Women's Sport: What is it like being a woman in League of Legends?

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League of Legends is one of the biggest games in the world and at a time when many of us are turning towards gaming for comfort and entertainment while we're at home, do you ever wonder what it would be like to make it?

GiveMeSport Women heard from three women who work behind the scenes at Riot, the company who makes the game, to find out how they got into League of Legends, what they do and why they love it.

Zanne Wong, Editor-in-Chief

I’ve been a League player since Season 2 and, for the longest time, have wanted to work in esports and gaming. I managed to get into the industry by starting my esports/gaming career at Red Bull. About two years ago, Riot was looking for someone with my exact skill set to join the LEC team, so I just went for it and here I am!

To be honest, when I first started in this industry, it never really crossed my mind that it was male-dominated. I just told myself that’s where I wanted to be so I set a path and worked hard (and smart) and believed that I’d get there eventually.

Once you’re there though, you do tend to be a little self-conscious when you’re the only one in the room that isn't a man. It does make a difference in how you carry yourself at work. But I’m also a very determined person, so I refused to let that get in the way of my work and where I wanted to be.

The changes in the landscape since I’ve been around have been pretty positive. It’s more common to have a much more balanced team or work environment, even beyond gender. Most workplaces encourage diversity and inclusion more than ever before, and I am grateful for the movement and support.

League of Legends is my go-to when I need to disconnect.

League is fun yet challenging, simple but engaging, and I just really enjoy it. But what I cherish more beyond the game, is that it gives me the opportunity to stay connected with my siblings, who sadly don’t live in the same place but they do play the game. I also have a really fun group of friends I’ve met through League that I’ve now known for years. It’s just an enjoyable shared experience when you have fun with people you get along with.

And it 100% inspires my work. It helps me understand what pains and joys our fans are experiencing. ‘What are we missing? What could we do better? How can we help?’ It helps me stay connected with the community and keeps me informed so I can make the best choices at work for players around the world.

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Margot Le Lorier, Video Producer

I started playing League of Legends in 2013 and it was love at first sight since the first time I entered the Rift. When I saw that Riot opened a new office in Berlin at the end of 2014, I jumped on the opportunity to join and applied to be a Features Video Editor! I was working in television back then but I made the switch instantly out of my passion for the game and the hope that esports would grow and it would be a crazy journey to be a part of.

I make a lot of humorous content and try to make my content more mature so that the jokes are not too goofy or purely ridiculous. There is a thin line where the absurd can work really well with some self-derision and looking like we are not taking ourselves too seriously while executing with high production value.

In my content, I try to have several layers, at first the story or the joke that anyone will get and then, hidden in the set decoration or in a choice of music, a more subtle reference or easter egg that will hit the hardcore LEC / League fan. I also keep track of all the memes and the imagery trending that the community likes so the content resonates with them. When I am on shoot and everyone on the set laughs right after I call "cut", I know the jokes worked well.

In gaming, the issue was I think not so much about gender than it is about the fact "is this person a gamer." There is still a perception that girls don't play, or don’t play as good as men. As a girl, you are less likely to be viewed as authentic, legit, or qualified when it comes to games. I’ve also encountered gender bias when I have to talk about the game to make content and realise I have to earn the credit to do so.

It does get better with time once you manage to surround yourself with colleagues and crew that know you. In the end, the only thing that should matter is if you are good at your job.

Over the last five years, Riot has hired way more women so female representation has increased tremendously compared to what it was in 2015. I also feel like the perception around women who play has changed in a way that the authenticity of our passion for gaming is less questioned.

There are also more initiatives around the girls in pro play, which not only helps the participants but also helps to spread awareness that the whole industry is not yet completely balanced. Awareness is the first thing needed to trigger a change and I do see this helping. When I look to the future, I hope to see more girls competing in mixed competition in the next few years.

We are really lucky to have personalities and role models such as Sjokz, Laure Valee and Frosk. They did the really hard work first and I hope it can inspire many women to join sports. On the competitive side, I think starting with equal opportunities would help like the same opportunity for sponsorship for girls and the same training facilities availability. Once the girls are able to train in the same conditions and the same circuits as men, it could stabilize and balance the industry. 

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Connie Lee, Stats Analyst

I started volunteering for an esports news site called ESFI way back in the day. The main thing I did there was making infographics, where I would manually collect a bunch of data (simple stuff like kills, towers and Barons) and turn them into visualisations.

After that, I interned at ESL in my gap year where I worked on the StarCraft II World Challenger Series. It was a lot of fun but I didn’t think that esports was the industry I was going to end up in. A couple of years later I was looking for summer internships and saw that Riot was looking for a stats intern in Berlin. After that internship, I got hired full time and overall feel very fortunate to have ended up where I am.

When I was studying computer science it was already quite male-dominated and I had to work on a lot of group projects where I was the only female. Even if I didn’t go into esports my alternative software engineering path would have had a similar gender imbalance, so I feel like I was mentally preparing for it all throughout university. However, sometimes it can be difficult, I’ve always had strong female mentors and allies and it was sad that those relationships were harder to come by at work.

I think esports has matured considerably over its fairly short lifespan, which is also a greater reflection on the positive diversity movements that have been happening in society as a whole. People are generally more switched on to these topics, and increasingly more aware of their language and behaviour.

In terms of how do we get more women watching esports, someone much better versed in marketing strategy would have to answer that one. I think there are a lot of different strategies to make spaces more inclusive and welcoming: representation is super important; having people within the industry who are good allies and amplify women’s voices; combating systemic biases. There’s really not a singular solution, but I firmly believe that we’re heading towards the right direction.

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