#CreativeInsights: Denise Kuan

Today’s interview is Denise Kuan, an accomplished artist and producer. Her current focus? Esports videos, and– hopefully!– opening up the world of competitive video gaming to women around the globe.

Denise Kuan

photo courtesy Denise Kuan

1) Most of us are familiar with playing video games in our own living rooms, and maybe connected to friends online. But esports are something entirely different. Can you give us an overview of what they are?

Esports, electronic sports, is competitive/professional (video) gaming. Most of the popular games now are multiplayer team-based, and nearly all of these large, organized tournaments are broadcast live–mostly online, but ESPN3 has broadcasted some major tournaments in the past. Most major tournaments have teams from all over the world competing.

2) I don’t think most people realize how popular esports are, and how swiftly the field is growing. Are game makers actively turning their attention to developing games that are appropriate for arena-style gaming? What are some of the most popular games for competition– and are there any games that have an active following that we wouldn’t expect?

I do think game developers now are seriously considering esports when they make games, for a few reasons: esports is great marketing for a game, competitions are fun to watch, and esports can serve as a gateway to the game or genre of that game.
There are a few different games right now that are very popular competitively, and while they are of varying genres (MOBA-massive online battle arena, FPS-first person shooter, RTS-real time strategy…) they all include a really high-level of skill and have one winner and one loser, whether it’s an individual or a team-based game. Some games are easier to understand right away as a spectator, some require basic knowledge of the game and its mechanics.
For instance, CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) is an FPS game that’s pretty easy to understand since it’s a shooter. MOBA games are maybe not as easy to pick up right away since you need to know the different characters and their abilities, items, and game terms. At this year’s 2016 League of Legends World Championship though, there was an alternate stream by Riot Games for new players to help them understand the game, which I thought was super cool since League is the most popular game right now. 
photo courtesy Denise Kuan

photo courtesy Denise Kuan

The interesting thing I think many people may not consider is that when it comes to esports, even if you don’t play the game anymore–let’s use League of Legends as an example–I know a lot of people who don’t play as much anymore, but still follow League as an esport. There is an entire esports community for League of Legends outside of just the hardcore fans of the game, who might not even watch League as an esport. Some people are invested in the pro scene and enjoy watching high-level gameplay. When you watch an esport event, there are also short documentary-style videos and teaser videos that introduce players, teams, storylines that get you excited for the competition. You also might end up connecting with one of the pros because you can relate to one of their stories. Over the years, I’ve become fans of so many different pro players from around the world because of all their unique stories and personalities, and that’s just another thing that gets me excited about esports–the players and their stories.
 
Watching a game played at the highest level also helps you learn the game, which is actually how I became drawn to esports in the first place.

At this point, I’d be surprised if game developers creating online multiplayer games didn’t consider esports in their plans. 

photo courtesy Denise Kuan

photo courtesy Denise Kuan

3) A quick google reveals that the female contingent of esports players is kinda small– about 15-18%. What do you think is the best way for female gamers to get more active in the competitions?

At this time, there are very few female pro gamers because I don’t think the gaming community is very supportive of them. Some Southeast Asian Leagues have all-female teams and compete at all-female tournaments, but they aren’t taken that seriously, because female gamers in general are not taken seriously. I think it’s unfortunately really hard to put yourself out there as a professional female gamer. The way the current gaming community is now, females are very often scrutinized, threatened, and verbally harassed for every little thing they do or the way they look, or just plain being a female gamer. There is a lot within the community that needs to change. Diversity will only improve the community and level of competition. Until the gaming community as a whole truly begins to support and welcome female gamers, I think we won’t see the percentage of female pro gamers grow. Slowly though, there are very brave females out there who’ve created their own environment for competitive female gamers–one that comes to mind is the Smash Sisters, which happened at Genesis 3 (a Smash Bros. tournament) much earlier this year in January. 
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4) How can our readers keep in touch with you? Where can we see your work?

I am very active on Twitter (twitter.com/denisekuan), where I post artwork, League of Legends esports musings, and other random things going on in my life that I enjoy. You can see my video production work on the official lolesports’ Youtube page! (youtube.com/lolesports) I’ve worked on many of the Mandarin-language videos released from 2013~2016 during Worlds, MSI, and All-Star events, and the latest Worlds series, Worlds Classics. In my free time I love to draw, and my artwork is on Twitter or my Tumblr, linked here: zeemenace.tumblr.com

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