Madison York
Mercury Staff
POSTED
3 weeks ago

‘Overwatch’ team members carve path for women in competitive gaming field

Lindsay Caudill, a marketing sophomore, has been an avid gamer since the age of six. Now, she serves as an analyst for both the A and B “Overwatch” esports teams.

“I’ve always been doing games, but I was really excited about Overwatch when it came out,” Caudill said.

As the esports team gains momentum, the two female gamers on the team are making their mark. Greg Adler, the coach of both the “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” teams, said that 20 of the 150 respondents to the initial esports interest form were female. Just four of them tried out for the “Overwatch” team, and only three tried out for “League of Legends.” He said the department evaluated players based solely on ability.

“Nationality aside, gender aside, anything aside, it really just comes down to how you play the game, how well you work with your teammates, your communication,” Adler said. “At the end of the day, if a woman can play better than a man, if anything then she’s going to get that spot over him any day of the week.”

Caudill, one of the females who made the team, is currently ranked Diamond in “Overwatch.” Caudill said her position as an analyst includes analyzing game data, developing strategies and coordinating individual and team gameplay.

“A lot of it also can tie into more of like an intellectual, but also emotional kind of comfort for the teammates,” Caudill said. “You actually have to have a lot of game sense, a lot of awareness. Especially in different roles, there’s got to be a lot of surroundings — you need to always be on your toes and be aware of different critical things that are happening during gameplay.”

ATEC junior Melisa Martinez, the other female on the team, competes on the “Overwatch” B team. Martinez plays as a support flex, meaning that her main priorities during gameplay include healing team members and monitoring enemy maneuvers and positions. Like Caudill, Martinez also started gaming at a young age and began playing “Overwatch” the year after it was released. Now, she ranks at the Diamond level and said she enjoys playing on a competitive, officially-organized esports team for the first time.

“The entire team is dedicated in spreading their knowledge,” Martinez said. “We share videos amongst each other, we look at videos of our gameplay… and we’re looking at our mechanics. I don’t think they really see my gender. They specifically want me to get better.”

Caudill and Martinez said they each have experienced varying degrees of abrasiveness from their male gaming counterparts over the years. Caudill also noted that much of the resistance she faced from male gamers was not so much opposition as surprise that a female was playing on their level.

“It’s not like bullying, but they’re like shocked,” Caudill said. “It kind of makes you feel a little bit more awkward about it — you’re like, girls can play video games too.”

Both women agreed, though, that esports at UTD is another story.

“Honestly, it just depends on the community. Because there’s certain people, even in the real world, that are just mean,” Martinez said. “When you’re a part of the team, it feels more inviting. You feel like you’re making a contribution… I think in terms of organization, it’s completely different from what you deal with online in general.”

Female gamers have experienced harassment over the years. The 2014 “Gamergate” controversy, for example, centered on an online harassment campaign directed at female players and developers.

Caudill said she doesn’t know and hasn’t interacted with many girls who self-identify as gamers. She said the reluctance might be because of the psychology of male and female preference — that males may get more exposure to other gaming males, whereas females may not get exposure to other gaming females. Because of this — and because they experience or hear about negativity towards female gamers — women may be deterred from coming out of the woodwork. Esports, Caudill said, presents an opportunity for females to come out of that obscurity and demonstrate their skill, regardless of gender.

“It’s a very different world, but it wasn’t like a bad awkward. It was like a good awkward, because it was like this is actually might be a bigger breakthrough,” Caudill said. “Just if you like games you like games, and you need to be the truest form of yourself and just do it. Because if that’s what you like, that’s you like.”

Martinez said she encourages female gamers to keep practicing and be vocal about reaching out to their gaming peers. Caudill also said to be confident and stay committed to personal passions and interests.

“I’ve had some girls be like, ‘I’m not the best at this, that or the other,’” Caudill said. “That’s where we all are. We all start from somewhere, regardless of your gender — and that’s when you just keep pushing yourself, and you just make a lot more of it. So I’d just say, don’t give up.”