[ENG] Being a woman in Overwatch League : an interview with AVALLA
General questions :
Did you already know some French before joining Paris Eternal? If not, how are you learning French this fast ? How many languages do you speak?
No, I didn’t know French before joining Paris Eternal. I learn a language quite fast — I learned Korean when I was fifteen and I also speak some Japanese and Chinese. Currently, I am taking online French courses and using two language apps to learn French. French players have been very nice and answer a lot of my French questions too.
Are there other staff members or players in the team who are learning French?
Other staff and players are busy preparing for the match, so even if they want to, they cannot learn French. I am pretty sure it’s on their to-do-list though.
Do you play other video games than Overwatch (if you have time to) ? Which ones ?
Overwatch was actually the first video game I have ever played. I wasn’t really into gaming that much. These days, I am pretty busy so I don’t have time even to play Overwatch, but I sometimes play Sims 4.
Esports questions :
What was your path before becoming a coach and a manager in OWL ? What made you turn to esport ? Was it a dream of yours ?
I was actually in law school, studying to become a prosecutor. I didn’t ever think I was going to be pursuing a career in esports ever. I changed my career path when I realized I enjoy playing video games more than studying law.
How are you adapting to joining a new team this year ? Are there big differences between Justice and Eternal ?
The biggest difference is that last year there were no EU players on the team and this year, there were a lot of EU players. On our team, because we all come from such a different background, everyone is nice and tries to be understanding. I was very scared to join a new team, but I think I have adapted very comfortably to the team now.
How do you manage the multiple cultures in Paris Eternal and your previous teams ?
I think the concept of a team is bigger than the culture. Because you are in the same team, everyone works hard together and grows together. So being multicultural isn’t really hard.
This year, OWL changes with the homestand and a lot of travel for teams. What is your opinion about it ? How do you manage that for your team and players ?
I think it is really important that OWL is doing homestands because you get to meet a lot of home fans during the homestands. The league wouldn’t be able to sustain without its fans, and its such a unique experience getting to know the home fans. We are extremely cautious to keep our players healthy and in good condition with so much travel though.
How do you feel about Homestands in Paris ?
I actually have never been to Europe at all so having a homestand in Paris is really exciting. I also heard so many stories about passionate fans in France and can’t wait to meet them at the Paris homestand!
Being a woman in esport :
We know you have been confronted with sexism since you started coaching in Contenders. For example when you tried going in OWL and a team told you that “[their] players don’t want female coaches”. How did/do you manage that ?
Because of that, do you think it’s harder to be a woman in esports than a man ?
Previously, I definitely thought it’s harder to be a woman in esports than a man. But nowadays, I think it’s just in general hard to be working in esports. You are under so much spotlight and you have to be cautious in everything you say and do.
Do you have a role model ? Who and why ?
My role model is Seo Gun Chang, a Korean professional baseball player. This guy was kicked off from a professional team but never gave up. He went to the military then and joined a team as an off-the-roster player. Nevertheless, he tried really hard and in the end got MVP in 2014. Every time I feel like I have failed, I look back at him to be reminded you can never give up.
Beyond a role model, does a woman whose work in esports you enjoy come to mind ?
I think Bawlynn from Washington Justice is an inspiration to many. She always get praises from her previous players and she made an amazing transition from marketing to team operations as a general manager. Although I did not have a long interaction with her, I have heard so many stories about her!
What do you think about becoming a role model for young women who want to make a career in esports ? What kind of tips would you give them ?
I am not sure if I could be a good role model for young women who wants to join esports because I think I have made so many mistakes along the way. But in the end, I want to say make decisions you won’t regret when you look back. I remember, before pursuing my career in esports, I had to debate whether I really wanted to give up on law school. Everyone around me tried to stop me, but I knew I would regret it 10 years later. So I made my turn, and I still think it’s one of the best decisions I made.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to Paris Eternal fans ?
Every time I post something on Twitter or Instagram, I get so much nice messages from our Eternal fans. Honestly, I think you guys are one of the most passionate people I have ever met. I will learn French hard so that I could actually talk to some of you during our homestand! That being said, our homestand tickets are still on sale! Hopefully you will have time to join us at the Zenith and see our performance.
For International Women’s Rights Day, we decided to shed a little light on some of the other women present in the Overwatch League. When we think about women in our favorite competition in general, few names come to mind… Some of the hosts, and our only player : Geguri.
At only 20, Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon is one of the favorite personalities in the League, since she made her debut mid season 1 in 2018. Her talent as well as her fun and resolute personality made her a valuable asset for the Shanghai Dragons.
Like many, she went through lots of difficulties during her esports career, but the worst one was definitely a cheating accusation. While she was competing under the EHOME Spear banner for Apex Season 3 Qualifiers in 2017, her adversaries, furious that they lost against a girl, accused her of cheating. In their very tenuous defense, her Zarya was top-notch. Thankfully, her entire team helped her counter this accusation and prove her innocence. Blizzard intervened as well, allowing her to stream in their offices to prove she wasn’t using any hacking systems.
Geguri managed to overcome all this extra stress to join the ROX Orcas roster, then several months later, the Shanghai Dragons. She’s currently still the only woman playing in the Overwatch League. For her, talent and the passion you put into the game prove up to where you can climb, despite detractors.
The other person everyone thinks about when we mention the Overwatch League is definitely Salome “Soe” Gschwind.
The Swiss commentator has been known for a long time on the Blizzard competitive scene. Before Overwatch, you could find her on Starcraft 2 analyst desks. When Overwatch was announced, she joined the game’s analysts, winning the hearts of fans by cosplaying as Tracer, which she does — let’s admit it — capture very well. As talented as the other OWL analysts during the first two seasons, she took up the host role on Watchpoint this year, before games start. She also had to face attacks due to her gender but rose above them to do her job better than ever.
For season 2, she wasn’t the only woman to contribute to the OWL broadcast, since Mica Burton and Emily Tangerine joined her. With a foot already in the Blizzard universe, both were called upon to host interviews between games. Emily also had the responsibility of translating interviews for Chinese players. This year, we might see her once more during Chinese homestands…?
Though they might be the most visible, the other members of the League staff are just as important. We think of all the women in the shadows who work to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch or write the official articles you can find on the OWL website. One notable example would be Liz “Mizliz” Richardson, newcomer to the crew this season and already a frequent contributor. Like most of the women in the esports industry, she often has to face cutting little comments — case in point with this tweet :
It seems to still surprise people that women don’t have to “the girlfriend of” someone in the industry to get to their current positions ! And for the ones in the back, let’s say it one more time : if they’re here, it’s because they amply proved that they deserved it and had the skills to back it up.
Despite not being very present in the league teams themselves, there’s still a few women making a name for themselves. You obviously know Geguri and AVALLA now. But did you know that Washington Justice has a woman in the General Manager position ? Analynn “Bawlynn” Dang used to work for the Los Angeles Gladiators as director of social media and community, before being hired by Washington in August 2019. She has another claim to fame: leading the USA to the title of Overwatch World Cup Champions in 2019. With this success behind her, she takes the reigns of Washington Justice for season 3.
Thanks again to AVALLA for answering all our questions. We encourage all women to be strong in their convictions, and we hope to finally reach equality in rights with men (peace out, haters ❤️). Good luck to all !
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