You don’t have to be a girl to participate in Futures First Gaming’s (FFG) virtual Girls Who Game tournament on Saturday. But the Wilmington esports company hopes that young female gamers — and their parents — come out to participate, and to hear from woman professionals about the possibilities in an often misunderstood, male-dominated industry.
“At the core of what FFG is doing is to bring opportunities to Black and brown youth, but really I think part of that goes hand in hand with expanding opportunities to anyone who’s been told that gaming is not for you,” said Emily Zbyszynski, the startup’s esports expansion strategist. “I think that’s something a lot of women and girls have been told online, or even by a parent. So the point of the panels is to show women and young girls that there’s someone that looks like you that’s super successful in this field, show how they got there, what advice they have, and then giving parents advice about how they can support their daughters.”
Zbyszynski will be hosting the event, along with popular streamer Greden Camacho. WIN Factory cofounder Tamara Varella will moderate the two panels.
“The event is going to be run by women, all of the panelists are women and we designed the event with games popular with women,” Zbyszynski said. “We’ve got Call of Duty Warzone Duos, Tekken 7 and NBA 2k21. Playing in duos, especially, is more popular than playing solo with women.”
While game competitions are central to the event, which is one of FFG’s quarterly tournament events that lead up to December’s big Pandamonium event, the panels are an integral part of the company’s esports event model.
“I’m really excited about the panels,” Zbyszynski said. “With how broad gaming is as a whole, it’s a shame that there aren’t more women in it. We’ll open a dialogue about industry gender biases, how important that is for the industry to grow going forward. One of the things that we’re focusing on with both of our panels is action points — what’s something that the gaming industry can do that can make women and girls feel like they belong. It’s important to emphasize that we need to talk about it, but even more importantly, it’s time to start doing.”
The panels for the June 26 event are:
- Women Powering STEM — Susmita Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D, founder of I.E.P.; Jihan Johnson, founder and CEO of BeatBotics; and Kelly A. Garcia of the culture team at Evil Geniuses
- Changing the Game — Zamara “EBunny1920” Richardson of EBunny Gaming; Jeannail “Cuddle Core” Carter, pro player with EQNX Gaming; and Charisse Kuzmenko, community manager for Femme Gaming
Panelists, partners and players will come from all over the world: Femme Gaming is based in Canada, and event partner Melanin Gamers is based in the U.K. Local Partners include the WIN Factory, Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Delaware College of Art and Design.
“I think this is going to be our most woman-populated event” in terms of players, Zbyszynski said. “We want parents to see that their daughter belongs here, that she’s on the right track.”