New all-female professional team of players inspires others from their Eagan headquarters
She moved to Eagan last month to train alongside her teammates.
Kiara “Milkyway” Blue Kukilakilaokalani Makua, 25, who has competed professionally since 2016, has moved from Hawaii. Natalia “Natty” Jackson, 27, joined the team after graduating from the University of Maryland earlier this year. Rachel Lynn “Rush” Hang is a 25 year old from Detroit. 23-year-old Naomi Sauvola joined Version X after facing another team for several months, CLG Red.
Version 1 provides team accommodation, a training room and other amenities at the Vikings Innovation Center. They train together six to seven hours a day.
“Playing with five girls is really cool because we get along really well, which is important,” said Makua, who is the team leader in the game. the feeling that the chemistry is there. “
These women compete in the VALORANT game.
“We worked so hard for this,” said Makua, who described crying when she found out she would sign with version 1. “We’re kind of paving the way for all the other women’s teams that might be. selected in the future. “
They are joining a growing number of women’s esports teams. In early 2021, VALORANT developer Riot Games launched an all-female league called VCT Game Changers. Thirty-two teams participated in a Game Changers tournament this fall.
“We’ve always intended to play in the women’s and gaming space, the question is how,” said Jake Trobaugh, director of esports strategy for Version 1.
He said the league is the reason their organization formed a team. Trobaugh described the women in the game as “an underserved community”.
“Riot, the game developer who created VALORANT did a really good job of recognizing that, I would say,” Trobaugh said. “The opportunities they’ve given these women are so drastic that you see girls giving up on other games because they want to play VALORANT.”
In a video announcing the league, VALORANT executive producer Anna Donlon said, “If we are to build a thriving competitive scene for VALORANT, which we are doing, we need to cultivate communities where players can compete together in completely safe. “
In the announcement, Riot Games tied other plans to address the issues, including in-game harassment. It’s an issue that players have reported across the industry.
“It’s important to know that these girls really fought a ridiculous amount of adversity,” Trobaugh said. “I want to pretend it’s unique to our team, but I think it goes for any girl playing at a professional level right now. It’s really hard to deal with all the setbacks that come with trying to. be a professional player, whether it’s in a public game and experiencing tremendous amounts of toxicity or struggling with a social norm that says it’s irregular for you to spend x time practicing and perfecting your art. “
The Game Changers league is helping encourage more women to play, according to Makua.
“I would like to share that if other women’s teams have a good work ethic and put a lot of work into it, they might also have this opportunity,” said Makua. “Keep going and work hard even if it sometimes seems very difficult and complicated to go on and keep trying. […] If playing video games is one of their passions, then I would like them to continue to strive to do so so that they can have a successful future in esports. “
While they recognize that they are role models for others who join the sport, these team members also inspire each other.
“Milky has a lot of experience,” Lee said. “Watching her play I take a lot of notes of her because she’s smart, she’s like a defined player and I’m just a new player who just takes stuff and it’s really fun watching her.”
Makua replied: “Karra, you are selling yourself too short. Karra is an amazing player. […] She will be one of the greatest players of all time. “
Trobaugh acknowledges that the compensation for female players still lags behind men.
“Salaries are rising in women’s esports at the same rate they increased in men’s esports years and years ago when these titles first started,” he said. “I think you see similar salary growth trajectories in terms of percentage increase year over year. I think it will take a few years for that compound increase to catch up and I think it depends. of the lifespan of these leagues. “
A recent Game Changers tournament had a prize pool of $ 50,000, which is the same as the prize pool offered for its other events.
Analysis of the gender pay gap in gambling varies, but an essay published in the Marquette Sports Law Review reports that the average lifetime earnings of the top 100 male participants were 84 times that of female participants.
Data collected by Currys PC World and Intel shows that in 2020 the top esports player made $ 358,000 in total earnings compared to the top male player who won $ 6.9 million. Other sites show similar disparities.
“It’s on a case-by-case basis, it’s league by league,” Trobaugh said. “There are professional players who earn more than some men.”