If you want to know what’s happening in Oceanic pro gaming, just ask Michelle Mannering. She’s the unofficial queen of organised eSports and hackathons in Australia, running stages at PAX, writing for international eSports mags, and even hosting an eSports series for CrownBet (or is that now BetEasy? We lose track). She also plays the odd game from time to time (biggest understatement of the millennium).
We caught up for a coffee with Michelle (at Bedggood in Melbourne, if you’re interested) to suss out the state of female gaming in Australia, the future of eSports, and just what to do when your kid is addicted to Fortnite.
On the Australian eSports industry
Look, it’s getting a lot better. Typically we’ve been really far behind everyone else, for the same reasons we’re behind in every tech sector. One is our internet—it’s literally not fast enough to cope.
But the biggest problem is we always get new releases six to 12 months later than the rest of the world. So when a game is released, or new technology comes out, we don’t get it for six months. By the time Australia gets a game, people around the world have already figured it out and clocked it.
On the ‘perils’ of gaming addiction
I was doing a panel the other night and this guy came up to me and said his kid is playing a lot of Fortnite, and he was worried about it. Should I let them play eight hours a day? And I was like, “No!” Of course, you shouldn’t. Even pro gamers don’t play video games all the time.
The same thing could be said for almost any other activities. You know, the World Health Organisation has listed gaming addiction as a mental health disorder, but I’m like no, anything that you’re addicted to for too long is a mental health issue. It’s the addiction that’s the problem.
If you’re addicted to Netflix and you can’t sleep, that’s the same thing. If you’re addicted to exercise and you workout till you collapse, it’s the same thing. It’s easy to pin the blame on video games, because parents don’t understand this stuff. They don’t understand the industry.
On gaming scholarships
Oh yeah, that’s a real thing now. Basically, there are parents overseas paying Fortnite tutors to teach their kids. The idea being, the kids get good enough at Fortnite, so by the time they get to college, Fortnite will be a proper profession, and they’ll get good scholarships and they don’t have to pay for college.
But gaming scholarships do already exist. There are some pro players in America who have scholarships for their gaming careers. I think Taiwan just made eSports a legitimate sport, which means if you’re a pro player you get an exemption from military service. It’s the real deal.
On women in the gaming industry
It’s not that women aren’t gaming. Lots of women play Fortnite and other games. The problem though is (and this isn’t just in Australia) you don’t get that same correlation in the professional leagues. If you look at the pro leagues they’re all guys.
On stereotypes facing female gamers
There’s still this huge stereotype about women playing games. Still. If you get on the boards, people are somehow surprised that you’re a girl. And you’re like ‘Yes, I am a girl.’ I still get it all the time.
It’s not like girl gamers aren’t represented in the community. That’s where the stigma comes from. People think girls are gaming to like impress the boys or seem cool, and it’s like no no, we’re playing games because we want to.
It’s the same in any industry: you should be recognised on your merits, not who you are.
Three games you’re playing at the moment
I’m playing a LOT more than three games at the moment, but my faves are probably still Fortnite, Overwatch and Shadowverse. It’s a turn-based card game. Still very niche in Australia.
Image credit: TEG