Why I went into the HLTV off-topic forums

One of the first things you are told when you start hosting or playing in Counter-Strike tournaments is to avoid the HLTV Off-Topic Forums at all costs.

HLTV.org is an indispensable resource, with match pages for every tier 1 and 2 tournament, and great editorial content such as interviews and news articles. None of the broadcasters I work with could do their jobs as well without it.

But when you visit HLTV on a device larger than mobile, you also get treated to the website’s very own “sidebar of shame”, a column that pulls in the latest popular forum posts – many of which are pulled in from the Off-Topic subsection of the forum.

When I work CS:GO events, I’m often amused by the bizarre titles some of the forum posts have, and horrified by posts that appear about myself and my colleagues. Players don’t escape the scrutiny of users either.

But sometimes posts appear that – genuinely or otherwise – request help from the HLTV hive mind. While many of the posts can be downright toxic, most likely due to young users vying for attention – some of them are endearing in their questions, and occasional confessions. Like Reddit, HLTV provides a space where a community has formed. And I decided to reach out to it via YouTube…

What I discovered were that many posts were simply about how to talk to girls. I’ve been female for 30 years, so I figured I might have a little bit of insight to share. I’ve also been made redundant twice in my career and had my fair share of heartbreak. And also, like the users of the forum, I love CS:GO (even if I’m terrible at playing it).

Travelling around the world going from event to event can be a surprisingly lonely experience, and so I totally understand that need to find a space where one can reach out to find others on their wavelength. That’s why I’ve come to realise that not every post in the HLTV forums comes from a bad place. I hope I’ve treated the post writers with enough respect, and I’m aiming to give actual advice. There are some worrying views on the forum, and perhaps I’ll tackle those more controversial subjects in future episodes.

I’m also hoping to find some other guests from the Counter-Strike scene to come and guest on the series, and I’ll do little tweaks such as screen grabs of the original posts. I also need to wear an crease-free t-shirt and sort my hair out prior to recording the next episode…

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How crying at Glastonbury cured me

Last week I stuffed some stuff in a Twitch holdall, slung some wellies in a car boot and made my way down to Glastonbury Festival.

The last time I visited the world’s largest music festival, it was 2010. I was 21 and about to move to Newcastle to do my first full-time job as a radio producer and presenter.

KThat year it was unbearably hot and I didn’t really get how to “do” Glastonbury yet. I packed my least fabulous clothes, didn’t stay out late and actually slept. Although I went with friends and had a reasonable time, it’s safe to say I was a little lost, despite my excitement as we initially approached the massive site.

Roll forward to 2019 and things were the opposite. Stressed and – dare I say it – a tad burnt out from everything I’ve been up to this year (I hadn’t quite recovered from the depressive dip I slipped into during my few days off in Dallas earlier in June), I was very apprehensive about whether I would enjoy things. Having time off and a pretty open calendar after July was playing on my mind.

Luckily, I had bar work and the group cameraderie of my boyfriend and our friends, who were decked out in a variety of different medieval costumes, to distract my dizzy brain. We set to work in the Avalon Inn on Wednesday, the bar newcomers such as myself trying to remember how to do basic mental maths as we served our first customers.

Thursday was tough – with no acts and a shift from 10pm – 3am, the unusual environment led to inner self-loathing and restlessness. My hayfever went crazy – I took three tablets but the itching and sneezing was relentless. I queued for the pharmacy to discover they didn’t take cards, and I’d already run out of cash. The pharmacist kindly put an order of the last nasal spray on site and a bottle of eyedrops to one side. I waited in the queue hoping my boyfriend could bring me some, letting more and more people go in front of me as it dawned on me I could be late for my shift. (Being late for work is somewhat of a phobia for me.) After ten minutes, a girl in the queue behind me noticed my distress and to my surprise offered to buy the eye drops for me as she could see how worried I was. “I hope someone would do the same thing for me,” she said kindly.

I can’t just put the turnaround of the event down to this person, but it was absolutely a factor. Glastonbury, with its focus on charity, the environment and celebrating life, can absolutely bring out the best in people. Perhaps I had judged it on the people who camp out all day at the Pyramid stage with large chairs or legs spread on the ground, tripping up people trying to find their friends in the anxiety-inducing crowd, but when I explored it more this year I discovered that, away from the larger attractions, there’s the magic of human spirit and kindness to be found.

On Friday, I managed to take in Grace Petrie‘s set on the Acoustic Stage before I headed to my late afternoon bar shift. Grace is following in the footsteps of fellow protest folk singer Billy Bragg, calling politicians to rights with her powerful voice and emotional lyrics, matter-of-factly pointing out that people are dying in our oceans trying to find peace or beg for enough to eat at food banks, while individuals born into priviledge sleep soundly at night in palaces.

The last time I saw Petrie was at Latitude in 2015 (she was kind enough to give me and my then-boyfriend a lift to the station post event), and since then she’s been finding a loyal following with her humourous appearances on the Guilty Feminist podcast and has released a stellar album, Queer As Folk. I pretty much cried during her entire set, and was absolutely relieved when my friend Igraine turned to me after set highlight Black Tie to say “oh, I’m glad you’re crying too!”.

As well the music giving me the feels, I’m particularly susceptible artists’ reactions as they witness the crowds who have turned out for them. Petrie, of course, was one of them – seeing the results of her hard work and steely determinedness to call our lawmakers and bigots to account paying off. Imagining how they could take her to even bigger stages in future makes me well up thinking about it, as does the utterly empowering beacon of fabulousness that is Lizzo – who occasionally paused her superstar, breathless Saturday set to laugh in disbelief at once of the largest audiences West Holts has most likely ever seen.

Put both of these women on the Pyramid Stage next time, Glastonbury – you won’t regret it.

Full disclosure; Lizzo was so utterly phenomenal that I quickly moved on from the fact that I’d got someone else’s… deposit(!) on my hand using a dreaded long drop loo prior to her set. (No one told me off when I skipped the sink queue to wash my hands, fully freaked out – thanks guys.)

Post-shift I’d expected to be too knackered to go out, but I knew I needed to make amends for my 21-year-old self. So off I went, in an Austrian dirndl dress (yeah I know, kind of cheating the medieval bar theme) to dance around Arcadia.

The very large resident of the Arcadia field at Glastonbury

For those not familar with Arcadia, it’s a dance music destination (ie, a field) which used to be home to an “anatomically-incorrect” spider. This year, the aracnid had been replaced by a new longterm resident; a massive crane that used to be put to work at Bristol Docks, but now puffs out the ocasional smoke ring and snows little blobs of foam, as a DJ performs within its open belly.

