The girls who play the gamers' game

The girls who play the gamers' game

The world of gamers is as yet a male dominated arena, and there was a stark contrast between male and female participants at the Hong Kong E-Sports Tournament. The reasons why women are not as well represented in the gaming community varies, but some are saying it's their time to shine

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Ma Wing-shan (left) and Lee Ka-man stand out among a crowd of male gamers.
Ma Wing-shan (left) and Lee Ka-man stand out among a crowd of male gamers.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

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Chan Hiu-lam aspires to be a pro-gamer.
Chan Hiu-lam aspires to be a pro-gamer.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

Lights dimmed, screens lit up and gamers flexed their finger muscles for the grand finals of the second Hong Kong E-Sports Tournament, a two-day event held at the Kowloon Bay International Trade Exhibition Centre last weekend. There are around 2,200 game enthusiasts at the event, but as you wander among the cheering crowds watching the Hong Kong and Singapore teams wipe each other out on the League of Legends battlefield, one question quickly becomes apparent: why are there so few girls?

Granted, there were more female participants in the cosplay competition than males, but girls were clearly outnumbered on the spectator seats, and not a single female player competed.

A Wall Street Journal article on August 20 said female gamers made up about 48% of the game-playing public in the U.S. this year, but gamer girls are only starting to emerge in Hong Kong now. 

Gaming has generally been considered a guy thing, because most games are a test of reaction speed, strategy-making and guts, and are often too violent for the tastes of females. This has been changing, however. 

Games such as League of Legends have found themselves popular among the female market. Sunny Ip, former team manager of Hong Kong’s e-sports team, says this is because the characters are cutely designed and the game itself is also relatively easy to master. “Most girls also like partnering with their male friends to play it,” says Ip. 

Still, there are girls who cherish the challenge. Ida Jorgensen, a 29-year-old Danish research associate, is a Starcraft fan. She loves that the game is very tactical and requires careful planning.

Tammy Kan Tsz-ling, 17, who attends St. Antonius Girls’ College, says people are shocked to find out that she’s a gamer. “They say I’m poisonous (Cantonese slang for people who have no social life), but I think it’s my hobby,” says Tammy.

Tammy only started playing League of Legends at the beginning of this year. She was quickly attracted by the game and spends a lot of time watching international tournaments. “I like that it requires a lot of strategy and teamwork,” says Tammy. “And when you win, you get a huge sense of achievement.” 

Tammy thinks girls are slightly disadvantaged when competing because boys generally have a faster reaction time. “Girls also get nervous more easily. Sometimes I get really tense when I play,” she says. 

Lee Ka-man, 23, adds that girls usually have less technical knowledge than boys, so they don’t have the best gaming equipment. 

“I don’t think female gamers are worse than males,” objects Ma Wing-shan, 23. “I’m better than a lot of guys.”

Girls are also more attentive players, adds Ip. For example, they would take the trouble to check their mouse settings to ensure it is the same as the ones they use at home. 

Chan Hiu-lam, 18, aspires to be a pro gamer. “It’s cool to be a pro-gamer, and even cooler because you’re a girl,” she says.

Check out the photo gallery of the Hong Kong E-Sports Tournament for further insights here.

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