In our continuing series on women in esports, we chat with women from all sides of the industry. Today we're talking with some of the Troy High School Esports Club. We spoke with team members Samatha Subin Bae and Mindy Young Joo Jun, as well as general manager Carlos Aldaco. The other team members include Jaidalyn Bradley, Alison Trinh, Christine Wan, Jeselle Natividad, and Emma Herrmann.
They told SYFY FANGRRLS all about how they got started, what it's been like to be the only all-female esports high school team, and where you can cheer them on!
Mindy Young Joo Jin: Last year we started on one team for League of Legends, and that was a five-person team with one or two subs, and they were all male. But our school specifically has been known to show interest in esports for a long time and tracks our Esports Club is one of the oldest ones. There's been a couple of pros who graduated from here, like Pobelter, Eugene Park. And so, with that interest, Mr. Aldaco tried his best to kind of further it for us, because he knew that there were girls who were interested in esports and competing, but obviously we're underrepresented in the community. So we pushed for that, and he also pushed for an Overwatch team, and they're actually doing pretty well right now in their own league.
So, was everyone on board with this right away? How did this go from just talking about it to actually having it in practice?
Mindy Young Joo Jin: First, or on paper, it looks like it'd be great, because obviously with five girls, it's kind of our first time being — you don't really see this across the nation, in America, I think we're actually the first all-female team. So for inclusivity and representation, it looks amazing, but in the eyes of a couple of our administrators, it didn't seem very ideal or didn't appeal to them, because we didn't — we're not as good as other guys, or other males who actually want to compete, so they kinda didn't want us to face hate or toxicity from the community, and they were scared of backlash, but Mr. Aldaco actually pushed really hard for it, talking to the district and he kept on mentioning us to administrators, so eventually they came around to it and agreed.
What's your experience been, as far as people in-person and online?
Mindy Young Joo Jin: I personally try my best not to reveal my gender online because I know that that leads to stereotypes and kind of a lot of biases against me, so I don't really encounter as much as people who are more open about their gender online, but I say in person, for people who know that I play video games, it's kind of hard because I fall into the female stereotype... I play a female champion, but that's just because it's nice to play them, not necessarily because I consider myself to be worse than other people.
But one of the first things that I get told when people find out that I play League of Legends is “Oh!” — they ask me what rank I am, and when I tell them I'm Gold they're surprised, which is kind of unfortunate, because I say that Gold is not that high of a rank for other people, but also because I see it as me pulling down the rest of the team, or me not being capable or skilled enough, and they say that I was boosted to Gold. In other words, the only reason why I have the rank I do because I play with another person, which is probably a male in their eyes.
Samantha, what about you?
Samantha Subin Bae: So, I personally don't think — well, as a female, I have been kind of been looked down upon, but I main Mid, and all the other roles as well, so people tend to kind of respect me more, because they know that I can play roles where you go into the lane all by yourself. So I do think that this is a problem, where the girls are kind of stereotyped, but I think all the members, they all want to join into it and kind of stop all this discrimination.
What's the training schedule like?
Carlos Aldaco: Well, I can answer that one. When it comes to seniors, as of right now, I really don't want them practicing, because I want them to focus mainly on their college applications. But once the November 30th deadline passes, then we'll start practicing on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays, with the girls and guys for League of Legends. That's how the schedule is, and they also play at home on the weekend.
And about how long do these practices go?
Carlos Aldaco: Ideally, just one or two games, we're looking about — the max, about two hours, one day or two days out of the week. Competition one day or two days out of the week. Competition — when they schedule the competition, it'll be on Wednesdays, unless the other school cancels, then we'll have a practice, but if we do — if we do practice, it'll be one or two days out of the week, max two hours.
You guys are going be competing in the spring, is that correct?
Carlos Aldaco: Yeah, we'll be competing with the spring. We're part of NASEF, North American Scholastic Esports Federation — god, I feel like it's a Star Trek ship — that's what it feels like. [laughs] It's a long name. That's the organization that we're part of. It's kind of funny how -- because when they first created this league, the Orange County Department of Education and UCI went to all the -- basically, they went all to all the high schools in Orange County, and asking about esports, which caught us off guard.