Saturday presented a Sophie’s Choice of headline acts – did we go for Hot Chip or Chemical Brothers? The latter, headlining the Other Stage for the fifth time, won out. Squeezing into the crowd, past a woman who had seemingly brought her weekly big shop into the thick of the throng and couldn’t comprehend why this might be a bad idea, we positioned ourselves far enough away to avoid the neck ache of looking up at the stage’s massive LED screens, but without much view of where the performers would be. Not that we realised at the time how solid a play this was.

Suddenly the screens burned brightly into life and Tom and Ed – the Chemical Brothers kicked things off with Go. And there began the best live show I have ever seen, ending with me rendered unable to speak like Bishop Brennan after he’d be kicked up the arse.

(If You’re UK-based, watch it on iPlayer before it’s gone, I beg of you.)

Still in awe, a few of my friends and I stumbled across towards Shangri-La with a cup of white wine and discovered the camp-as-Christmas Sensations stage, compered in that moment by Miss Frisky, known to many as the big voice of comedy cabaret double act Frisky and Mannish. Between belting pop mash-ups, Frisky invited different acts onstage, who did an inifinite number of jawdropping things with their bodies, from rolling around and freewheeling in a giant hoop, to setting nipple pasties on fire and whipping flames across the stage, and all while we danced along in appreciation.

Sunday brought on the waterworks again as I finally got to witness Self Esteem playing live tracks from her brilliant, horrendously underrated album Compliments Please. It’s an enigmatic album full of alternative pop bangers like The Best and (Girl) Crush, with lines such as “what I might have achieved, if I wasn’t trying to please you” that strike directly to the core of many Millienial women like me. (In my work as an esports host and reporter, I’m essentially trying to please a male dominated audience as I talk about video games, so I’m tempted to get the lyric “remember you don’t owe them anything” tattooed somewhere I can see it before I go live…)

Rebecca Taylor, who initially found success as one half of indie duo Slow Club, has soundtracked my life for the past ten years. Back in 2009, Slow Club’s debut LP featured a secret track called Boys On Their Birthdays, which ended with Taylor confessing that she’d “always wanted to be a rapper”, and although this record doesn’t feature rapping, it’s accompanied in person with fiercely powerful dance routines performed by Taylor and her backing vocalists that give the sense that she’s finally making her destiny happen. There’s a confidence from the artist that doesn’t just control the room, but compells it to go forth and conquer.

image1
Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, in action

(Also, fuck yes to that outfit.)

Knowing the BBC would be covering the larger stages, I felt safe in forgoing the crowds of Kylie and Miley Cyrus to watch This is the Kit perform on the West Holts and soothe souls, before my final bar shift.

Being a Sunday night, the Avalon Inn’s bar nearly ran dry, so we decided to entertain the punters in a new way;I got to live my dream of performing at Glastonbury, via the medium of a Spotify playlist and a little crowd of have-a-go perfomers who each took their turn on the stage. Hopefully we can make it a proper thing in 2020…

Usually I’m happy to head home after sweating in a field for a week, but this time I felt a tinge of melancholy as our car crawled its way out of Somerset and back to London; I didn’t want the magic to end. I’m someone who used to go to four or so live gigs a week (sometimes playing my own) during my short stint at Amazing Radio, and rarely get to gigs anymore, and Glastonbury had reminded me never to take it for granted again.

But on sorrow’s flipside, I was happy to be taking a new found optimism back to the capital with me. Glastonbury might have a destination called the Healing Fields, but it’s possible to find restoration in any one of its varied pastures.

Did you head to Glastonbury, or watch the BBC’s coverage? Let me know who your favourite acts were – I’d love to hear your memories too!

Streaming CS:GO & answering Twitch Chat’s FAQs

I’m in the middle of some rare time off. It turns out this doesn’t come naturally to me, although this time round I’ve relished the opportunity to stop treating Spider-Man on PS4 as a to-do list (get the rucksacks! Beat up the criminals in their hideouts! Catch pigeons etc…) and actually have the time to enjoy and finish the surprisingly emotional storyline.

I know I need to reset – the issue is that I feel horribly guilty if I don’t have Twitch open with ESL Pro League [EPL] on watching every moment like my life depends on it, but I need to get trains and see family I’ve barely seen in the past year or so, go out with friends before they think I’ve abandoned them (or disappeared entirely) and play some games for myself offline.

However, I’m also trying to get in at least one game a day of League of Legends to learn more about the game, and streaming CS:GO whenever I can. And when I stream it on my Twitch Channel, I’ve noticed the same comments and questions frequently popping up. So, while I watch a rerun of Luminosity v MIBR playing in Montpellier from the comfort of my sofa, I thought I’d answer a few…

“Why are you streaming and not watching EPL right now?”

I’m now trying to find a balance when I have time at home, adding streaming into the mix so I can start playing CS:GO for myself and learn the callouts I’m less familiar with, feel the effects of patch changes and enjoy the feeling of getting better – I have approximately 23-24 hours in the game; I have quite possibly watched around 400 hours this year at eight events spanning five continents – some days I could be watching for up to 14 hours if it ends up being a 16 hour broadcast day, so those hours do add up.

We’re very lucky in CS:GO to have HLTV. I can look at at least any tier 1 or 2 match and see the story of that series in numbers form, plus highlight clips. Essentially, it means I can retell the story for myself if I can’t watch every tournament. It’s a bit like when I’m covering A stream matches as an interviewer, and can’t watch the B stream as closely – I’ll recap those results at the end of the day and add them to my notes.

Also, fantastic podcasts such as Richard Lewis’s By the Numbers and HLTV Confirmed are brilliant for deeper analysis as well as a wider view for what’s going on in the scene. I’m desperately awaiting the return of Globally Offensive, from HenryG, Stunna and Spunj, as it’s a joy to listen to when I’m travelling.

CS:GO isn’t just my occupation – I genuinely do love it, and now I’ve started playing, I can’t stop thinking about my next opportunity to hit the server.

How are you a host in CS if you can’t play the game?

Just because I’m currently playing barely above the level of “horrible”, it doesn’t mean I don’t understand what’s happening when I’m watching CS – the more I cover the scene, the more I’m learning. I also get to work with fantastic analysts who I can ask about things that happen in game that I need breaking down. However, I do understand what I’m watching, and I do a ton of research before each event and have formed working relationships with the teams.

However, I do hope that playing CS:GO more regularly will help me even more when I’m working – I’m not perfect and there are areas in my role that I would like to strengthen. I can lack confidence discussing gameplay, despite knowing what I’m talking about – so I want to be more fearless with the questions I ask, and be more direct.

Why does she look down at the keyboard? She doesn’t play video games!

