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Beyond the 'Gamer Girl' Label: Yzzi Ocampo

8-bit Esports member Yzzi Ocampo on the challenges female gamers face and the community she found on UNLV's campus.

People  |  Mar 7, 2018  |  By Nicole Schultz
Portrait of woman in esports jersey

Yzzi "YactaKyo" Ocampo (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services) 

Editor's Note: 

UNLV's 8-bit Esports club team will take on Boise State in the first-ever Mountain West Esports Showdown on March 10.

What happens when you grow up around a father and brothers who are gamers? If you’re Yzzi Ocampo, you join in on the fun.

As a child, Ocampo watched her father play, and by the time she hit junior high, she was a regular at her older brothers’ gaming events. Soon after, she became a gamer herself, branching out beyond her family’s pastime to find a whole new community of players that later became her closest friends.

Ocampo joined 8-bit Esports at its inception, though she was an 8th grader at the time. She remembers the club’s earliest late-night strategizing sessions—which her brother Milo, 8-bit co-founder, held at their house—and takes pride in the unique role she’s now able to play as both a competitor and photographer for the club.

Although Yzzi started out in esports by supporting her brothers, she found her passion, a voice, and a tremendous ladder ranking for herself along the way.

When I first started gaming, I saw my “girl gamer” label as a strength. It set me apart from everyone else and gave me an edge.

Soon, though, that romanticism faded, and I was left determined to make esports a more welcoming community for women and girls everywhere.

There are a number of challenges female gamers face—mainly, a prevalence of false stereotypes in a sometimes unwelcoming environment. The term “female gamer” itself has negative connotations. Maybe I’m different because of the way I look, but I’m not different because of the way I play.

Why can’t female gamers just be addressed as “gamers”?

In 8-bit Esports, I found the welcoming community and connection I was looking for in esports. In fact, the origin of the name “8-bit” is an homage to vintage video games and serves to show that everyone is welcome—new players, old players, and everyone in between.

8-bit has allowed me to achieve a sense of belonging that I’ve never felt before. I consider it my greatest achievement in gaming. I feel like I was just floating around before that, trying to seek purpose and find like-minded people.

Through the club, not only have I developed lifelong friendships and learned new skills, but my passion for esports gave birth to a new passion: photography. Over the years, my fellow teammates have helped me pursue this passion, and I’ve gotten to tap into a talent and creativity within myself that I never knew existed.

At the Mountain West Esports Showdown, I’m showing support for my fellow teammates by working alongside the media as 8-bit’s official photographer. Because I know how these games are played, I know when something really exciting is about to happen, and I’ll be getting all those shots. And while I’m now delving into taking a variety of photos, I could never forget that the first thousand pictures I ever took were of my team members.

In the future, I plan to work as both a photographer and game designer—programming new, innovative games or building upon the existing projects of major companies like Blizzard Entertainment or Riot Games.

Though I am not a graphic designer myself, character design is the area where I’d like to see the most change in the coming years. Character design has implications. Just like there are overly sexualized female characters in the games we play, there are overly masculine male characters too, and not many gamers fit that trope. Discrimination is suffered on both sides.

I envision a future in esports in which equality for all gamers exists—whether not so traditionally masculine gamers, not so traditionally feminine female gamers, or anything else—and all players can feel like they belong, there is no standard, and that the only prerequisite for getting into esports is the interest in playing.

No matter your gender, if you are interested in esports and you join for the right reasons, the right reasons to stay will find you. And for women especially, if you dream of becoming a gamer, the best advice I have is to dive right in. Take all of your drive, energy, and dedication and become the change you wish to see in the esports community. Together we can create a world where female gamers are simply addressed as “gamers.”