Allison Simmons is 13 years old, but she’s been playing video games since she was 7. She meets other gamers online all the time, and she maintains friendships with some of them. But, she said, it’s not so easy to find people her own age that like the game as much as she does.
That’s one of the reasons Allison decided to go to Columbia College’s Girls Who Game event in September. The event was for girls ages 12 to 14 who are interested in gaming and game design. The girls played games in the campus’ “Gaming Hut,” which is also home to the Columbia College eSports team.
Esports, short for electronic sports, are video games played competitively. Newzoo, a digital games market research firm, expects eSports to exceed $1 billion in profits by 2019. There are world-wide tournaments, professional gamers and millions of viewers that tune in to online streams.
Allison is one of those viewers. She watches her favorite players, and she also plays herself. At the Girls Who Game event, the girls played a game called Overwatch.
The ten girls were divided into teams of five. They wore headsets and whispered strategies to one another. Allison has been playing this game for over a year now. It’s one of her favorites.
“What I like about the game is kind of more of like the concept of more teamwork. Not a lot of games have this level of teamwork these days,” Allison said.
All ten girls have played this game before, but Allison is the leader. The team she is on wins every match.
Since she was 7, eSports has become a major hobby for Allison.
“What I really like about eSports is that it's one of the very enjoyable concepts. It's more strategized in the brain instead of physical,” Allison said. “So instead of like physical needs you need mental and planning and cooperation needs.”
But finding other girls her age who share her hobby can be difficult. She’s made friends with other gamers on the internet, but there’s a downside to that as well.
“It's a pretty cool part of getting other friends that understand you,” Allison said. “The thing is there can also not be friendly people on the internet. So that's one of the bad things about it is people take advantage.”
She loves the idea of making friends she can game with, but her real goal is to work through the long list of games she has yet to play.
“There's so many games that I would have liked to try, like the old retro games. I would have liked to try those at some point,” Allison said. “And there are like some games I would like to play on better resolutions and such like that. Like Horizon, with the robot dinosaurs, that seems like really neat.”
The event was the first of its kind for Columbia College eSports. And it reached full capacity with a waiting list of more girls interested in gaming.
Erin McKinstry produced this week's episode. Music comes from Blue Dot Sessions (Tuck and Point, available under CC BY-NC 4.0).