I’m still learning a few of the key binds. When I first learned to play Overwatch a few years ago, I had a similar issue – I just started playing it off stream so no-one saw the most awkward stuff… Also, as I keep playing, I really don’t do it much anymore – in a few streams, my movement has noticeably improved as those things become more intuitive.

In terms of playing games, I’ve been playing since I was five years old, starting out on Monkey Island II on my dad’s laptop and Sonic the Hedgehog on the SEGA Master System,

What’s wrong with your crosshair?

Nothing. I haven’t felt the need to change it, and just because it offends you, doesn’t mean I have to change it. Same with knives, skins etc…

Why aren’t you [insert unsolicited gameplay advice here]?

I’m not taking tips from Twitch Chat. I spend far too long when I start each CS stream communicating with backseat players. I’m getting better as I keep going; sometimes I’m playing a map for the first time – today I played Inferno for the second time. And it’s REALLY hard. Overpass and Mirage are currently my favourites – I’ve only played Overpass twice and Mirage four, maybe five times; the latter is my most-played map.

Luckily, I’ve watched so much CS that certain aspects of rotating, positioning on the CT sides come naturally – but I don’t know every single callout yet, so I’m trying to learn those, but it can lead to stupid mistakes where I look offscreen at a callouts diagram and get shot in the back – I’m going to download something to add this to my actual radar to solve this issue going forward.

And I didn’t buy kevlar just then because I decided to buy more firepower instead.

Why are you so rude?

When people ignore my requests for them to let me enjoy playing and learn through experience, and keep writing “tips” and critiques in chat, then I will be a lot firmer in how I dismiss their feedback. It quite simply isn’t valuable to me and it’s patronising. It’s my stream, so I set the rules. I have a mature channel warning that displays when you first visit my stream – I swear quite a bit.

I’m 30 years old. I have no fucks left to give.

What rank are you?

I don’t have one. I don’t play ranked. Less than 25 hours in the game, mate…

Why don’t you play ranked? It’s the best way to learn…

I had such a bad experience solo queuing before I started streaming CS, that I’m going to avoid that route for the foreseeable; I play video games because I enjoy them. What I enjoy is playing with viewers and having a laugh when I fail – and I get so excited seeing my teammates and opponents make incredible plays too. At the start of each match, I post a PopFlash link in my Discord and Twitch Chat so that the community can jump on and play – and it means I don’t fill up my Stream friends with people I don’t know personally.

Everyone I’ve played with from the Twitch community has been funny and supportive – and that’s exactly why I’m facing public humiliation by learning the ropes on stream; I’m becoming better because of these fantastic people, and I’m very lucky to have volunteers willing to join me on the server.

Here’s a few clips to show some of that progress… And it gets a bit sweary, sorry kids.

I’ll be streaming CS:GO in the near future on my Twitch Channel – so if you fancy playing, give me a shout in Twitch Chat!

“When am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win”

I am ten, eleven years old in my final year of primary school. Michelle (year five) and I have been bestowed the honour of being a “whole player”. The other girls on the playground only count as “half a boy”. I know I will never be passed the ball and so, determined to get a touch, am constantly prepared to run full-stream at a “whole player” and take it from him.

On Tuesdays, myself and a dozen or so girls pay two quid to a man who runs a venture called Club Brazil Girls Football. I pay for football because Thursday football club, free and run by the local vicar, clashes with netball practice. I was admitted into the netball A team, alongside a girl called Natalie, a year before our peers. I know I won’t make the football B team (Michelle is more than good enough but never gets to play for them either). Even though I love football, and own a full England ’97 kit I am fast growing too big for, plus Umbro boots from Woolworths, I stick to the sport I know I’ll get picked for.

My first pair of blades are given to me for my 15th, and I adapt them to make them fit for street skating. Visiting an indoor park without them, I borrow my friend’s caveronous size 9 soft boots and try dropping in multiple times, landing in quick succession on my right elbow. The result is a haematoma (“swellbo”) that I call my “third boob”. The doctor mentions that this could have been more serious had it been elsewhere – people die from haematomas. Fear stops me from trying things out, but I keep skating with my friend Maz and a group of boys from the town. It’s something to do and I know I’ll never be good at it – I’m “just a girl” – so I don’t try.

Going into my final year of GCSE I enter a relationship with someone I meet at the skate park. He slaps me on my arms when I say sorry, tells me he should swap me for Maz, who is dating another friend, and tells me he will never love me. We go to an extreme sports festival, and I go out skating on my own and make friends with some Welsh skaters. I escape for the evening, become my own person again, and return to accusations that I’m a whore on my return. I go from being happy and confident, to someone who cries and who can’t stop saying sorry. When I’m dumped for another girl after a few months, I buy a DVD of Clueless with my Sports Direct earnings and celebrate. Skating eventually stops too. Isolated in the countryside, I spend two weeks in bed after my exams playing Final Fantasy X on my Playstation 2.

When I enter Sixth Form – where boys are admitted to our otherwise girls’ grammar school in Maidstone – I finally get to play football again. Age 17, I am called “GIRL” by the boys in the year above. I haven’t played football for years, but when I’m not working on Music Tech coursework, choir, or other clubs I’ve committed to my entire time in secondary education, I’m out there, beetroot red, curly hair flying, knowing the ball won’t come to me unless I take it for myself. Over a year I fall in love with the boy who plays in goal, who shares Broken Social Scene and Bright Eyes with me. (He is different to our friend, my year 12 boyfriend, who would shout “ELEPHANT” across a dinner table at me if my top was deemed too low, and decided Counter-Strike wasn’t for me.) We play music together. It’s magic. I am the only girl studying A2 Music Tech. On recordings, I sing in a way I think the other boys will want, rather than how I truly sound. When I leave for university my boyfriend will end up with the girl whose stairs I once threw up on at a party. I call it karma.

I discover my love of radio at University. Aged 19, I am given the choice between managing a community radio station and then our student version. I pick the latter, after I doubt my ability to make decisions for the much older male faces around the community station table.

Less than two years later, I record my first national radio show in my Selly Oak bedroom and send it off to be played on the other side of my 21st birthday. I will move far from home to work there and be told frequently that I am only there for the way I look, and that I am annoying and arrogant because I cite case studies from past work experience at the BBC and Channel 4 in the ideas I suggest. My show will be taken away from me, only for them to give it back to me thanks to one of the producers questioning why I need replacing. I will be pitched against the other female producer, and I will be removed from conversations concerning the show I produce.

My contract is terminated, but the presenter doesn’t last much longer than the four weeks of shows (20 episodes) I have pre-produced. I return to London and slowly rebuild my life. In a BBC management training course I am asked why I’m looking at an exercise pinned the wall when I know what I’m talking about. I about turn and present to the room. In that moment I realise I’ve been burying that voice for a long time.

