LA Valiant), Nicki Quinn (Esports Project Manager at Blizzard Entertainment), 
Emmalee Garrido (Captain of Team Dignitas CS:GO Female) and was hosted by Mandie Roman (Producer and Host of Game Talk Live).

The topics discussed ranged from how each woman found themselves involved in esports, to what can be done about getting more women into esports. The idea of female-only leagues came up during the panel, and it was an interesting point of conversation between all the panelists. “There are pros and cons to both sides,” remarked Nicki Quinn. Female-only leagues are great places for women to grow and gain esport confidence. However, gender specific leagues can make it harder for long-term goal of inclusivity in esports. There was a lot of positivity and encouragement from the panelists with regards to being a woman and pursuing esports. Courtney Williams stated, “For female pros, you have to work twice as hard to make your dreams a reality.” Ann Hand echoed that sentiment, “Don’t ever not bring your whole self to your work.” Gaming is becoming something that is normalized. It is no longer a niche audience. And with esports becoming more and more visible in the United States, hopefully we’ll see more schools and cities developing their own inclusive leagues. The more women showcased and active in esports, the more girls will see that they can become esports professionals as well. 

Championing Change: From Industry Behemoths to First Time Streamers

The next panel was “Championing Change: From Industry Behemoths to First Time Streamers”.  Jessica Villarreal (Co-Founder & Developer of VoyagerVR), Chelsea Delbridge (Director of Social Media & Audience Development at Machinima), Nicole Blalock (Associate Esports Manager for Hearthstone),  Michele Morrow (Actor & Host, Co-Creator of Good Game, Founder of Under Pressure Productions) and Catarina Macedo (Program Manager at Xbox) all spoke about their experience and careers in the gaming industry, not just esports.

It was wonderful to see so many women in so many areas of the gaming industry. “Gaming is now a status symbol…it used to be niche. Gaming is the new pop culture,” Jessica Villarreal stated, regarding being a female in the industry in 2018. But while there was positive hubbub about the large presence of women in the gaming industry, a lot of these women had similar stories regarding hardships they’ve faced in their respective occupations. “There will be people who don’t want you to succeed,” Chelsea Delbridge remarked. Nicole Blalock spoke honestly about having a job in the gaming industry, “What you love isn’t always going to love you back.” I personally admire these women’s honesty; they’re not sugar coating the industry. Even though there are more women in the video games industry, many of them face adversity in their fields, but each of these women continued to do what they loved, despite the hardships they faced. It was inspirational to hear from them, and personally made me more motivated to continue my career in the video games industry. 

Photo Cred: Ashley Canovas Photography for LA Valiant

Overwatch Viewing & Unfinished Business

The event continued with a group viewing of the L.A Valiant vs. Seoul Dynasty match. After a day of empowering panels and conversations, it was fun to relax with all the women and cheer on the L.A Valiant. As I watched the game, I looked forward to the day that I would see more professional esports women on the Blizzard Arena stage. 

Then came the final panel, “Unfinished Business – Next Steps and Action Items For A Healthy Industry.” The speakers featured were Morgan Romine (Director of Initiatives at AnyKey), Christine Tomlinson (Ph.D. and Lecturer at University of California Irvine), Noah Whinston (CEO of Immortals & LA Valiant), Alice White (Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Blizzard) and Nicole Fawcette  (Sr. Brand Manager, Gears of War & Co-Lead, Women in Gaming at Xbox).

This was an important and inspiring panel to have. We can sit around and talk about the lack of women in esports all day, but no progress will be made until we start doing something about it. In the beginning of it’s formation, I remember the Overwatch League being criticized due to it’s lack of female players. Thus it was important to see Noah Whinston and Alice White speak at this panel. Being persons directly involved with the Overwatch League, it was good to know that they personally are working towards making the League a diverse and positive place. 

RELATED: Shanghai Dragons Sign First Female Pro Gamer in the Overwatch League

Overall

This was an entertaining and promising event. I had a wonderful time speaking with so many incredible women throughout the day. From the speakers to the attendees themselves, it was wonderful talking to women about their passions, their hopes, and dreams in the industry. It was a day that made me feel so proud to not only be a female gamer, but a member of the gaming media 

Altogether, I hope that Microsoft and the L.A Valiant continue to create more events like this one. Events that are not only fun, but spark important conversations within the gaming community. The momentum around female gamers has been growing for the past 10 years. Additionally, it is not only our job to encourage more women to pursue gaming, but to also celebrate those that are already making achievements! So cheers to all the women in gaming, and here’s to all of the future girl gamers!

Photo Cred: Ashley Canovas Photography for LA Valiant

If you live in Los Angeles, and are interested in attending future L.A Valiant events, you can visit their Eventbrite Page for details regarding upcoming events!

 

Emily Rose Jacobson
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