I wanted to make sure that my voice wasn't the only one droning at you during this series, so I bestowed some fangirl love upon some prominent pro-gamers in exchange for interviews. I was really honored that Anna Collier, one of the most well-known in the field agreed to humor me.
Anna Collier, a nineteen year-old from Georgia, is one of the top female first-person shooter players. Competing since the age of fourteen, Anna has been sponsored and contracted numerous times to compete at National-level tournaments. She competed in her first Championship for Halo 3 at the Cyberathlete Professional League: Extreme Winter Championship in Dallas, Texas. She resides in a gaming community called TRu Gaming; TRu stands for Truth, Respect, and Unity. Aside from her gaming career, Anna owns a pet sitting and dog walking business. She's been an animal lover since birth, and has a "zoo" of her own in her house. Anna's just like every other teenage girl, just with different hobbies.
I saw in one of your gaming reviews that you began playing Halo when you were nine! What made you decide to pursue gaming professionally, and how old were you?
I never intended to play video games professionally. When I was younger, I grew up playing video games for friendly competition against my older brother or sister, sometimes my parents, but I never thought I would ever get paid one day to play 'em. After Halo: Combat Evolved had been out for a year or two, my brother and his friends made a team (Team Uber), and they were the ones that started traveling and competing at tournaments first. Once Halo 2 came out, they all quit. A few years after Halo 2 had come out I heard about Major League Gaming. In 2006 I competed in my first National tournament and the rest is history. I was fourteen when I received my first sponsorship, and as time went on and I got older, I was offered more and more sponsorships and eventually paid to play by corporations and communities.
Anonymity online allows people, I think especially women, to feel more confident and safe when engaging in activities, online gaming among them. I think it also, however, opens up the opportunity for a hostile environment from people who would like to bully and harass others online. How do you think anonymity helps or hurts women and girls in online gaming?
There is no such thing as complete anonymity while playing video games. Most female [gamers] that play video games show off their sex in their Gamertag, along with a "girly" profile, or they make their avatar or character into a female. Now, of course, some guys will do the same just for the laughs, but they too eventually will get discriminating hate messages or the very creepy "love" messages. What can hurt women and girls is speaking on the microphone: Our voices aren't as deep as male [gamers]. Being a female [gamer] in a dominate gaming world of men has its ups and its downs. You will always get immature men who will bash on you because of your voice or you're playing style and tell you to "get back into the kitchen." Never let it get to you—always be the bigger person and crush their ego with your skill.
Anna in-game as Dangerous Cutie.
As a former pro-gamer yourself, and a current trainer, how do you view the climate towards women and girls entering the pro-gaming circuit today?
It's common to see female [gamers] entering large competitions now; more women are getting interested in gaming. The climate is actually softer than it was before. "Softer" meaning it's getting to be normal and more accepted. If any female [gamer] is looking to get into professional gaming, I would advise them to start off small at local tournaments, and then move up the ladder to compete at National tournaments. It's expected to see female [gamers] now at tournaments, and if there weren't, it'd probably feel uncomfortable.
What, in your opinion, do you see being a precipitating factor that will change the way people view women and girl gamers? Do you see a time when we can drop the descriptor "girl" from "gamer" and just be gamers coming soon?
I think if a woman won the biggest tournament in history, that in itself would change the perspective of men who call women "girl gamers" for a while. I don't think the term will ever lose its meaning; it honestly depends on the person. When I go into a GameStop or a Target to buy a game, I know personally they don't look at me as a "girl gamer." I'm just another gamer interested in another game. There is a level of respect and maturity that one needs to reach or earn before people can just look at and say "she's just a gamer."
We gave our daughter her first World of Warcraft account a few years ago, and a friend of ours told us that we were setting her up to be one of the "jocks of the future." Do you see pro-gaming being taken as seriously as professional sports one day?
I can see pro-gaming getting more recognition as a professional sport very soon into the future. Gaming has already become a sport with paid professionals, sponsored teams, recognition in major magazines and, soon, televised shows and events. Gaming is like any other sport; you have teams and coaches, practices and scrims, and then you compete at a tournament. Many people would probably say gaming isn't a sport because there isn't any physical activity, but you never hear people complain about chess not being a sport, do you? Gamers go under a lot of stress when competing, they have to time certain weapons and power ups, have to have great communication skills, and above all, they have to stay calm while under pressure. It can get very intense, and if you aren't prepared, you'll lose. End of story—Game Over.
I live in South Korea, where gaming really is practically a professional sport. I mean, we have two cable channels devoted to it. Do you think gaming in the U.S. will rise to that level?
I think gaming is rising to that level now or very soon. Eventually, though, we will get there. The Gaming industry is one of the biggest industries in the world, if not the biggest, today. Here is a sneak preview of what's going to happen with channels for Gaming, first heard from Major League Gaming.
What do you think male gamers can do to help make the gaming world more inviting to more women and girl gamers? Do you think having more women and girl gamers in online gaming and in professional gaming will help change the attitudes towards them?
I think and know that male gamers need to stop with discriminating comments, messages, and attacks over a microphone. They also need to stop with foul-mouthed and sexual comments towards us. No, honestly, it doesn't matter how many girl gamers you can throw online or into professional gaming, there are still going to be men out there that will bash on us just because of our sex [or gender].
I know that learning to tank or heal for dungeon raids is intimidating when people find out you are a chick in MMORPGs, and people lose patience with you quickly. How does this translate to the FPS arena?
I've learned that if you have skill, it doesn't matter if you're a male or female [gamer]. As long as you can get the job done, and handle your own, no one will call you out on it. However, if you screw up multiple times, or can't get a certain area secure, or aren't able to revive your teammates, the cussing will come and you'll probably be booted out of the lobby. It depends on your skill and the people you're playing with. If they don't care if you mess up a lot, and know you're still learning the game, then the chances of them getting upset and yelling at you are slim. If you choose to go into a ranked match, and your skill isn't up to par and you don't know how to do certain things, be prepared for the screaming and the cussing, along with the sexist comments.
A great big thank you to Anna for her time! Look for her recent interview in the January 2011 issue of Official XBox Magazine.
Photos courtesy of Anna Collier, used with permission.