But not everyone is a fan of a woman with confidence. When I speak up and tell a room of colleagues “I know it’s not the decision of anyone here but only one woman in a line-up on 14 comedians isn’t enough” when we’re evaluating a project, I am taken to one side and told I am too aggressive and that I shouldn’t question something that would have already been considered. In a different job I am advised by a man that I “speak too much” in meetings, even though they are meetings about the elements of a project I am leading. At one point I will have a boss who tells me he is not comfortable calling his direct reports “women” and will therefore call us “girls” instead.

In the Twitch office when I arrive in 2016, there are five high-spec gaming PCs. My friend Iain suggests trying out Overwatch, which he is ridiculously good at; I decide to take the plunge and spend thirty quid on the game. My initial games are catastrophic; I have to learn the ability keys and get used to directional controls with my left hand (AWSD, rather than the arrow keys). At one point, I get so desperate I resort to picking up a controller and plugging it in. Iain announces – with good reason – that he will abandon me if I use it.

So I practice; I play in lunch breaks, and after work. I team up with our office manager Nell and HR manager Roisin – themselves seasoned players – and a competitive team, later called “Overlunch” forms. I move from DPS (Tracer) to support (Ana and Mercy). I build a PC so I can start playing and streaming Overwatch at home. I get Twitch Partnered and become part of the community. I am outed as a gamer to friends and my boyfriend. Sometimes I experience aggression over voice chat or someone tells me to mute my voice, but I don’t care; I’m good at this now and I know people I can play with.

When I first appear on a stage, Twitch chat turns into a stream of “GRILLS” and deleted messages. I can make worse jokes about myself than they ever could. I am stage hosting a UK Hearthstone tournament when I am noticed by PC Gamer. When my job is cut by Twitch, I write to tournament organisers and end up in Stockholm, Katowice, Austin and Los Angeles in quick succession. I script edit and collaborate with the team on my pieces to camera for the PC Gaming Show at E3 2018. One joke leads to a bump in my Instagram following. But there are still faceless voices who will object to my presence at the events I move between for the rest of the year.

In Katowice for the CS:GO Major, I see daily forum posts pulled through to the front page of HLTV that discuss my looks and what they would do to me. They compare me to my female peers and call for me to be replaced. As I attend more Counter-Strike events, the dissatisfaction wanes, but the sexual comments continue. My boyfriend Googles me to show a friend’s father what I do for a living and finds a forum post describing me as a “MILF”. We laugh about it.

I have tried playing CSGO but have been previously kicked off a public match and the experienced has stuck with me, so I have resorted to playing solo and Wingman modes.

Someone sends me a link to Pop Flash – suddenly I can get round my inability to set up a lobby and I am able to play with my community. The first 5v5 stream is fun, but in the second it appears we’re playing with at least one stream sniper, who decides to repeatedly attempt to zap me with a Zeus. I sometimes look at my keyboard because I have not played enough hours of CS for all the actions and key binds to be instinctive yet. Most of chat is supportive, but today comments declaring that “I don’t play many video games” and jokes at my glances downward strike a nerve. Usually I respond to comments with a joke, or ignore them. Today I more or less tell them to fuck off. I am impatient and I am angry; the night before I witnessed the negative reactions to a women’s tournament being organised by DreamHack and my head is ablaze.

I stay frustrated for the evening. My friend messages to see if I am ok, having heard what happened on my stream. I watch catch-up TV, but the rage stays with me and I regress into my past.

I am angry I didn’t try this sooner – that I was a solo player almost my entire life, even when supposedly in a team. That I wasn’t invited to the LAN parties. That I wasn’t encouraged to try. I am upset that I am only starting this now, but feel like I will be forever judged by it. I am outraged by seeing women dehumanised on the internet with constant debates about “females” being scientifically proven to be lesser at video games, even though there have been no specific studies detailing the differences between men and women playing the same game.

Daily, I see “males” tell women they are terrible, but then refuse to play with them, kicking them off servers or abusing them over voice comms until they can prove themselves – or calling the women that do, cheaters. I see women set up their own spaces so they can find people they can trust to play with, only for men to question why this is necessary. I see segregation as the longterm result of when the dominant part of the community has abandoned the other. I want women to be taken seriously.

But I can’t go back to solo queuing because I need people to play with who won’t kick me and I want to stream, so I resolve to keep streaming. I’ve only just started, and I’ve discovered I’m extremely good at head-shotting my own team with a Scout, and at least hitting something is promising. I remember that I stumbled upon the esports world in 2015, and now I get to be part of it. That I only started FPS a few years ago, and I ended up reporting on coach strategy at the 2018 Overwatch World Cup – a dream come true as a devoted player. I get paid to play and talk about video games. The voices that post graphic opinions of my body, or that tell women they aren’t entitled to play for a $100,000 prize pool – what do they get paid for? It’s not that, and they certainly don’t get paid to do what I do.

Together, we can level the playing field – all of us. We need to remember that the women who are playing CSGO and other shooters haven’t necessarily been playing it as long as men. That, particularly in the past, girls weren’t always invited to play with boys. That women need to be scrimming against male rosters in order to have opportunities in the same tournaments, and when scrims occur, both sides take it seriously and don’t pick up the Zeus. We need to bear in mind that for women to learn CS in the first place, they need to not be kicked from servers upon hitting the push-to-talk button. We need to let women know that if they want to play, they are welcome, and that they can succeed.

As star female players break through, we should see them considered by more orgs with the money to support their growth. When female-only tournaments happen, we need to remember that sponsors actually want to support the growth of talent and its their money, and then can spend their budgets where they decide – it’s not taking money away from established male players. In fact, it’s putting money into an area of the scene that’s been under-resourced and needs to grow.

We are often told that women don’t have a competitive streak, that we don’t want to put ourselves out there and go for titles. “It’s not in our nature”. But when am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win; women like me are told their entire lives that they cannot win. We are led to believe that any competitive quality is undesirable and our confidence is chipped away from being told we are not good enough.

To the ladies reading this – you are good enough, despite all of those personal experiences throughout your life that told you otherwise. You deserve to be confident and do what is best for you without judgement. So if you think that an all-female scrim server is for you, ignore the dissent and join one. If you want to work in esports but worry you’ll be rejected for being a woman, join the Women of Esports Discord group, and trust me when I tell you that there is more than enough room for you here. And if you’re looking for people to start playing CS with, come play with me. I promise that if I shoot you in the head, it’ll be totally accidental.

