We’re starting a new series of interviews highlighting the women of esports on SYFY FANGRRLS! This week, we're spotlighting Emily “Ffoxface” Malakof, who is a member of League of Legends amateur team the Tampa Bay Dungeoneers, playing for Super League Gaming.
Malakoff is 26 and, when she isn’t playing League of Legends (or playing competitive Quidditch), she works as an accountant for a real estate firm. We spoke to Malakoff at the Super League Gaming and Red Bull All-Stars Inaugural Tournament in late June.
We just watched you play for a bit, which was really cool. Tell us about the experience. You had some intense stuff going on there. [Note: There was a glitch during the game from Riot Games’ end, so there were some restarts. The Tampa Bay Dungeoneers won the game.]
The games were fine. The really annoying part was just, you know, we do a thing to get a lead, they remake. They do a thing, we already have a lead, they get a remake. That was the most annoying part. I don’t know if it was obvious on the screen, but we had built an advantage in the first game… and then remake. So we couldn’t do the level three game we had just done. Then they did it again… but we had leads both of those times. It feels like we played a five-game series! [laughs]
But it worked out!
It worked out!
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in League of Legends.
I got into League at college. A few people were like, play this game with us. I was like, fine, and I played with them a couple of times. I wasn’t going to play it very much, and then one of my friends kept encouraging me to play… they haven’t played for two years! But I’m playing still and somehow this is happening! [laughs]
So how did all of this happen?
Legit, I saw the ad for City Champs on the client. I read up on it and it was like, so you can pay $20 and if you finish your matches, that’s $10 of Riot Points, and then there are prizes for winning past that, and I was like, cool. So I’ll just pay $20. I’ll definitely get $20 of Riot Points, and then I’ll see what else I can get. I went into it thinking, maybe I’ll win, like, $50 of Riot Points, max. So I won $10 of RP, then $20 of RP, then a mouse, then a mouse pad, and now I’m in Los Angeles, and that’s very strange, but good! [laughs]
So what do you love about all this? Both League and esports in general.
I used to play a lot of “real” sports, too, but as you can see, when I stand up, I’m about 5’4”, and I used to play football and I was the goalkeeper in soccer, and you’ll notice both of those things are not very easy to do at 5’4”! So I just ended up not being able to do that sort of thing anymore. I can still do it, but I couldn’t pursue it any further.
And with esports, I have a lot—there is a lot more of an even playing field in terms of physical characteristics… it doesn’t matter what you look like in terms of your physical capabilities to a certain extent. Though I’ve heard of a player that has no hands and plays with their feet who is mid-to-high Diamond. There are still physical things, but with enough perseverance, those can be pushed through in most scenarios. Did you hear about the new Xbox controller that’s coming out? It’s essentially a whole bunch of separate buttons that can be connected and you can configure it and everything. People who can’t do—it gives them a chance to play the same games. It’s about accessibility. The accessibility of esports is one of the things that I really like about it. Plus, just the fact that there are around 20 starters here from everywhere, from Seattle to Miami. That’s about as far away as you can get in the contiguous United States. I play games, I meet people on them, I talk to them all the time.
Tell us a bit about the community.
I’ve heard a lot from people who say things like, I Q’d by myself and ended up in a 4Q and they all blamed me and they all reported me and that sort of thing. I don’t know if you know anything about League… there was a temporary game mode for a little while where you picked from a certain pool of champions, and essentially, it wasn’t one team versus another. It was enemies would spawn in. It was an arena, a gauntlet sort of thing, but with the League character. I queued up for the Star Guardian mode by myself. I ended up with a 4Q. We played one game and we talked in chat. They asked me if I wanted to come to their Discord server and play another one. I was like, sure. Today I know that there are three people from that server who are watching the tournament today and rooting for me! I never would have met them without this sort of thing.
Is there something about the League community in particular that you love?
With the League community, I think there’s a possibility—when you get into a game in League—first of all, it’s team-based. Second of all, you can always see what’s going on with your team. There’s no lack of vision. You can press F1 to F4 and you can literally just go see, set a camera on a teammate. You can see what’s happening. And if they die or if they get a kill, you’ll always know about it because of the announcements. That presents League and the players with a choice. If my teammate dies, I can go, why did you do that you—whatever. Or, I can say, hey, it’s okay, don’t worry. It’s fine. Did they use any summoners, can I help with something? It’s a game where there is a lot of potential for someone to solo carry, but it’s so much stronger to work as a team, even with people you don’t know.
Do you think it makes the League group more accepting?
I think it makes half of the League group more accepting! [laughs]
Looking at the League group here, it’s obviously a largely male group.
Yeah, there’s only been one female professional player. That’s Remilia, and she only played like three LCS [League of Legends Championship Series] level games, and she got sh*t from the community that she didn’t deserve.
So what’s been your experience?
I've generally not felt too much outside pressures from being a girl. I’ve not felt anything from other players about being a girl. I’ve definitely felt more pressure, if I’m at a thing and I’m a girl, I have to do well to prove that it’s totally possible.
Do you have any plans to go professional with this?
I think I’m the oldest player here. [laughs]
But, if physicality doesn’t matter, does age?
To an extent, it does matter with reaction times, and them naturally tapering off. I do think it’s possible to be a player at an older age, but I have been playing this game for so long, and I’m still Platinum 3. I mean, I’m good at this game. I’m in the top five percent of players. Our mid-liner is in the top .05 percent of players. That’s a bit of a gap to cover!
But would you give it a shot?
If I got an offer, I would say first, this isn’t a joke, right? [laughs] Then I would say, let me try it.
You can check out Super League Gaming at SuperLeague.com!