Challenges include sexist comments, spotty internet connections on reserves
by Jennifer Francis | CBC News | original article from CBC NEWS, posted Jul 08, 2023
An Indigenous competitive esports and content creation organization is highlighting its women gamers, a demographic that it says is not represented enough in the industry.
Live Forever is a Canadian-based organization that aims to connect Indigenous gamers, esports competitors and streamers across North America. It aims to provide a safe space to those in isolated communities, those facing personal challenges or people who simply want a sense of community.
Shirlene Flett from St. Theresa Point First Nation in northern Manitoba, currently living in Winnipeg, creates content for Live Forever.
She said when she joined there weren't many Indigenous women gamers in the esports space, making it difficult for her to even break into the industry in 2020.
"When I joined it was like a Christmas present to me," she said.
"I worked really hard to get in."
Vicki Wood, a content creator and competitive gamer for Live Forever, living in St. Theresa Point, has created a dedicated community around her streams and considers herself a full-time content creator.
She said she gets some negative comments from viewers in her stream's chat function, sometimes even sexist and prejudiced comments.
"They can be really mean sometimes," she said.
"I've been online gaming since 2008; that is not new to me. I've already heard all of the insults of being a female gamer. I don't let it get to me anymore. I just kind of laugh it off and continue to focus on my loyal supporters, my loyal viewers."
When Live Forever held a Call of Duty: Warzone tournament on July 6 and 7, one of the requirements for the teams who registered was that there had to be at least one female in each group of four.
Ivan Flett, CEO and owner of Live Forever, said this rule was implemented to create an important balance of women and men gamers.
"There are girls in our organization who are better than me, they can run circles around me, they have just as much passion as we do," he said.
Ivan, no relation to Shirlene, said he is proud of the women and girls in the organization making a name for themselves and trying to break through onto the international esports level.
Internet barriers for streamers
He said internet access is the biggest barrier any Indigenous content creator in remote communities deals with.
"Starlink [a satellite-based high-speed internet service] opened the door to esports gaming, especially to our creators and our competitive players that we have across Canada," he said.
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Shirlene Flett said the internet is slow in St. Theresa Point but better with Starlink, and easier to game and stream at the same time. She said some people have to rely on cell phone data hotspots to do both, which could end up costing a lot in data fees.
"I was living off 5GB of data and I wanted to stream [in my community] but I couldn't do that because my PS4 takes so much data alone."
Jennifer Francis a reporter with CBC Indigenous based in Saskatchewan. She is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation and lives in Regina. Got news tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org