We don’t need a calendar to tell us when to honor women and all of the amazing things they are capable of, but it’s still nice to mark Women’s History Month when it rolls around every March. And this year, gamers have even more reason to celebrate, because mega-popular esports and entertainment organization FaZe Clan has signed its first ever all-woman esports team.
Competing under FaZe’s Valorant banner, the team, which was announced Tuesday, is made up of five pros who are already pretty well known in the scene: Jennifer “refinnej” Le, Emma “emy” Choe, Vannesa “panini” Emory, Madison “maddiesuun” Mann, and Diane “di^” Tran. The team’s first public appearance of the 2023 season will come during North America's Game Changers Series I, a Riot Games-hosted tournament specifically for women and non-binary players, which kicks off this April.
“To be under the FaZe team is historical,” Mann said during Thursday’s R29 Twitch stream, where she was joined by the rest of her teammates. “It’s an honorable feeling to be the first ones.”
Speaking with R29 Entertainment Director and Twitch host Melissah Yang, Choe agreed, recalling how she grew up watching her brother play video games before picking them up on her own and becoming a huge fan of FaZe in the process. “It’s a really cool experience to join this org that I’ve looked up to for so long, and that most people know by name — even if they don’t play video games, they’ve probably heard of FaZe Clan,” she said. “It’s such an iconic name, I think my brain doesn’t fully understand what’s happening.”
Many of the women were already friends and teammates before joining forces under FaZe — Le, Emory, and Mann previously played on Complexity GX3 together, while Le, Choe, and Tran were on the same competitive Counter Strike Global Offensive team CLG Red. And they actually competed as fivesome during last year’s North American Game Changers Series III for the first time under the team name "Hamboigas" (which is a reference to an inside joke and — you guessed it — their shared love of hamburgers).
Each team member agreed that this is a huge step for raising exposure and awareness of women in esports, but that merely creating an all-woman team doesn’t address equity issues within the industry. For one, true change has to start with simply increasing the number of women who are playing and creating more opportunities for them to compete at higher levels, according to Tran. “It’s honestly awesome seeing all these orgs get into [women’s esports],” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really hard when the scene is so much smaller.” The good news, she added, is that younger women and girls are playing on their own, which hopefully means that the next generation will be able to rise among the ranks down the road.
That’s why all-woman teams also shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, the team believes. Something like Game Changers can make a huge difference — it’s helping put women esports pros on the map while showing women fans and more casual gamers that there is a world in which they too can turn pro. “The whole point is not to separate women from men — it’s more to motivate women to be involved,” said Mann. If this comes to fruition, then the teammates think that, within a few years, we’ll start to see women playing in Tier 1 teams.
Something else the entire team can agree on? Joining FaZe doesn’t equal success. They’re in this to compete at the highest level possible. “Being signed gives us motivation to show people that we earned being on FaZe,” Choe said. “I feel very good when I have pressure on me — good pressure — and getting to FaZe, knowing that it’s such a big name and that we want to make sure that we’re trying our best, doing our best and winning for all of our supporters and FaZe, that’s the motivation for me to get on, play a lot more, and focus on how to get better.”
“I don’t think we’re successful until we come home with trophies,” Mann said, the rest of the women nodding their heads. “Signing and having the support of the organization is great, but I don’t think we’ll be at the top where we want to be until we win.”