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Female gamers hope to inspire future generations

November 19, 2019

Liz Gwaltney and Morgan Garber grew up playing video and computer games. Today they’re competing as members of Dakota State’s esports program.

They are a portion of the 46 percent of U.S. gamers who are women, according to Entertainment Software Association. But the number of competitive female gamers is much smaller.

“It’s very rare to see females compete at some of the levels these two are,” said Andy Roland, esports coach.

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Liz Gwaltney plays “Overwatch” in the esports room at Dakota State.

Gwaltney, a senior production animation major from Rapid City, S.D., started out playing N64, eventually getting an Xbox and then moving on to computer games in 2010.

“I’ve been playing games on PC ever since,” she said. Gwaltney went on to join the DSU Esports Club her sophomore year; she still plays on the “Overwatch” team today, competing at the varsity level.  Gwaltney appreciates the game “Overwatch” for its beautiful art style and the mechanical soundness of the game.

Esports is now part of the athletics department at DSU, and Gwaltney is excited to be a part of an official athletic program. “Now we actually have something to play for, something to be proud of,” she said.

While she has had positive experiences playing at and for DSU, Gwaltney has experienced different behavior online.

“Sexism is still very much a real thing on the internet,” she said, which is why she appreciates her teammates so much. “I respect my teammates greatly, and I know they respect me for my ability to play well and play well with them.”

Gwaltney hopes that she might inspire other females to not be afraid of esports. “I want to encourage other girls to get involved.”

“You do not have to be a man to play,” she said. For women just starting out in gaming she suggests playing a lot and studying competitive play.  “And you shouldn’t be afraid because there are plenty of men that aren’t very good at the game.”

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Morgan Garber plays “Smite” in the esports room at Dakota State.

Garber, a sophomore sound design major from Pierre, S.D., has three older brothers who got her interested in gaming. This fall she tried out for the “Smite” esports team and earned a place on the junior varsity team.

“I never thought I was going to make it on the team,” she said. “You don’t see many females out there who compete at this level.”

Garber was able to meet friends through participation in esports. “When I first came to college, I didn’t have a lot of friends and thanks to me joining [the team], now they’re my closest group of friends.”

She hopes more young women will try out in the future. “The more females that try out the more females there will be on the teams,” she said.

Dakota State esports coach Andy Roland is excited to have them as part of the program and hopes to continue to promote diversity and inclusivity in esports at DSU.