Instagram and going unfiltered

There is a photo of me circulating on the forums of Counter-Strike website HLTV – a website I visit daily as it’s a brilliant resource for anyone who works in CSGO.

Whether the photo is actually me is slightly questionable – someone has taken an Instagram photo (embedded below) and has disturbingly scrubbed at my face. The effect is jarring; that’s my face they have tampered with to produce something that isn’t me. But they are saying it is me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Usually that’s not too much of a problem – it’s the HLTV forums, after all – but then someone on Twitter sent me a new thread where the comments are sexually graphic, inspired by this photo, and the lack of agency bothered me.

As my follower count has grown on Instagram, so has the complexity of my relationship with the platform and how I feel about what I post there. These days it’s just my face, face, face, face, photo of me with a horse/dog/miscellaneous animal, face, photo with a pro player, face (and repeat).

Full disclosure – I love a filter; professionally taken photos will commonly have colour balance and exposure levels adjusted, so I don’t have an issue popping a filter on. I don’t tend to use filters at full whack, but adjust as needed. The most doctoring comes in Instagram stories, where the “one-swipe-to-the-right” filter Paris gives me more confidence in posting no-makeup selfies or videos (I never go to shows with makeup on as a professional is going to sort me out once I arrive). It’s a personal choice to use apps like FaceTune, and that’s not a choice I make.

paris filter

Ah Instagram Stories’ Paris filter, never leave me…

Yesterday I posted a photo after filming was done for the day and a user requested an “OG” photo. When I asked them to clarify they said “og means original photos, i. e. without any makeup, natural”.

To me, the phrase “original photo” actually implies “without any filter” (given the request this user may very well have come across from the HLTV forums), and so in the interests of transparency and this blog post, I’m happy to feature both the Instagram post and the unfiltered photo below.

You can see the filter I’ve used has brightened up my face, masking some of the tiredness I refer to in the photo caption (also some of the mascara has started to smudge, so the extra exposure has eliminated some of the greyness). Like many photos I’ve posted, I’m using natural light by my window – I’d recommend this to fellow selfie-takers; windows are your friends!

pre-filter

This is the photo I uploaded to Instagram – I’ve had to recrop it as it wasn’t originally a square

As far as I’m concerned, this is my face. If you have a problem with the idea of me wearing makeup, that’s your problem, and not mine.

Certain things perform well on Instagram; behind-the-scenes photos can do well, but only if I’m prominent in the photo. Professional shots aren’t typically as popular as selfies. Close-ups inspire more comments than full-length. And understandably, if I’m in my show clothes and make-up, I get more of a reaction. My 92% male following have predominantly followed me after seeing my work in esports, so it makes sense. Unless it’s a very popular player, images of me featuring another person – especially a man – do not attract likes.

The makeup-free selfies I post aren’t hugely popular and often aren’t related to shows, so there isn’t too much need to post them, but I assure you they exist. Look! Here’s two totally unedited shots taken in different lights from today. (In other lights I’ll look totally different, I’m sure.)

Right now I’m working back-to-back shows, and have visited five continents in the space of six weeks. I am knackered and have a tendency to look it, and what given that I know what works on my Instagram account, I’m not going to post photos like these there.

No makeup is associated with my days off, when I have privacy and play games offline or catch-up on Netflix. Or visit Aldi, or the dentist. The online world isn’t entitled to see that face, no more than they are entitled to doctor photos and pretend it’s me. 

Things I’ve learnt as a frequent traveller

Written while – yes, you guessed it – sat in an airport…

Hoodies with internal pockets (or clothing with pockets in general) are a godsend. I recently discovered a hoodie I was gifted while working at last year’s DreamHack Austin has two massive internal pockets I can keep boarding passes, passport and my phone in, with room for plenty more. Flippin’ game changer, mate.

Pledge allegiance to an airline, especially if you’re flying long haul often. I have decided that this is the year I politely request British Airways from the tournament organisers I work with. The higher status I earn, the easier travelling will become – I’ll start being able to reserve seats without paying, for example. (I absolutely begrudge having to pay simply to sit in a window seat when a long haul flight isn’t on a budget airline).

This is a weird one… I use the wrapping from plane blankets to bag my trainers and then I pop slipper socks on… I don’t think I have stinky feet, but I take precautions!

If a seat in your preferred location is not available upon check in, all may not be lost. The check-in desk can sometimes sort you out…

… That being said, make sure the miracle final seat you were changed to isn’t in an awkward location. I’ve been traumatised from ever sitting in an aisle seat on long haul flights ever again after I was moved to an aisle seat in the central block on an Aer Lingus flight from LA. I had been sleep deprived due to jet lag and post-show adrenaline for two weeks and was desperate to catch-up on some sweet shuteye. Unfortunately, my seat was across the aisle from the loudest airplane bathroom in existence – and my seat neighbour decided crossing his arms and forcing me sideways into the edge of my seat was perfectly acceptable. Every time someone used the bathroom or walked past by seat they would knock into me. But I couldn’t be moved because the flight was completely full. I’ll never fly Aer Lingus long haul again – it’s one of my few non-negotiable terms when accepting work overseas.

If you’re flying long haul on a budget airline like Norwegian take your own blanket and food. It’s extortionate to book an in-flight meal, so I’d highly recommend taking your own food and water. Blankets cost extra, and you’ll probably never use it again. In fact – have mine.

Research for comfort and value for money. Norwegian Airlines themselves fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliners on their LA and San Francisco routes – the same planes used by Virgin on the same flight paths, but have been subject to issues around delays and flight cancellations, so double check their policies. United Airlines premium economy offering is no more comfortable than Virgin’s economy service. Virgin premium economy is fabulous – but it’s going to cost you. Delta legroom isn’t great, but Sky Team rewards is apparently worth it. Star Alliance aren’t quite as generous with their upgrades (going by word-of-mouth on the latter insight).

Recently I was lucky enough to visit Shanghai to work with StarLadder and ImbaTV – wearing my favourite flying hoodie (photo below)

Some airlines still don’t offer vegetarian options straight off the trolley.I experienced this on KLM recently while travelling back from Brazil. British Airways’ route from Shanghai has a menu that caters to their Chinese customers, so is less likely to feature vegetarian too. As I am intolerant to the pulses usually present in pre-booked vegetarian meals, I always have a quiet word with the staff once I board to see if they can reserve me a vegetarian or fish option, and they’ve always been very helpful.

