Women in esports face waves of toxic criticism. North Texas pros, industry

Anna Iorio doesn’t like to turn on her mic when playing games. Doing so opens her up to vitriol that only half the world’s population has to deal with.

Iorio is the esports club president at SMU. She is in charge of a 300-member group, which has become a safe space for all comers.

The group meets biweekly for 90 minutes. She’s the Overwatch team captain, tasked with leading discussions, organizing meetings and setting up matches. But when she leaves the welcoming atmosphere of the group to play online in her apartment, she’s exposed to toxic comments from anonymous players:

“Is your PC setup in the kitchen?”

“This is why women are abused.”

“Why would you say that?” asked Iorio, a 20-year-old junior from Missouri. “I just don’t really understand the mental process.”

Iorio isn’t alone in questioning the derogatory nature of anonymity toward women in esports. Some of the most successful women in the business have shared similar stories.

The esports community, both competitive and casual, is growing at a rapid pace across the country and in North Texas. It’s a $1 billion industry that is becoming more mainstream by the day, attracting new consumers, personalities and competitors.

The grind to compete or get involved at the highest level makes it both challenging and incredibly rewarding.

But it isn’t always inviting — especially for women.

The road can be disheartening, and professionals say equal opportunity means being subjected to hate. The women who make it have to weather verbal abuse and deconstructive evaluations that their male counterparts often aren’t subject to.

“I think women are scared to join the club because they don’t think that it’s for them, which is kind of heartbreaking because it’s sad to play games by yourself,” Iorio said. “They think people would be like, ‘Oh, well I don’t want to play with you because you’re a girl.’”

Amateur and professional organizations in North Texas recognize the problem. Solving it is another issue.

Waves of criticism

Maddynf is a content creator for Complexity Gaming.
Maddynf is a content creator for Complexity Gaming.(Courtesy/Complexity Gaming)

Maddynf is a rising star in Texas. She has over 450,000 YouTube subscribers and represents Complexity Gaming, which is headquartered at The Star in Frisco across from the Dallas Cowboys practice stadium.

Specializing in the wildly popular battle-royale title Fortnite, she’s made a career out of her passion.

Like Iorio, she faces challenges. Maddynf has to be careful about what she reveals on stream, never saying too much about her personal life.

Complexity teammate Electra, a North Texas native who has over 235,000 followers on Twitch, took her father’s advice early in her gaming career, removing any reference to her gender in her identity. Both Maddynf and Electra, signed by Complexity earlier this year,…

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