Talking with QueenArrow fighting games and female esports
Long before tournaments like Capcom Pro Tour and Tekken World Tour even thought of bringing Africa into the fold, the burden of highlighting the region fell to the community – the African FGC. Among those rising to the occasion is the first guest of Now You See Me, this new biweekly feature on DashFight focusing on Women in the FGC - Kenyan Tekken 7 competitor and Twitch streamer - QueenArrow.
Repping UYU, Sylvia “QueenArrow” Gathoni is 23 years old and just finished her undergrad degree in Law. She is steadily gaining more support from family and friends who were initially confused and on the fence about her career choice. Her aspiration is to become a world-class Tekken player, and I’d say she’s well on her way.
Team UYU and Media Attention
How did you go about joining all these big organizations like Global Esports Federation and Team UYU?
I was actually nominated for Global Esports Federation by the Lagos eSports Forum to represent African interests in the athlete’s commission. I was really surprised when they asked me, but it's something I'm more than happy to do. This way, I give advice and make sure that Africa is represented. Even though it’s a niche industry, we have players, game developers, and a growing gaming community, so being excluded for things beyond our control is really shitty and something that needs to change, especially in the 21st century.
For UYU, I just sent in my gaming CV expressing interest to join the team, and they actually reached out via email. I decided to join the team because I wanted to use my platform to showcase my community. Having a team that would challenge me to grow just by being surrounded by some of the very best players and amazing content creators, I feel challenged every day to do better.
You have been getting a lot of media attention with features in Asahi Shimbun and CNN's Inside Africa; how has that made you feel?
The media attention and positive responses from people all over the world were overwhelming, and this was completely unchartered waters, but I've gotten more used to it. It actually shows that people believe in you and what you're doing, which means the world. And, on top of that, it shows that esports defy barriers and is actually a thing in Africa. Me being here is a statement in and of itself because, as the Asahi Shimbun piece mentioned, esports is borderless, genderless, and is for everyone. That's what I really appreciate about all this media attention; it shows that we are breaking barriers and that technology has the ability to overcome all these issues.
You mentioned it being overwhelming. Do you have any tips and tricks to handle all that attention?
It’s easy to pick up when people are being disingenuous or not being themselves, especially being GEN Z. I just remind myself that I'm representing my community, my family, and that I just need to be myself and just tell my story as it is.
Queen Arrow FGC Story and Gamertag
What's your FGC origin story?
When I was growing up, I was really influenced by my brother and cousin because the boys had a lot of access to these consoles and games. I loved watching them and actually just wanted to participate in what they were doing, so we started from those duck shooting games. When I was in the 4th grade, my dad got us a PlayStation 2, and that’s when I got more exposure to these games like Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, and Tekken.
I was really inspired by female characters like Xiaoyu and Christie Monteiro. My brother was in boarding school at the time, and I had more time to practice. He'd come back from the holidays, then he and his best friends would actually kick me off sessions because they were fed up with me beating them. During high school, I had to stop for a while because national exams were a priority at the time. I got back into the habit of constantly gaming in university and signed up for the Mortal Kombat tournament at the 2017 East Africa Gaming Convention.
NRS games have such poor balancing (please don't clown on me for this lmao). So, in 2018, I switched to Tekken 7 and had to learn proper fundamentals from scratch. Movement, punishment, character knowledge, and the beginner stuff are really overwhelming since you have to rely on the community to teach you. Unfortunately, I tend to be a bit of a slow learner when it comes to this stuff. It was really frustrating for me trying to compete with people who had been playing the game for 10+ years. Then in 2019, I won my first tournament and, by 2020, I made my first Top 8 spot in our locals.
It must have been so exciting to see all the hard work pay off. What about your Gamertag?
It came from Arrow - The American TV series based on comic book character Oliver Queen or Green Arrow. I was a really huge fan of the franchise, so I took his surname + Arrow. A lot of people think it’s all about this royalty pedigree kind of thing, but I think that's kind of bullshit. It’s just me being a comic book nerd.