If you suffer from migraines, avoid alcohol. Ultimately, you know what works best for you, but wine and dehydration on flights usually ends in disaster for my brain…

My long haul essentials

Bring earplugs and an eye mask. Good noise cancelling headphones are worth every penny. I’m never without anti-bac gel and always have a clear wallet with my toiletries for security on my person (currently I travel so much it doubles up for taking on set in case of emergencies so it never strays far from my rucksack). Decant your favourite toiletries – miniatures are a ripoff unless you’re road testing a new product. I’ve recently invested in face masks to try and protect me from getting ill (I’m particularly susceptible it seems), but I’m lacking the courage to actually use them for an entire flight.

Almost every airport I have visited has water fountains after security. Take a recyclable bottle – particularly useful for those shorter flights where refreshments end up costing you a second mortgage. Plus, it’s better for the planet – and flying really isn’t, so I guess it’s a minor consolation.

The war of Wonder Woman vs Captain Marvel

The following post contains spoilers for the Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel films – you have been warned…

Last week was all about getting stuff done; because I travel a lot for events, surrendering my passport to get visas could mean missing out on work. It was suggested to me by someone recently (most likely Paul “ReDeYe” Challoner) that I should apply for a second passport.

With just over a week in the UK before heading off to São Paulo for BLAST Pro Series, I made like a woman on a mission, and got my legal eagle mate to certify some mug shots, filled in a form and booked a pricey premium appointment. (By the way, it turns out not all Post Offices have photobooths anymore… or the forms required for apassport – and those forms don’t actually have a space for second passport, but you still need one as it can’t be done online… I digress; I found a form at the fourth Post Office branch I visited thanks to Stephen on the PO Twitter account.)

Passport interview complete, I needed to get more clothes for the stretch of events I have coming up (and I can’t tell you what they are but travelling and video games are involved), and for once in my life, I had four hours to kill.

“BINGO!” I did not exclaim out loud outside Victoria station – “I shall trundle to the cinema”. Given the crossover between the comic book industry and video games (I’m currently OBSESSED with Insomniac Games’ Spider-man and have finally caught all 12 of those blasted pigeons), I felt like it was the responsible thing to go and see Captain Marvel.

12pm is a glorious time to go to a screening; myself, a heavily pregnant lady and five guys settled into the Curzon Victoria to watch Captain Marvel. I’d heard mixed things about the origin story, but also knew this would be essential viewing before Avengers: Endgame comes and shows us that the most obvious theories about how Thanos’ defeat were bang on the money. Being the Curzon, I bought a coffee in a cup with a genuine saucer and made sure that the food I snuck in was 100% pure M&S.

And the film? Well I loved it – it wasn’t perfect; but I also recognised that the climax of the film wasn’t Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) protecting the world from being blasted by alien missiles, but discovering that Jude Law’s Skree captain Yon-Rogg’s has been limiting her power, rather than being the person who bestowed it upon her. His idea of emotion as a weakness, trying to manipulate her into his preferred form of combat leads to his comeuppance. The moral of Danvers’ story personifies what can happen when you rebel against the mould the patriarchy has set for you; you become limitless.

“I don’t need your approval” (Carol Danvers)

And yes, I’m the target audience, so this film genuinely spoke to me – I loved Larson’s strong, witty performance. She doesn’t overplay the humour, but infuses it into Danvers’ personality and actions. Seeing her imperfectly beat the bad guys as she comes to terms with her new abilities shows her humanity – even if the pace of her saving humanity is a little too swift for it to be fully satisfying.

One Twitter follower told me that Danvers is too powerful – that in the comics, “even Thor was stronger”. And while I do see critiques of Danvers’ crazy powers as valid – surely she’s basically unbeatable now – I don’t see the point in comparison. And talking of comparisons…

The nature of having so few lead female roles in superhero movies of course leads to comparisons – as a lack of female representation leads to comparisons in the media generally. And so apparently, just like Marvel vs DC, you have to take sides in the war of Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel.

As previously discussed, Carol Danvers is a human hero, despite bleeding blue and you know, being able to fly, breathe in space and shoot flame-like energy waves from her fists. Prior to her transformation, we saw her talents were being wasted due to the US Air Forces not allowing women in combat in the early nineties (when the movie is set). She has been pitted against men her entire life, and struggled with those expectations. Finally freed from needing to meet Yon-Rogg’s expectations, she essentially becomes the most powerful being in the universe.

Wonder Woman’s Amazonian warrior Diana, on the other hand, has grown up in a world free of this mould. As such, she is already powerful – and because she has never been told her voice is less valued, she makes an instinctive leader on the battlefield; something that had me mentally cheering in the cinema for. She’s big on death-defying drops, deflecting bullets and lassoing her enemies; markedly different abilities from Captain Marvel. And of course, her world is turned upside down when men invade it – but their presence does not lead her to question her own strength.

Diana and Danvers both want justice; Diana seeks vengeance for her people, while Danvers seeks a home for the people she has ignorantly hunted as part of the Skree forces. And in both women, emotion provides a foundation for their instincts. Their capacity for love and compassion is at the core of their powers. They represent hope for humanity and lead me to question why we don’t see more female heroes celebrated in the real world, when seeing one onscreen feels so right.

Despite the aforementioned similarities, both heroes strike me as being different – their origin stories strikingly so, and yet it feels like we must pick a side; perhaps the one thing harder than being the first woman to breakthrough is to be the second; to follow in the footsteps and bear the expectations established by one’s predecessor. I’m seeing few direct comparisons to other movies in the MCU or DC universes, and that’s disappointing. This is a superhero movie; “female superhero movie” is not a genre. I’ve also seen criticism of Captain Marvel as lacking characterisation, when what I saw in the movie was a character who had energy, compassion, strength and believable motives. I totally understood her friendship with Maria, and Maria’s daughter “Captain Trouble”.

Wonder Woman meant a lot to me because I was willing the film to succeed – to break the disappointing DC streak of movies and to show female superheroes can make bank at the box office – and it did. I cried multiple times in that film as I realised how good it was, and how flippin’ fabulous Diana (Gal Gadot) is .

Captain Marvel, with Danvers’ relatable story, meant even more on a personal level; why fight on someone else’s strengths, when I have my own? To quote Danvers herself; “I don’t need your approval”.

When my niece is old enough, I’ll beg my sister for babysitting duties and I’ll show her both – and tell her how these two superheroes led the way for more women to follow – because these two characters from different universes compliment each other and I can’t wait to see more outings from them in future.

Happy International Women’s Day to my fellow women in esports!

On Friday 8th March I kick off my guest appearance on LEC in Berlin.

It also happens to be International Women’s Day while I’m here – a public holiday in Germany – so I wanted to take the opportunity and say thank you to my fellow women in esports and gaming. Some I’m lucky to call friends – and all of them are inspiring.

