Meet Four Canadian Women Who Got Game

If you didn't know this already you really haven't been paying attention — women are a force in the gaming world.

According to a 2020  survey commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC), 50 percent of Canadians who play video games — from Call of Duty to Mario Kart — are women. What’s more, 58 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 consider themselves gamers.

And while research from hardware maker Lenovo suggests 77 percent of women experience gender-specific harassment (patronizing comments, insults, gatekeeping, unsolicited sexual advances) while playing online, women’s commitment to gaming isn’t waning.

Thanks in part to organizations like Femme Gaming in Canada, designed to create safe gaming environments, many women have become some of the most popular personalities in the gaming community.

To mark International Women's Day 2022, we spoke to four Canadian female gamers who are making an impact. From an esports competitor to a popular streamer to a pair of broadcast hosts, these are women you want to follow, all year-round.

Marissa Roberto | Host of TSN's Digital SportsCentre | Twitter: @MarissaRoberto

How Marissa became a broadcaster: "I was reviewing video games and interviewing game developers for a show called EP Daily that aired on G4TV Canada. When G4 pulled the plug, I still wanted to work in video games. A fellow games journalist who had become an esports tournament organizer asked if I'd be interested in hosting their first big event at Fan Expo Canada. Ever since then I've been hooked."

What Marissa loves most about games: "I love how you can find people here from all walks of life who share a common interest. I've seen some of the cutest couples meet via video games. There's always toxicity, but there is also so much love and support in these communities. I’ve been extremely blessed to experience some of that."

On women in video games: "It's never been better for women in games than it is right now, and we have so much further to go. When I started in this industry, publishers were still hiring 'booth babes’ to cater to a male audience at gaming expos. Now we're seeing more female protagonists in games and less sexualization of women. More women are standing up to toxicity and misogyny inside many game studios, and many men are standing with them. I'm excited for the future of women in this space."

Dream gaming setup: "I'm a console gamer and have my babies centred in the living room. I have a gaming chair, but usually just sit on the couch with snacks always on standby. My Xbox Series X and PS5 are on either side of my Sony X900H TV, and I keep my Switch Lite bedside for late-night Pokémon-ing."

Jesss Adel | YouTube game streamer (JustJesss) | Twitter: @JesssAdel 

The lowdown: "I go by JustJesss on YouTube, where I have 35,000 followers. I run a Nintendo- and Sonic the Hedgehog-focused channel [and I’m] known for my contagious energy and an endless supply of hype — or so I'm told! I also started streaming on Twitch (JesssAdel) about a year ago and it's been an amazing experience with the awesome community we've built over there!”

Why Jesss loves game communities: "Video games can bring fun, joy, entertainment, challenge and people together like nothing else. Sharing my excitement through a YouTube video and seeing others from around the world share their hype back is magical and amazing. Twitch has allowed me and my community to get closer than ever. Travelling and meeting people at gaming tournaments, conventions and expos is my absolute favourite thing in the entire world."

On women in video games: "We've seen amazing strides for women in gaming in recent years. At the same time, some ugly truths within gaming communities and the industry have also arisen at an alarming rate. Each time they do, it comes with some tough but real and important conversations that need to be had so we can continue to make positive changes and help others learn and grow. I hope we can keep making things better, safer, and fairer for everyone."

Dream gaming setup: "If we're going all out, my dream setup would include a Nintendo Switch OLED, PS5, a white SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless Headset, a black Electro-Voice RE20 mic, and a beautiful beast of a PC — all black and white!"

Camille Salazar-Hadaway  | Gaming and esports host | Twitter: @thisiscamco

What she does: "I'm living the dream! I host Femme Gaming's Ladies Power Hour, a monthly stream that discusses topics that affect women in gaming and advocates to make gaming more inclusive. As a host, I get to contribute to broadcasts and live events, channeling and amplifying the passion that various communities have for the games and esports scenes they love. My work as partnership activation manager with Paidia Gaming allows me to collaborate with brands like Xbox Canada and Razor that share our mission to create a community where women and allies can connect, learn and play."

On shared experiences: "As a kid, I was really shy and would get anxious when trying to carry on a conversation with kids at my school, but when I talked about video games I never ran out of things to say and I always felt like myself. Video games create a shared experience for gamers to feel connected and can really help people, like me, come out of their shell and create long-lasting friendships."

Pivotal moment: "I was contracted as an influencer for Xbox Canada’s “Who’s More Pirate” campaign. I was still building my resume and this was the first time I was hired for a campaign of this scale. I never thought it was possible because I didn't have the reach most companies look for, but reach can gatekeep people of colour in the industry since [it] lacks that representation overall. Xbox chose to recognize my talent. That and being recognized as 2021's Esports Host of the Year by The Canadian Game Awards helped alleviate my feelings of imposter syndrome and empowered me to keep going."

On women in video games: "When I’d play games as a kid I'd often try to see myself in games I loved, but I had few women characters to choose from. Basically, either Sheik from The Legend of Zelda or Jade from Mortal Kombat. Now there are more women characters in games, but many still lack women of colour. And while more women are playing games and working in the industry, they are disproportionately faced with harassment compared to men. The future of gaming can't fully be inclusive without addressing the effects toxicity has on women at all levels of gaming and empowering ALL women, including women of colour, to feel welcome."

Dream set-up: "My dream gaming set-up changes with the type of game I'm playing. When I dive into a story-heavy action-adventure I like to sit back on my couch with my feet up, staring at my 55-inch Samsung TV. When I'm trying to level up my Rainbow 6 Siege skills, I prefer sitting in my gaming chair with my 24-inch monitor and Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 controller. Both require a handful of snacks and being wrapped in a blanket."

Kaitlyn Fox | Star Craft II athlete, pro streamer on Twitch (Kaitlyn) | Twitter: @kaitlyn_sc2

What Kaitlyn means to gamers: "I mean different things to so many different people. At one point many people found me because I was the only woman in the top 100 ranking of Starcraft IIwhen (pro gamer) Scarlett Hostyn was on a break. Others know me as a host, or a caster, or someone who should really practice guitar more often on stream. And then there are people who put up with me just to get glimpses of my ferrets."

On streaming and esports: "I used to hate being called a streamer. I began on Twitch in 2012 as an esports player, and the distinction was important to me. I grew up watching esports legends, and to me being a Starcraft II pro was the [ultimate] honour. But along the way, I was forced to accept that I loved content creation. Streaming reawakened dreams I had forgotten." 

On women in video games: "I grew up playing video games, and I always knew more women than men who played. It was only once I began working as an engineer and began streaming Starcraft II that I began to see the gender divide. All of my accomplishments were always pulled into question. For example, as an engineer, people would quiz me about logic gates — which is akin to someone asking a mathematician to do addition to prove their degree — while I was wearing my engineering graduate ring. Women who want to be involved in gaming would benefit greatly from finding a female mentor. Much like medical residents look out for medical students, there are women in games who look out for women and guide them through difficult times. Women have always been in games and always will."

Dream set-up: "A chair with lumbar support (my posture is taking forever to correct); a low-profile, Tenkeyless mechanical keyboard; a 240 Hz monitor (for FPS mainly, but it also helps in RTS games); and a wireless mouse engineered from the ground up to be wireless so it is without latency. I only use a Logitech wireless gaming mouse for this reason now. And lights, lights, lights! I would love more Philips Hue bulbs. My dream is to have a huge neon light like [in the game] Devil May Cry."

By Staples Canada

March 03, 2022