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.

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.

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.”

Featured Columnist

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

Published Apr. 21st 2014
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing. =) How'd you land that?
  • Mikel_1988
    What max said is true. I don't play CoD because I don't like it but I do play other games like BF3, League of Legends etc. League of Legends is probably one of the most toxic communities I have come across. As a matter of fact I started out just wanting to play the game and have fun. Then once I felt I fully learned the game and the champs I went into ranked and I myself as well became toxic to people who I felt weren't on my level. I also insulted the other team to lower their morale. Female players on there aren't treated any different though than men. They have to deal with the same BS that CoD and BF3 dish out. There is a slight difference though when it came to normal games vs ranked games. If it's a ranked game and a player on your team is causing you to lose they get the blame and reports for it. IF that person happened to be female they throw the ultimate bitch fit about being ridiculed. When it comes to a norm game almost everyone WANTS a female on their team because they like to give attention to them. So even if the female on a norm game is causing her team to lose no one cares. It just goes to show you and I feel as proof that it doesn't matter if your male or female when playing on a competitive level because if you are playing like ass you're going to get ridiculed for it on an extreme level whether it be MALE or FEMALE.

    My message to female gamer's is to stop taking things so seriously. If you want to survive in what's known as pro dominantly a guys world, then be prepared to be treated like one of the guys. OR in other words. IF you're big enough to hit a man, then you BETTER be able to take the mans punch.

  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Great interview!

    Love the right perspective on the topic. :)
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    Such a shame that as soon as this subject comes up, people get angry. Jeez calm down hahaha.

    To Max's comment though, I do agree with a handful of things. I really like the way you thought of this "In closing: you can't tell a woman at a tournament she has a small dick because it has no effect on her. THAT'S why women get told to make sandwiches and to show off their goods; because it has the most effect. It's not sexism, it's war."

    Now the way you said that could definitely be taken as offensive, but the underlying thought is still valid, at least in my opinion. The fact of the matter is (for CoD tournys specifically) that the players are downright awful trashtalkers to eachother. Let me get a little deep on you here.

    The human species is an amazing thing. One of our most important traits, that has resulted in what we know of civilization today, is that our brains work based almost completely upon building generalizations and categories of things. Patterns. It is in our most basic instinct to establish these generalizations so that we may more easily understand our world. This is a major cause for things of this nature.

    In the CoD tournament circumstance this is very important. Let's say your opponents sit down and one of the guys has a distinct emo (if any of those people still exist :P) look to him. Immediately within the brains of you and your team, you've equated what you know of the generalization of that type of person and maybe some of their weak points. Bam, you've got some material for your first insults to lower that players moral. I don't care who you are, what race, what religion, what gender, anything, you will be targeted for ridicule. It's the nature of the CoD community.

    Do I think it should be that way or like it that way? No, but that's the way it is currently. If you don't have the mental strength to handle this kind of thing, obviously CoD isn't your game. That was another good point you made Max. If you don't have the drive to withstand ridicule, then just get out.

    Girls, when a guy gives you crap for being a girl, laugh at them. You can win at their own game. Turn right back at him and crack an insult, that may even demoralize them more because they will realize you aren't just giving in.
  • cariom99
    "It's not sexism, it's war. "

    OMFG, i spat out my coffee. Grow up you fucking child. Your whole wall of ( barely decipherable ) text seems to rest on the ridiculous argument that people need to "man up" because you're a sociopathic ****. That all it should be about is belittlement and childish, playground bully behaviour, to help win, rather than using your skill to do so. How about the girls CAN join in, regardless and YOU fuck off out of it and find a new hobby, because you're a horrible ****?
  • Max_2373
    whoa. is your language not sociopathic? besides, I never said they can't join in. just the opposite in fact. I said that it's present no matter who you are, so why should it change just because they don't like it. you need to get a hold of yourself and calm down a bit. this is supposed to be a discussion, not someone calling another person a cunt because they don't like their opinion. it's funny you use that word while white knighting, too, seeing as it's one of the only words that women universally despise to hear due to how derogatory it is to women. nice use of irony there.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    Edited for name calling.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    - but fuck is okay.
  • Max_2373
    It seems like she was saying that the biggest barrier of entry wasn't so much the boys themselves, since I doubt there are any tournaments or leagues that specifically exclude girls (despite having "girl-only" games that no one seems to have a problem with), but the girls that play the games. Just like with anything, you have to push to win and make sacrifices that other people don't have to make, and if it's hard to find a group of girls whose focus is on video game competition that's based on a lack of people with an internal drive to compete. If they're getting held up by men being mean or vulgar with them, then they don't have that drive. If a guy wanted to organize an all-male ballet team to compete in....whatever those competitions would be, he would find the same difficulty in gathering enough guys who were dedicated the same way he was. It's not strictly because ballet is a "girls club" and those mean girls won't "let" him compete. The difference I see, and the one that aggravates me the most, is the fact that a man in that situation would work even harder and make more sacrifices to win or compete. where it seems that women hit a roadblock and then cry sexism -- basically asking the rest of the competitors to slow down so they can catch up because "it isn't fair," or something. The women who succeed the most in anything are the ones that don't expect that anyone will help them along the path, and don't think they're entitled to anything different than the other people competing get or deal with. Gamers are nasty people, and tournaments bring out the worst in them. It wholly expected to be talked down to, to be yelled at, to be attacked on the most personal level possible just for a slight mental edge in the game. If someone knows a dark personal secret of yours, they will use it against you in a match to get the upper hand. It doesn't matter if you're a guy, girl, gay, straight, whatever. Everyone gets it. There are women and men both who experience it and can't handle it, but the men go play something else where the women seem to take a personal offense to it and make it their mission to force the square hole they're trying to fit into to change into a round hole because it's easier or more comfortable. In closing: you can't tell a woman at a tournament she has a small dick because it has no effect on her. THAT'S why women get told to make sandwiches and to show off their goods; because it has the most effect. It's not sexism, it's war. The sooner women realize this and stop trying to make it into something they're more comfortable with the sooner they'll be able to bring more women into competitive gaming.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    - Ballet is competitive?

    I think I see your point but you can't compare e-sports to sports. People can have legitimate points about the differences in the physique between genders and how it affects performance. Did you know, women have a lower center of gravity? It's an actual bonus for some sports like martial arts and wrestling.

    Video games are about brains, nerves, reflexes and the eyes. A very level playing field - not just gender wise, but age, race, sexual identity etc. In fact, if you didn't see the players at these events, you wouldn't know anything about them based only on their game play.

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