I first discovered how utterly brilliant women in this industry are working on the League of Legends World’s coverage back in 2015 (sorry, yes I know I mention this quite a lot). Julia Hardy was presenting online videos, including interviews with the players, and as we roamed around Wembley Arena, she introduced me to Becca Henry and Kirsty Endfield who were working with Riot at the time – Henry is now VP of Communications for Misfits, while Endfield runs her own gaming PR agency, Swipe Right PR. We also walked past Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, who was hosting the show, and Julia explained just how much Depoortere was (and still is) loved and respected by the LoL community.

When I moved from the BBC to Twitch, Brit Weisman was always there to show me how to slay at work, leading by example on the Twitch Studios team – I miss putting the world to rights with her over frequent Google Hangout meetings. She gave me courage in my convictions and still has my back. One of the other highlights of being at gaming expos is being able to catch up with Twitch Marketing Managers Kelsey Christou and Caroline Westberg – I have no idea how they run massive projects, whilst also managing incessant requests for Twitch party wristbands… I also had the opportunity to work alongside producer and zombie slayer Mary Kish and Nadja Otikor – the latter of whom taught me about “keeping my poops in a group”. I also met one of my favourite people in the entire world, publicist Rochelle Snyder, while working on a PUBG-focused documentary (which Mary also helped to produce on location at the Game Awards in LA).

From initially working with the ESL UK team as a Twitch producer, to working for them as a host, I’ve witnessed Caroline Oakes go from taking care of the business side of things, to front of camera as an esports host for events like the ESL UK Premiership – she’s recently joined PCGamesN as a full-time presenter.

While at Twitch I also worked with Anna Robinson – one of the best public speakers I’ve ever witnessed – and started to meet esports hosts like Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico (who can turn her hand to any esport) and Kelly Link, whose positive energy radiates onstage. Kelly was one of the first people to tell me she thought I could be a good host – I’ve never forgotten it.

Producing one of my first event stages for Twitch gave me the opportunity to work with Soe Gschwind-Penski – who I’d go on to team up with at the Overwatch World Cup at Blizzcon 2018 (along with Emily Tang, Mica Burton and Fiona Nova) and is, quite frankly, and icon for young esports fans around the world, and Marcelle “Nysira” de Bie, who is finding deserved success with her own motoring show in her native Netherlands. The following year I’d end up loving Paola “Pancakepow” Alejandra‘s energy on the Twitch x gamescom 2018 stage, as I booked her alongside the multi-talented ShannaNina.

After I was booked for the DreamHack Austin PUBG Showdown last year and the standard talent WhatsApp group was setup, Lauren “Pansy” Scott was the first to welcome me on board. At the afterparty, I got to properly meet Sue “Smix” Lee for the first time, as producer Dagny Veinberg bought us a round of the largest shots I have ever seen. (No regrets, Dagny.)

It was a month later that I finally met Sjokz in person – grabbing the lift to the dressing room at the Mercedes-Benz arena at PGI Berlin, she ran up to the lift just to tell me she thought I was doing a great job. We’ve kept in touch ever since (and I shall lobby for her to host every Esports Awards henceforth so we can have more nights out in London). Having her seal of approval means everything as she’s an inspiration for pretty much every host in the biz – and I really hope we get to appear at the same event in future.(Tournament organisers, that is definitely a hint.)

Awards shows are great places to actually meet other women in the industry – at the Esports Awards I first met regular LEC interviewer Laure Valée, while the Stockholm International Esport Awards was where I initially encountered League analyst Froskurinn – who I’ll be working with this weekend.

Something I observed at IEM was the constant comments on Reddit and HLTV that were desperate to complain and compare me to other women in my field. The thing that no one seemed to observed is that we were all there! Smix hosted the Starcraft II finals – including a beautiful winner’s interview, and Freya Spiers brought her trademark class and knowledge to the Intel Challenge stage. Other women rocking it in Katowice were Sheever (when does she ever give less than 110%?) reporting for Dota 2, and Lottie Van-Praag curating Miss Harvey and Potter on the Intel Challenge desk. To my delight, I was lucky enough to bump into Ukrainian StarLadder host Tonya Predko backstage as she filmed with Na’Vi, and I got to catch-up behind-the-scenes with ESL UK member Kat, ESL Junior Product Manager Sabrina, ESL Poland Product Manager Marlena and ESL UK’s Head of Communications Heather “Naysayerz” Dower. (There are a HUGE number of women working behind-the-scenes in esports.)

This year I’m going to try and work harder on featuring women on my interview series My Life in Pixels – so far we’ve had Ray Gaskin – who has since left Red Bull to head up esports at Right Formula, Rochelle Snyder, my infamously hardworking host and cosplaying friend Tabitha “Artyfakes” Lyons, Women of Esports founder and journalist Saira Mueller, and Lottie Van Praag. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or find episodes for Android devices at acast.com/getfrank. I also need to get Sam “Tech Girl” Wright involved in a future episode – she’s a prominent host and caster from South Africa you may know from Overwatch Contenders Europe and CS:GO. Oh and Marissa Roberto – who is one of Canada’s most prominent voices in esports.

Despite the fact that there appears to be an infinite number of talented women in this industry, there is still a very vocal portion of the esports community who appear resistant to our existence. They overlook our resilience and focus on rating our looks, rejecting us not for our work ethic, but on their personal ideals. And I won’t deny that I want to look presentable on camera – that’s an element of the job – but I’m never intending to distract from the work I am actually doing; none of us are. Instead a mob mentality can ensue – kids behind keyboards bond by uniting in their angst at our involvement.

Laure Valée recently gave a very interesting, heartfelt interview to the Shotcaller YouTube channel at the LEC studios on this topic, revealing how the horrendous comments she had aimed at her during her time so far on the show had kept her awake at night and shattered her confidence. A few weeks earlier, in an eye-opening episode of the LEC podcast EUphoria, Sjokz and Froskurinn also discussed the treatment of women by esports viewers.

Both of these interviews struck a chord with me – hearing a community question my abilities (often before they’ve even seen me on a broadcast) has led me to various confidence problems in the past. Visiting HLTV during the IEM Katowice Major became a nightmare as I’d see negative forum posts about me pulled onto the front page as I checked out the latest headlines, while Reddit featured commenters calling me unprofessional (even before I made a joke of nicking a bit of pizza in the final week, which led to intense vitriol). As someone who puts the necessary hours of prep in, never misses their call time and treats production with the respect they deserve, it was comments like these that particularly struck a chord.

Something I’ve found at previous events is that I’ll go out of my way to prove my knowledge, when often my job is usually to ask questions – I don’t need to provide the information, I need to know how to find it. That’s not to say I don’t have insight, but it does mean I shouldn’t fret about what people think of me; my feedback should come from production and my peers, not people who aren’t on my team or paying my invoices. As that’s how jobs usually work, I’m going to apply it to my own occupation going forward; I think it’ll help with my performance in the long run.

