Play like a girl

Written by Raquel Dias

Macau’s Grow uP eSports Association is breaking down boundaries with the establishment of Macau and Hong Kong’s first all-female eSports team.

Little did parents of the ‘90s know that the games their children were playing in the bedroom would soon become a professional affair. The world of eSports has grown into an industry expected to generate US$700 million by the end of 2017 and US$1.5 billion by 2020.

Asia, led by nations like South Korea, has been at the heart of the eSports phenomenon and while Macau and Hong Kong have some ground to cover to reach these lofty heights, it’s no great surprise to see a number of young locals starting to make their mark on the world stage. Among them is one particularly sassy bunch – the first ever all female Hong Kong/Macau eSports team, backed by Grow uP eSports.

Young and pretty with the youngest being 17 and the oldest 22, they have already gained a big social media following as they carve out their path to success.

But Cherry Lui, the team’s captain, tells WGM it is not all fun and games.

“We all play a lot,” she says. “We spend at least 10 hours, sometimes 12, playing every day, six days a week. There are also a lot of promotional events and championships to consider.”

It has been estimated that around 385 million people will watch eSports in 2017 with the global audience growing to 590 million by 2020. The increasing availability of online streaming media platforms, particularly, has become central to the growth and promotion of eSports competitions. Demographically, professional eSports organization Major League Gaming has reported viewership skewed 85% towards male fans and just 15% female, with a majority of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.

For Grow uP eSports’ all-girl team – who specialize in the classic game League of Legends – such numbers are not important.

“We are as good as the men, but they keep underestimating us, which can be good because it gives us more motivation,” Cherry says with a smile.

The girls – Cherry, Bella, Kiki, Rainie, Birdy and Pudding – met long before they became a team.

“I had met them before as opponents, so I knew their skills,” Cherry explains. “It was nice to get to know them better.”

Female personalities have a growing presence in the industry. South Korea, which has licensed pro gamers since 2000, already has several established eSports organizations with women and girls competing. But recognition across much of Asia has been slower, with the exception perhaps of China. Europe and North America are the sport’s other strongholds and the home of many of the world’s major competitions.

As a result, one of the problems facing players in Macau and Hong Kong has been deciding where to play.

“Before we became professional it was quite hard to find a location to practice,” Cherry says. “But thanks to our managers we now have a great location where we can spend hours and hours dedicated to our craft.”

The good news is that opportunities to compete are increasing, starting with the very first Girl Gamer eSports Festival 2017 at Macau’s Studio City from 31 August to 3 September. “We are proud to be contributing to the growth of women’s participation and inclusion in eSports,” said Grow uP eSports Association Chairman Fernando Pereira.

“We’re looking forward to achieving great results with this young team of players dedicated to achieving maximum success.”