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These Girlaxy gamers got no balls

These Girlaxy gamers got no balls

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But it doesn’t matter — who needs ‘em anyway?

By Terence Lee

From left: Glxy.Polaris, team captain, Glxy.Raven, League of Legends team leader, Glxy.Faerie, content coordinator

Glxy.Mirth, 23, was playing World of Warcraft one day when a player taunted her. “You’ve got no balls ah?”

While she’s not prone to revealing her gender online, that jibe got to her, and she retorted: “Yeah, I’ve got none. I’m a girl.”

The other gamers didn’t take her seriously at first. Girl gamers in Singapore are, after all, uncommon and perceived as weak — ‘noobs’.

Soon the taunting began anew, this time verging on sexist: “Go to the kitchen and cook me something to eat,” they’d say.

It’s a man’s world indeed.

When Mirth encounters players like these, she’d politely distance herself from them. But when she was younger, she didn’t know better. An older man once asked for her email address, and she gave it to him.

Late, when she checked her inbox, she found an email with a picture of the man attached — topless. I asked her how old he was.

“I can’t remember!” she said, “I don’t want to remember it also.”

For girl gamers like herself, Girlaxy, an all-girl e-sports team, offers support in a male-dominated cybergaming scene in Singapore.

I met the team at The Colosseum, a state-of-the art LAN gaming arena, sort of like the Mecca of cybergaming here.

Located within the youthful Bugis Illuma shopping mall, right next to Bugis Street, the cavenous arena is dimly lit. Computer screens cast a pale glow on the stoned faces of the gamers — mostly guys.

One dude in particular impressed me — his fingers moved so fast on the keyboard that you could tell he’s a pro. He even used his own device — mechanical switch keyboards as opposed to the membrane kind, which is what you see in the office.

Mechanical keyboards offer audible clicks and tactile feedback, leading to improved response speed for the user. Like marathoners or sprinters, competitive gamers relish every slight edge they can get.

Formed in July 2011, Girlaxy aims not just to compete in tournaments, but also to influence e-sports culture in Singapore. And for the record, most of them would like to be named by their gaming monikers, and I gladly obliged.

The youngest in the group is only 18 while the oldest is 25-years-old. While they were rather skittish and cool when talking about cybergaming generally, they were much more passionate when recollecting their experiences as girl gamers.

And lest you think they are bra-burning, fist-waving feminists — no, they’re not. Rather, they hope to encourage more collaboration and sharing of resources between clans.

“The cybergaming world in Singapore is quite divisive,” said Mary-Anne Lee (Glxy.Faerie), Girlaxy’s content coordinator. “They keep to themselves a lot, and there isn’t really a cybergaming community per se in Singapore.”

She added that there’s so much diversity that sometimes it’s hard to get along. For example, the StarCraft people once got irritated by the voicecasting (commentary) done by the Street Fighter folks when they were at an e-sports tournament,. This led to a forum war.

To create a more collaborative culture, they’re forming partnerships with other gaming organizations.

So far, they’ve forged agreements with Garena, a cybergaming publishing company, local competitive e-sports clans Flash-eSports and Bf.Nut, as well as Neolution E-sport, a professional gaming organization in Thailand.

They’re also aligned with SCOGA, a society dedicated to promoting cybersports.

Girlaxy playing a League of Legends match at The Game Xpo 2011

Girlaxy, interestingly, is managed by a guy — Check Ho, 24. He was a former competitive gamer who is now focusing on mentoring the group. Sort of like the Big Brother.

Check told me that they’ve recently gone on a recruitment drive, and will be holding another one very soon.

“A prospective member must be passionate about cybergaming and show discipline and commitment,” he said, “casual gamers are welcome too — we all have to start somewhere.”

Beyond just training for tournaments, they hope to engage in a whole slew of e-sports related activities.

Already, they’re in talks with the government, hoping that they’ll do more to support the growth of the sport. Their website also features articles and interviews to keep readers up-to-speed with the local scene.

By accepting more members they hope to organize events, such as shoutcaster training, and more.

They also plan to reach out to corporate sponsors. Currently, they find support from both the government and private sector lacklustre — very different from countries like South Korea, China, and Germany.

“The top gamers are paid to train and compete in these countries,” said Check. Companies even sponsor gaming ‘houses’, which gives clans a place to practice their gaming tactics and maneuvers.

He attributes the lack of support to the negative perception about cybergaming that had been perpetuated by the media. Stories of gaming addicts and their negative effects on teenagers are rife, while the fact that most gamers lead balanced, healthy lives has been ignored.

Check is not the only one complaining. In August 2011, another competitive gamer wrote a public letter imploring the government and media to see e-sports in a different light. He wrote:

“Just because one person did the wrong thing, they are making us, e-sports gamers look bad. Know the scene first before assuming anything, dearest reporters. Do attend our tournament events at least and see our passion first before slamming the community and bringing our efforts down.”

While bad rep continues to be a problem cybergamers in general are trying to overcome, Girlaxy also hopes to raise the profile of girl gamers by making their presence felt at competitions.

Compared to other countries, Singaporean cybergamers are generally more discriminating against girls, they observed.

In fact, having girls win a mixed competition is almost unheard of. When Girlaxy team captain Glxy.Polaris, 20, won an online StarCraft competition, the organizers thought she was a guy. She had to correct them.

“They were amazed. They didn’t expect the winner to be a girl,” she said.

While winning competitions is no doubt a goal, the process of learning to be disciplined and mature is equally important to Girlaxy.

“We take a wholesome approach to e-sports,” said Mary-Anne.

Check added that cybergamers must learn how to conduct themselves professionally while competing, especially if they are representing their sponsors by carrying their logos.

“No doing stuff that’s too crazy, like shouting in an arena. Always follow the leader, and not roam around like little monkeys,” he says.

The common perception about computer gaming is that it is a harmless distraction at best. But my interview with Girlaxy has reminded me that e-sports is more than fun and games — discipline, tactics, and maturity are required to become good at it.

After the interview, some of the girls were deep in discussions about tactics for a League of Legends competition that was happening later at the Colosseum. They wore a serious look, like discussing a school project.

Polaris certainly felt that e-sports has helped her.

“When I compete in a girl’s tournament, I don’t feel alone, and I know that there are others like me. Actually, competing with girls has made me grow stronger,” she said.

Front row, from right: Glxy.dawn, Glxy.Athena, Glxy.Pandora, and Glxy.Mirth

Photos: Girlaxy

Why they’re Cooler Than You: Because girls who kick ass while playing computer games will always get into my good books!