Female gamers are on the rise. In 2020, women accounted for nearly 41% of all gamers in the United States. Asia accounts for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue, women constitute 40-45% of the Asian gaming population (Forbes, 2021). The gaming industry, however, remains male-dominated and this has consequences for women.
In the interview of the month August, I will be interviewing Madiha Naz on her journey to becoming a professional gamer. Madiha is of Pakistani descent and lives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with her family. She graduated in communications, with a major in journalism, and a minor in PR. Her hobbies are gaming, swimming, and playing football. During her childhood, she got into gaming and managed to successfully turn her hobby of gaming into a career.
Madiha, you’re a professional gamer. How did you become a professional gamer?
I started gaming because of my brother. He would always be gaming. At the time, it was uncommon for girls to game. That’s why my mother wanted him to teach me and my sister how to game. My mother was supportive of me and my sister getting into gaming. When the Girl Gamer Esports Festival in 2019 came around, I had the idea of creating an all-female Middle Eastern team and the organizers were supportive of that idea. So, I got the opportunity to participate as a professional gamer in the first female Middle-Eastern Esports team. We represented the Middle East and the country UAE in the world finals in which three other regions were competing against one another: Europe, South America, and Australia.
Gaming is mostly seen as a hobby. Teenagers come home from school, throw away their bags and start video gaming until it’s time for dinner. While growing up, did you have the idea that gaming was a career option?
No. If I had the idea that gaming could be turned into a career, I would definitely have tried to make it my profession from the beginning. However, there were not many opportunities for professional gaming when I grew up. When the opportunity came, I was like I want to make it my career.
What was your family’s reaction?
My family has been supportive. They were obviously a bit confused.
How does one become a professional gamer? How does one get paid to play video games?
They had their concerns because gaming in the region is not popular. It was not a career option as I said before. After graduating, I started a job, and when I got the opportunity to get into the gaming industry as a professional. I quit my job. That might be a risk because it was almost as if I sacrificed a straight career line for gaming.
I am very grateful for their support especially with my cultural background being a Pakistani and breaking the stereotype career. They were very excited. I was blessed that I took part in a big tournament so everything was credible.
The gaming industry is male-dominated. What are some of the barriers for female gamers?
There are several barriers for female gamers. When Esports started booming, there were mainly male teams. The discussion arose of whether female gamers were as good as male gamers. In this industry specifically, women are still looked down upon down. There aren’t that many female gamers willing to step out there and play competitively. I think the bullying of female gamers needs to stop and more organizations need to pick up female teams and nurture the talent. There are many talented women being overlooked.
The industry is toxic towards female players. It’s scary at times. Gamers are usually more quiet, shy, and introverted and then you have these dominating males bullying you. If I had that personality, I would not go pro. I would play it to pass time.
What are some of your achievements? What are you proud of?
I am very proud of being one of the first females in the region and the first female in Pakistan to be professionally signed. I am proud that I was the team captain of the first female Middle Eastern team. We got to represent the region and UAE specifically in the Girl Gamer finals. It was one of the biggest tournaments in Esports in the Middle East. I’m happy that it was my debut. We also won the girl gamer online challenge in 2021.
What do you hope will change in this industry?
People need to understand Esports. It’s a booming industry. It feels hyperactive at times. I hope organizations will select the right people to represent them and not just hire to hire. Someone who has a passion for gaming should definitely get in. There is a high demand for new employees and they hire just anyone but I feel like choosing someone who is passionate is the best for the industry.
I was with Nigma galaxy for two years. It was an amazing time to be with them. I learned a lot. I am forever grateful to the CEO for giving me this chance. However, I decided to leave in February. I still have a team and we will participate in the next Girl Gamer Festival. For now, due to the fact that there are not many organizations looking for female gamers, I will be winning without an organization. I am exploring the market and looking into the PR side of Esports.