Kelly Kelley Explains Why It’s Hard For Female Gamers To Join eSports ‘Boys Club’

Mrs Violence is a 26-year-old professional video gamer who hasn’t seen the rise in eSports’ popularity open new doors for female pros.
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LOS ANGELES — Kelly “Mrs Violence” Kelley is one of the top female pro gamers out there. But she’s currently unemployed, having recently parted ways with Gamespot. Kelley’s shooting skills in games like Gears of War, Battlefield and Call of Duty got the attention of Hollywood. She was a contestant on the Syfy competitive TV series, WCG Ultimate Gamer and won Gamespot’s The Controller gaming competition. She’s won many tournaments over the years, establishing herself as one of the top pro female FPS players in the world. Kelley attended the 2014 Call of Duty Championship as a fan and spectator. She talks about the challenges female pros face today despite the rise in popularity of eSports in this exclusive interview.

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How have you seen things evolve when it comes to female pro gamers since you got started?

Kelley: “I really didn’t have any women to look up to in the pro gaming department. I always looked up to a guy, but as the years have progressed there’s definitely been a lot more female faces at tournaments and more females trying to be pro gamers, so that’s really good to see because at first it was only me.”

How did you get involved in pro gaming? 

Kelley: “I first got involved in pro gaming when I was real young, around 11 or 12 years old. I watched on the Internet WCG over in Korea. I got to watch a lot of StarCraft. But I actually started in Magic: The Gathering through a card game at my local comics store. I went from competitive card gaming to online gaming with shooters like Rainbow 6, Ghost Recon and Halo.”

Why do you think when you look around here at the Call of Duty Championship there are no female gamers? 

Kelley: “Not a lot of girls are here because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for them.  The guys just look at them immediately and say “no” without even checking out their skill or talent. I find that’s just still the number one reason why girls aren’t on top teams like these.”

I see some that are in more managerial positions, though.

Kelley: “There are a lot of girls that are managers, coaches, marketing and community managers. They get along with so many people, but they’re not being taken super serious enough to compete. So that might be their downfall as well.”

How do you see things evolving when you look ahead?

Kelley: “I see a lot in the new years for eSports. You have Azubu, MLG, League of Legends. There are all these huge names and they’re coming out of the woodwork and they’re just showcasing the best talent. That is just going to put us on the map as far as TV because my ultimate goal is to see eSports on television.”

Like with what World Series of Poker did with ESPN?

Kelley: “Exactly. There are pro poker players that used to be pro StarCraft players, so if they can go from gaming to poker, why can’t gaming go straight to TV like poker did.”

What impact will the large number of female gamers that are out there as eSports continues to grow have in getting females into pro teams?

Kelley: “On a pro level the more girls that come out would just show everyone how serious we are to be taken seriously. Because there’s this misconception that we’re just on this lower level of mentality and that’s not really true. We all want to win. We all want to grind. We all want to be super driven, but at the same time we’re not given the chance. So the more girls that come out and showcase their talent and put on a good respectful show, it will just help everybody. It will help all the other women in the world, in gaming too.”

Do you feel like we would see a separate league for females like we do for the WNBA or do you feel like that at some point an all-girl team will emerge? 

Kelley: “When it comes to an all-female league, we’ve all wanted one and said that we should do that, but at the same time there’s so many girls that are like, ‘I don’t want to play in an all-female league,  I want to play against the best, which are with the boys.’ But unfortunately it’s just so hard to even play against them when you just want to even scrim. They won’t even scrim you because they look at you as a joke because you’re a girl. All in all, it’s just uneven. If you even have the resemblance of a woman, they won’t give you a chance at all.”

When it comes to a competition like a Call of Duty Championship which is open to everyone, do you envision in the future an all-female team being able to get into a tournament like this?

Kelley: “As far as it goes right now, I don’t see an all-female team coming together and collaborating to an extent. They make it for about a month or maybe into one event and then they break up. They lose interest. Family gets in the way. A lot of stuff hinders you, but at the same time you have to grind, you have to show them that you want to do this. You have to play as much as the boys play. I used to play 17 hours a day when I was competing. And I just don’t see four other girls out there right now doing the same thing. It’s really hard to have the ability to do so and to accomplish it.”

It seems like from a sponsorship standpoint that there would be a lot of opportunities for a female video game team to hit a demographic that currently is being ignored in eSports. 

Kelley: “Yeah. I tried doing an all-female team. We got 29th in our first event. That’s technically semi-pro. And within the next two months before the next tournament, we broke up. One player just lost interest. The other one wanted to play StarCraft. So you have to find four super hardcore, dedicated females out there that want to play. Not go out with a boyfriend. You have to want to keep playing all day and night. It doesn’t stop.”

A lot of teams have Gaming Houses and that’s all they do is practice.

Kelley: “Yeah, all gaming, all the time. You wake up and you game all the time. But even someone like me, I was waking up and making videos because I was trying to also brand myself and compete. I was also becoming my own brand ambassador.”

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site