There’s an ongoing struggle in the esports community that is slowly breaking barriers.
Female competitors. While the casual esports fan has no issue with female players, the numbers of participants are fairly low.
Filmmakers and gamers Agustin Gonzalez and Nicole ‘Wulf’ Moldanado have been working for about seven months on an upcoming documentary titled ‘Fight Like a Girl’ that follows three female Super Smash Bros. players, Victoria ‘VikkiKitty’ Perez, Pricila ‘Port’ Sortino and Taylor ‘Xaltis’ Rose as they compete.
We had the chance to sit down with the filmmakers and talk about their project along with the current very real issues women are facing in esports right now.
Esports Insider: First off, tell us about your background in film-making and in gaming/esports.
Agustin Gonzalez: I am currently a professor of film at Miami Dade College and I have a masters degree from the University of Southern California from the School of Cinema. I’ve primarily worked in television and have some experience doing independent film out of New York. I’m older and I’m a fairly casual gamer. As for esports, for a long time I knew it existed but I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve addressed issues of women in gaming in general because it’s in the background of every discussion, but I would never tune into Twitch to watch anything.
— Azuki (@NikkiWulf) January 6, 2017
Nicole Maldonado: I studied film production at Miami Dade College and graduated about a year ago. I’ve directed a few films and I worked on ‘Moonlight’. I’ve been majorly into gaming since I was basically a toddler and I’ve become more competitive as I’ve gotten older. As time went on I created an all female esports team which has made for a great experience!
ESI: Can you tell us a little about that…what was it like creating Sweet Synergy and what are your goals for it?
Nicole: Sweet Synergy started for me, not last BlizzCon but the year before. I was sitting in the crowd and I saw there were no women playing on stage, there were no women competing whatsoever. I said to myself, “My God we have to change that”. I know there are so many really good girls out there, I know women can do this just as well as men so I don’t want to come back here next year and still see only men.
“The fact that there were girls that were willing to play three or four times a week, even if they didn’t do well they still competed to show their presence, that made a huge difference.”
I set out on a mission when I got back home to hit up some groups and start a female team. I want to get women together, play together, and get better and compete. So that’s how Sweet Synergy was born.
On the same day that I proposed the idea of a team, it blew up. It was so overwhelming I ended up having to start different teams. The fact that there were girls that were willing to play three or four times a week, even if they didn’t do well they still competed to show their presence; that made a huge difference. The whole Heroes of the Storm community ended up supporting Sweet Synergy because we hadn’t yet seen an all female team. There are women that are getting together to play and that’s what we want to create, at the end of the day we want to level the playing field. So the goal of Sweet Synergy in essence was just to have a good time and compete and make ourselves present. It’s not a gender specific thing, it’s not just men that can compete, women can too.
ESI: So the title of the documentary you’ve been working on is “Fight Like a Girl”. Tell us more…
Agustin: What we tried to do was to show that women play and what that’s like. It’s not just going to tournaments.
“We also wanted to highlight the issue of sexual harassment in the scene for those women.“
This is the way that Smash, in particular, works and the local community based around Smash can flourish with women. We also wanted to highlight the issue of sexual harassment in the scene for those women. To do it in the context of women not letting that stop them from participating and wanting to encourage women to participate.
ESI: So why did you choose Smash as the scene? Was there a particular reason or did it just happen?
Agustin: It was accidental. We met these girls and that’s what they played. I also feel like the Smash community is one of the loudest. They’re easily noticeable so the story was there waiting for us to tell.
ESI: From what you’ve seen working on this do you think the issues carry over to other communities or is it just with Smash?
Agustin: Definitely carries over. I think it will resonate with people when we talk about the issues that they face and what they do. Smash is just the game they play. So the content is broader, I think it will resonate.
ESI: The Smash scene is not split up male/female; females play in the same tournaments and leagues as the males. Not all esports work that way. When compared to other scenes do you think female only leagues and female only teams help or hinder the overall female esports scene?
Nikki: First off, Smash Sisters is a thing; it’s an organisation of women who play Smash and hold their own tournaments.
“Are we creating a larger rift than there is already? I believe that right now we need to encourage women to come out and play.”
That’s a tricky question because it kind of goes back and forth. Does being exclusive make us part of the problem by segregating women from men? Are we creating a larger rift than there is already? I believe that right now we need to encourage women to come out and play. I don’t think they’re necessarily bad, they just can’t be completely exclusive to women. I don’t 100% disagree but I can see how it is a problem, I just hope it’s not a problem in the future.
Agustin: What was the most surprising to me is hearing that same response not only from Nikki, but from all the girls we’ve talked to who sounded like they felt the same way. They don’t think that making all women tournaments is necessarily a good or bad thing. For me, I feel like all female leagues will have an incredibly encouraging effect on both the community and female players because it will give them a safe space to participate.
A major part of the problem, one of the girls said, was because there are not that many women playing we don’t see many women rise to the top. But if we have all female leagues then we have greater opportunities to give women this ability and that has the effect of encouraging other women to get involved. That’s my perspective as a man looking at it from a distance.
ESI: What’s the impression you want to give? What do you want viewers to take away from watching this documentary?
Agustin: For me it’s that women should play. They shouldn’t let the problems that we’re all aware of stop them from participating.
“We’ve been talking about the problems of harassment for such a long time, we haven’t talked about the good parts of gaming and what gaming gives people.”
When I started talking to Nikki, what I felt was that because we’ve been talking about the problems of harassment for such a long time we haven’t talked about the good parts of gaming and what gaming gives people. I’ve been playing games since I was a child. I felt like a part of how we’re going to resolve those problems is that we need to continue to encourage women to come out and be aware of the scene and what happens within it but not let that stop them.
ESI: Are you guys working on any other projects in relation to gaming or esports?
Agustin: There’s a larger story here and we’ve talked about wanting to do a feature on the subject but at the moment we’re just trying to finish this one [laughs]. It’s in our heads. We want to see what kind of reaction we get and then figure out where we take it from there.
We’re planning on doing a festival run for at least a few months and maybe target festivals that screen work. We’re looking to launch it by September or October on Vimeo so watch this space.