When it comes to the professional gaming circuit, eSports is very much male-dominated. But with half of all gamers today now female, there is a growing number of female gamers who can kick virtual ass in shooters like Battlefield 3, Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3.
Kelly “Mrs. Violence” Kelley is one such pro and she has $25,000 in cash to prove it (her teammate also took home $25,000). Last year, Kelley’s team won Bunim/Murray Productions’ “The Controller: Battlefield 3” online Web series, which blended gaming skills with real-life desert tactics. The pro gamer talks about what motivates her to frag in this exclusive interview.
Complex: How did you get involved in competitive gaming?
Kelly Kelley: Competitive gaming started around the age of 14, I finally upgraded from Magic cards to video games. I really started because of my brother, John, who introduced me to the world of online tournaments.
I competed in several different titles in the beginning, but found my love for first-person shooters early, and stuck with a new title called Rainbow Six 3. I moved up in the competitive world by playing different FPS titles such as Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, and even Ghost Recon.
What games do you like playing competitively?
First and third-person shooters are my specialties. I've competed in over 10 different shooters, three series, two leagues and have about 15 first place finishes under my belt. Gears of War, Halo, and Call of Duty have been my favorites.
What do you play just for fun?
I really enjoy the action adventure series, Assassin’s Creed. I was such a fan of the story, gameplay, music, pretty much everything, I instantly put the Logo on my ankle in 2009 at Comic Con Chicago. I'm also a pretty big nerd when it comes to Star Wars, Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Super Mario.
What do you do for fun when you're not gaming?
Usually when the Xbox isn't on, I'm found watching sports. I'm a pretty big fan of Chicago and Boston teams because of my parents. Growing up, I was split down the middle when it came to, "who I root for", so I fell in love with both.
I also love to go out into the desert with my dad and shoot my shotguns, assault rifles, and pistols at targets, clay pigeons, and some other fun stuff like old computers and cars.
Why don't we see more female gamers in pro gaming tournaments or leagues like Major League Gaming (MLG)?
I'm not entirely sure on this one because competitive gaming came so natural to me. But it might be lack of competitive drive. Growing up, I was taught and excelled at all the major sports, but it came down to having to perfect one. So I chose softball, because of my massive love for baseball.
But, I later learned there wasn't too much of a future for softball players, and lost all competitive drive for the sport, and turned strictly to competitive gaming. I just had the natural drive to want to compete at a higher level and excel farther than most.
Females can easily get into MLG or any other competitive league if they just have that drive or edge. It's all a matter of balance for each individual. You find the game that interests you most, learn the competitive edge, and practice, practice, practice.
What excites you about how far pro gaming has come since you were first playing games competitively?
I think I'm most excited about how many new faces are making their way into the scene. People are attending events now strictly as spectators to see pro gamers at their finest, and that's exactly what eSports needed. Not just players, but real life fans.
And I can only see eSports growing because of the fans!
What types of opportunities are there for female gamers today who think they have what it takes to compete?
Well, there are plenty. First off, females now have the platforms to spread the word about their skill. Online tournaments with respectable leaders keep the communities well mannered so that females don't feel the threat of simply asking for a try out.
Also, there are several all female gaming organizations that are united behind the same goal equality. So if you don't feel too comfortable around a male dominated organization, they can simply join up with the ladies and make a start from there.
How do you see eSports evolving in the US over the next 10 years?
eSports has a lot to learn if it does want to grow. But overall I think its progression will have led it onto a major sports network ie: ESPN, FOX, or even CBS.
Who knows where it's going to go, but I'm very excited for the ultimate rise of eSports. People need to see and hear about what we all do on a daily basis, and focus on the maturity of how far eSports has come.