For Monica Dinsmore, the head of esports publishing in Europe at League of Legends creators Riot Games, she sees a lot of similarities between esports and traditional sports. In fact, she says she yells at the TV just as much when she watches esports as if she's watching her beloved Las Vegas Raiders play in the NFL.
Dinsmore grew up watching the Raiders with her dad and through supporting a team that's not had a lot of success, she says she has learnt a lot about what it means to be a fan: "It's about bringing people together. It's about cheering for your team. It's about banter and competitiveness and identifying with something that is a collective that makes you feel a little bit bigger than just you and it's a way to get together with friends and family and drink beer and talk."
She sees this spirit in esports too. Dinsmore explains: "I think that it's becoming more and more like a traditional sport in my mind. I don't think it's necessarily the same but being a fan feels very similar.
"You watch your favourite players, you know where to get your team's swag, if you're lucky enough to go to a live event you can scream and yell and wave the fan flag and it feels very similar to me."
League of Legends, one of the most popular games in the world, is now Dinsmore's favourite sport to watch. What she loves about it, she says is the depth of the game and how the game continually changes and evolves.
"I think that League has a very special place in esports, in the sense that it's just continued to reinvent itself as a game and stay relevant for so long," Dinsmore adds.
In her role as head of esports publishing, Dinsmore oversees content creation, marketing and communications for Riot Games across Europe, and she explains that she had an interesting journey into the sport and that: "I find myself pinching myself on a regular basis."
A journey into esports
Dinsmore started her career working in finance and startups in San Francisco. Eventually, she found it was becoming too corporate and chose to start looking for alternatives. After a friend who worked at Riot referred her for a job in 2014, Dinsmore started playing League of Legends as research for the job.
She describes herself at this point as not a PC gamer but a "gamer nerd of different sorts" but when she got the role she didn't look back and has stayed with the company ever since.
The moment she fell in love with esports was in 2016 working at the World Championships hosted across America. Dinsmore recalls: "I had the opportunity to participate in community activations working with the North American publishing team for every stop of the worlds in 2016 and I fell in love. It was an amazing opportunity for me to meet fans and see the passion and meet the players. I just couldn't get enough of it."
The passion of the players is something that still drives Dinsmore to this day: "It's a huge motivator for me, seeing how much they love the sport and how much they react to the content that my team produces. We make a piece of content, and then for better or for worse, we run to see what people are saying about it. It just doesn't get old, I just love that part."
Working in a male-dominated environment
For a game that is played worldwide by millions – in 2017 Riot said there were 100 million monthly players and in 2019 100 million people tuned in to the World Championship suggesting an even higher player count now – there aren't many visible women.
Dinsmore says that she has been used to working in a predominantly male environment since a young age, growing up in Montana and working in a lumber mill during her summer holidays.
She recalls: "I learned super early to navigate a predominantly male workspace. It definitely wasn't easy, but then I went to college and I went into tech, then I went into finance, which is a super heavily male-dominated space."
Through finding her way in a space where fewer women have gone before, Dinsmore reflects that she has learned a lot: "It's not been easy. I learned early that as a woman you're not automatically given the benefit of the doubt, you need to work harder to prove yourself. And I learned that you need to be prepared, you need to speak up, you need to speak your mind. You need to develop a thick skin pretty early as well because people aren't going to pave the way for you."
This landscape is changing within esports now. Dinsmore says: "Many more women are starting to find their voice and realise that they need to support each other and I think women are doing that. I think women are starting to feel more empowered.
"People are speaking up and speaking out about the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. I think the fact that we're even having this conversation tells me that we're moving in the right direction."
It's not just her fellow colleagues who are women that are creating change. Dinsmore adds: "I also see more men speaking out against inequality and companies taking the lead in not tolerating discrimination or harassment. I think that we're definitely starting as an industry and just as humans to go in the right direction."
To continue this move towards equality, Dinsmore sees a few things that need to happen – the creation of opportunities for women to see themselves reflected in the space and also the development of the community so that it is a welcoming, safe and supportive environment for women.
This is something Dinsmore is mindful of in her day-to-day PR work: "We are constantly listening to what our fans say and that's the most important driver for us when we create content.
"From a PR and comms perspective, we're looking to try and position ourselves more in that space to create more female fans and to speak to people that maybe aren't paying attention to this space right now."
Dinsmore is passionate about her job and she is just as passionate about the team she works with, citing them as what drives her "to care and to get up in the morning and to keep showing up".
If her team have even a fraction of the love of League of Legends that Dinsmore conveys when talking over the phone, no doubt they will continue to reach audiences far and wide, new and old – something that can only be a good thing in the quest, not just for more equality in the sport, but to give it the same platform as more traditional sports.
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