Because it's usually the other way around, the high schools go to county and get their approval, but they were the ones who were pushing it, and this is how the whole league started last year. And this is their full second year, and our first full year was with the League of Legends boys, and then when that season was over, I said, "Well, we need a League of Legends girls' team,” and that's when I started to assemble the girls, because I know there's plenty of League of Legends players out there. And I told the girls it's important for them to play because they could be an example, and I had a sit-down with all the girls because of that. They had to understand social media and they're gonna get a lot of criticism, especially from the guys. And they're real tough, and — I mean, they can be really, really negative, and I've seen it firsthand. And I have a daughter. And we know the struggles, because she played basketball, and you know it's the same thing with the girls' basketball, you can see it with the WNBA, how they're treated versus the men in the NBA.
And I told the girls that they just gotta keep playing regardless if you guys — I expect them to win a lot, and not just play. They'd be good if they get the proper training, but can they win it all? Yeah. I feel like they can, you just gotta get them ready to compete, but it's not gonna be an easy process for them. They're going to face a lot of criticism online, offline. People are gonna make fun of them, and I expect that. But I told the girls, "In order for you girls to change that environment, you need to participate."
How did you guys all get into video games?
Mindy Young Joo Jun: I actually have a brother, he's around 12 years older than me, so he was a parental figure, but more of a cool uncle instead of my dad. So most of my time, when I was young, was spent actually right next to him as he played video games, so for me personally, I find it more entertaining to be watching video games instead of play video games, but I say that's what pulled me into League of Legends specifically, 'cause I always thought I'd play League, so that's why I started.
Samantha Subin Bae: When I was around 5 years old, I had a childhood friend, and he kind of got me into games by showing me what the DS was, and what all his gadgets were from Nintendo, like the Wii, and I was really jealous of him. I wanted to play too, so I asked my parents to buy me those gadgets as well, and gradually, they were very intriguing to me, and I just kept on playing games after that.
Carlos Aldaco: It's interesting with me, because I think I started playing at a very, very young age, when — of course, I was around Nintendo, but I was still riding around in diapers. I think I was 5 or 6, that's the first thing I can remember. I was born in '75. I can't remember when Atari came out. Then I got a little bit older and then Nintendo came out, which completely changed everything because of the graphics, and — you know, it's kind of like the PlayStation 4 today, but I used to play six, seven hours a day, just like an esports game. I remember all the competitions on TV. What these kids don't realize, esports has always been around, but in a different way, like Tecmo Bowl. I remember the TV show with KTLA, they used to have a video game competition growing up.
But my first, favorite game that I played -- because about 10 or 11 years old when it first came out, was Final Fantasy. That's always been my favorite video game. From there, of course, all the other gaming systems. PlayStation, Xbox, and then I play online. I used to play Call of Duty for shooter games. Now I play League, I could beat these guys whenever I feel like it. I'm just playing, guys. It's just been part of me, I've always been a gamer, I grew up around it and I understand it. You know, it's like playing a sport, like playing baseball, football, any other type of activity that anybody enjoys, and that's why I started playing.
And growing up, I kind of had an idea this was gonna explode one day, but the technology wasn't there. Because when you're growing up, you're watching these TV shows, and they're competing, it's like, "Okay, I can see it one day happening," and now I'm seeing it. I'm old now — if it was around when I was younger, I know I would have been competing, but it's been great to watch these kids compete. And yeah, I love it, so I'm an old school gamer. I still have my old systems. Actually, I brought out my Nintendo system and I had these kids play Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! and, yeah, they couldn't beat a game that was — how old is that game? Back in 1987?
Samantha Subin Bae: Yes sir, I think.
Carlos Aldaco: Yeah, they couldn't even beat it.
Carlos Aldaco: Yeah, I've always had a passion for gaming. Personally, it was like an escape for me too, especially where I grew up. I had an older brother who was a gang member, a younger brother who was a gang member, and my situation's a little bit different from their experience. It was kind of my escape, so it kept me out of trouble, actually.
If people online want to cheer you guys on, is there some place on social media that we can?
Carlos Aldaco: Well, yeah, we have the Twitter, and now we have Instagram, and then we have our Facebook. We're working on our website right now. Everything's all new. I think we're the only school that's really promoting it, versus all the other schools. Because I'm really active and I get these guys active and involved. We actually have weekly meetings, esports meetings, with all three teams, once a week, because I feel that's important for them to get to know each other and get to know the other teams. To feel a sense of a community, a sense of belonging.
If you want to follow Troy's Esports Team, you can do so on their Twitter @Troy_Esports, on Instagram @Troy_Esports and on Facebook here. You can also check out the NASEF (North American Scholastic Esports Federation) where Troy has competed here.