Hong Kong’s first all-female e-sports gaming team aim to smash stereotypes: Girl power

James Griffiths

Girls HK have been a hit in the male-dominated pro-gaming world since they teamed up two months ago, and with over 50,000 Facebook fans already, they are steadily gaining a loyal following.

The girls will take on Taiwanese team Logi-A later this month at E-Sport Festival 2015, where they hope to drum up interest in the craft among other women.

“We’re confident of winning,” team captain Fafa Yim told the South China Morning Post during a practice session at the Cyber Games Arena in Kowloon Bay.

The festival is one of the biggest dates in the city’s pro-gaming calendar, with winning teams earning prizes of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,450) from a HK$200,000 purse.

The tournament also features competitions in Street Fighter, first-person shooter Counterstrike, and card-battling game Hearthstone.

Girls HK captain Fafa Yim broadcasts her gaming exploits to thousands of fans through streaming service Twitch. Photo: Edmond So

From “PC bangs” in Seoul to cyber cafes in Shanghai, competitive gaming is huge in Asia, with leading players earning more than US$1 million a year. The global e-sports video market is worth over US$300 million a year, according to US research firm IHS.

In South Korea, the spiritual home of e-sports, the craze has become so severe in recent years that the government imposed restrictions limiting the amount of time school-aged children can spend in the often poorly lit and cigarette-smoke clogged subterranean cyber cafes.

This hasn’t stopped the scene exploding in popularity, with major e-sports events attracting tens of thousands of fans and packing out stadiums across the country, something Hong Kong’s pro-gaming proponents hope to recreate.

Girls HK will compete against a Taiwanese women’s team later this month at a major Hong Kong e-sports competition. Photo: Edmond So

Yim and her crew were selected in an online recruitment competition by Swiss device maker Logitech, which also sponsors the upcoming festival.

The team, in their matching blue hoodies emblazoned with their sponsor’s logo, all broadcast their exploits on game streaming service Twitch – bought last year by Amazon for US$970 million – where thousands of subscribers tune in to hear them discuss their tactics and smack talk.

Girls HK specialise in League of Legends, a hugely popular free-to-play multiplayer battle game that boasts more than 20 million daily users around the world.

Yim took up the game over two years ago, but getting anywhere near pro-level required serious commitment.

“It took me around a year-and-a-half to become a good player, practicing for two to three hours a day, four or five days per week,” she said.

Girls HK (front row, left to right) ”Kaching” Chan, Nicole Cheung, Kim Kwan, (back row, left to right) Rose Ma, ”FaFa” Yim, Sadie Wong and ”Cupnoodle” Kwan. Photo: Edmond So

She said Hong Kong’s e-sports scene is beginning to take off but remains very male dominated. A lot of women are turned off by the violent nature of some of the games, she added.

“[League of Legends] probably attracts fewer girls because it’s not that cute and there’s lots of killing.”

While the Hong Kong scene is small, Yim and her teammates still have a long way to go to rise up the ranks, most hold down regular day jobs or are in full-time education, carving out practise in the evening or over the weekend.

Sam Wan, founder of Cyber Games Arena and one of the organisers of the E-Sport Festival, said he hoped Girls HK will go on to play more exhibition matches and eventually become full-time gamers.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 August, 2015, 7:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 August, 2015, 5:35pm