It’s a hard thing to improve and grow in a role that is so public, and I am very grateful for the positivity that has been sent my way – from the women I’ve mentioned above, to the people who send me tweets to say they enjoyed my involvement in events such as IEM. This year, I hope I can support these women back – we’re stronger together, and this industry is stronger for having us in it.

LEC Week 8 kicks off on Friday March 8th at 5:30pm CET, and concludes at 4:30pm on Saturday 9th March Riot Games’ Twitch channel.

The art of the interview

Don’t be fooled by the title of this blog; I don’t have the answers or the ultimate advice for the perfect interview. In fact, the “perfect” interview surely doesn’t exist.

I say this, because not everyone will enjoy an interviewer’s style. Luckily, that’s something I am aware of – especially when my work is predominantly on Twitch, where feedback is instantaneous with the live broadcast.

Interviewing is a role that leaves you vulnerable due to its unpredictable nature; will your interviewee take kindly to your questions? Will they be able to articulate their thoughts under the pressure of performance and environment? Do they even want to speak at all?

The CS:GO Major at IEM Katowice is my only my second time delivering CS:GO interviews (the first occasion was at StarSeries 6 in Ukraine in October of last year). Usually I try and pre-interview teams – even if I’m in a desk hosting role – and there are a multitude of reasons for this, including finding out the story a team wants to be told, their English language skills, and to also find out how best to interact with different players on camera. There are multiple players at the Major (particularly in the Challenger stage) who have never been interviewed before – therefore my responsibility is to guide them more carefully on camera into representing themselves as they would want to. And in terms of even the more experienced players, if we’ve not spoken on camera before, I need to establish a sense of trust.

My aim is to ask fair questions – and yes, if a team is having terrible T-sides, despite being seen as a top five team, then it is fair to ask them why. If I ask a player an open question (ie. a question without a binary yes/no answer), and they give me a one-word response, I will more than likely enquire further. And if I do ask a closed question, it’s usually to cut quickly to a point that I want to expand on, or (more often than likely) a sharp way to end an interview before throwing to the desk.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 22.46.35Talking to players in the moment before the camera tally light blinks red is also essential; when Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund spoke to me after their first victory at the Challengers stage, he seemed subdued so I began the interview by asking about the reasoning behind his mixed emotions. Given that I’m often trying to capture the feelings of a player (the plays themselves can be broken down by the analyst desk, so my focus is usually exploring the emotive state of the teams and how this impacts how they played), being able to open an interview by asking them to share what’s on their mind is a way to then lead into what actually happened on the server; did a misbuy in what would otherwise have been an eco-round happen because the team had a disagreement or lost confidence? Is group resilience something the team need to work on before their next match?

The fantastic opportunity of the Major extends beyond the fact that it’s the freakin’ Major; three weeks of intensive CS:GO (eight Bo1 matches in a day can mean twice as many interviews where time allows for pre-match interrogations) offers the opportunity for development. I’m very fortunate that CARMAC – aka ESL’s king of the Intel Extreme Masters events – gave me invaluable feedback over the first couple of days about how to make my interviews more dynamic; when I watched baScreen Shot 2019-02-26 at 22.45.17ck footage I saw my energy was lower than normal when trying to speak slowly for non-native English speakers, and my questions sometimes had too much preamble. (Oh, and I was stood so far away from players that my left arm got a microphone-based workout!) Now I try to keep things to the point where I can, and actively listen for points that I can explore further – something I was fortunate to learn about in BBC interviewing training way back in my BBC Blast Arts Reporter days.

Something that’s new to me for this event is working more closely with the desk to generate talking points in my player interviews. We discuss topics that they want to  explore in their analysis during matches, and I can then hunt for that info when talking with my subject. I always listen to commentary too – casters will know the game inside out and will call out successes and problems I can then question teams about after the game concludes – or cross-reference with notes from previous games to detect patterns in teams’ play styles and recurring issues.

I’m also getting to grips with doing interviews between maps – stage manager Oli will do his best to grab a player or coach from one of the teams after the conclusion of a game so we can discuss what has happened so far in the series, and look ahead to the next map. These questions are almost entirely gameplay focused, which leaves the end interview to allow players to reflect more on the bigger picture (ie their “journey” in the tournament and their ambitions). It’s one of my development areas for the remainder of the event – especially as I need to learn to guide the thoughts of players who are overwhelmed by their achievements (imagine making the playoffs of a Major for the first time – you’d be speechless too!) – but it’s also exciting to be very much involved in telling teams’ stories as they unfold.

Next week, I’ll be diving into the crowd and getting fans to share their stories – it’s another challenge, and one I can’t wait to get stuck into.

I’ll be adding behind-the-scenes snaps to my Instagram stories, so be sure to follow for updates!

Am I really just a token woman?

Tomorrow, I start my role as a reporter at the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice Major.

This will be the biggest esports event I’ve ever been part of. When I found out I had been booked, I was genuinely emotional; it’s less than a year since I decided to see if I could make full-time hosting work, and I never imagined people would be so welcoming. I’ve been given brilliant opportunities thus far, and do my best to work hard and justify people’s decisions to hire me.

I don’t think I’m hired solely because I’m a woman – and I definitely feel like I’ve proved myself as an asset to a broadcast line-up – but if I am, it doesn’t mean I’m going to do a bad job. And maybe, seeing my face in a line-up will encourage other women to aspire to be onscreen too.

That’s why it can be disappointing to see comments from people who don’t know who I am deciding that I’m just there to fill a quota, and that there’s no need to look at the reasons beyond that. Especially as there’s an awareness as a woman in this business that your performance could affect how other women are viewed; you’re not just representing yourself. So you work extra hard, because there’s an extra layer of responsibility.

Also, to be perfectly honest, it’s simply a lazy attempt at scoring points on social media to just post that, because you don’t know who I am (and I don’t expect you to), that I’m not capable of doing the job I’ve been hired for. (There’s a handful of last year’s credits on my agency’s website if you’re really concerned.) I can only win you over if you’re open to it.

The great news is, when I’m asked the common question “what’s it like being a woman in esports?” I get to speak highly of my colleagues and folks in this industry who have never made a thing about my gender, and have invited me to be part of their shows; I don’t get treated differently because of being female. And, when it comes down to it, tournament organisers are the ones who pay me, not Twitch Chat.

And so to tomorrow – I’ve researched as best as I can, and I’m hoping the nerves will help rather than hinder. To everyone who has believed in me, thank you. I’ll do my best not to let you down.