Besides Tekken, you also play Mortal Kombat casually. Are there any upcoming games that you're excited about?
I know these are adventure games, but I'd say Horizon Forbidden West and the new DLC for Ghost of Tsushima which came out because I am a history buff through and through (Fun little fact about me).
QueenArrow Ghost of Tsushima Stream
Inequalities in Gaming
This year, CPT, TWT, and the Kolosseum Global included African regions. Is it enough for representation, or do we need them to do more?
I’d say it’s unprecedented to see this kind of interest in the African region, and it's good across the board, but I feel the need to do better especially with online connectivity. This is not a slam against the developers, I know they're doing their best, especially in the current pandemic. I don't expect to hear about problems implementing rollback net code with games like Guilty Gear. Having that good net code is something that can also help bolster our communities, since most of us don’t have the luxury or means to travel for international tournaments.
How do you feel about (gender, disability, or class) inequalities in gaming and esports?
Let's be honest; we can do better. From my experience and from my observations, I feel the FGC is more accessible and inclusive when compared to a broader community like Call of Duty, League, or Dota, with athletes who are mostly either white or Asian men. There's also the accessibility barrier with the need for a high-end rig that not many people are privileged to access, while for fighting games you just need a PC or console.
One thing I love about the FGC is that we are getting more gender representation, more accessibility because the community is becoming more open to people from different backgrounds in terms of gender, and we are more inclusive to include women, trans, and non-binary people. This is not to negate the horrible abuse people (myself included) have had to face.
Being a Woman in the FGC
What’s your dream for women, like, women in the FGC?
I feel we need to have each other's back more, not to say that we don't, because we actually are really supportive of one another, and I really appreciate it. I just wish that, for one, we would stand in solidarity with one another even more. I want us to be fully accepted because I'm tired of this thing where we constantly have to prove ourselves over and over again. How exhausting that it deserves a whole TED Talk.
Which other female gamers do you want to see in the limelight?
I haven't really thought about this, but I would like to see more about women in the European FGC, especially players like Kirithuu - a Hwoarang player from the Netherlands, Miss GlamTK - an Anna main from New Zealand, and AyanoOscarr - an Asuka main from the UAE. Off the top of my head, these three deserve more attention.
What reactions have you gotten in the gaming spaces with mostly men? How has that been so far?
Being in a male-dominated industry as a woman makes you a rare sight because we aren’t inherently encouraged to follow these paths. At first, people were surprised to see a lady showing up consistently to tournaments but there were also those clowns who made snide remarks, but that didn't really stop me from doing what I was there to do.
I’ve had amazing support from the community, although I had to contend with harassment and sexism from within the community. Fortunately, they stepped in to stop these incidents, and it showed they had my back.
Has there been a time in your gaming career when you almost quit and why did you pick it back up?
There were several instances, like the time I was really frustrated learning Tekken and trying to keep up, so I took an extended break and played some other games. Funny enough, once I got back into it, everything just clicked, especially punishment, which gave me a really hard time till I understood how it works.
I also faced some harassment in the community, and it’s been a recurring issue since last year. It was really frustrating to have this come from members of my own community, even though they were just a loud minority. They had been given several warnings and weren’t listening, then, this year, I just snapped after the final incident occurred.
It was really hurtful; I was actually sobbing and crying on the phone when telling the TOs, “I can't keep doing this, if you don't deal with this, I’m out.” Luckily, the situation was dealt with because everyone else turned out for me and refused to condone it. The support was very encouraging but I also took a bit of a break.
QueenArrow is proof that sometimes the hardest things we bear often turn into new strength and resolution to stay the course. Be sure to follow her socials via LinkTree and look forward to our next interview. If there’s a phenomenal woman in the FGC that you don’t think is getting the kudos she deserves, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.