The gaming games | RNZ

The world of gaming has transformed into an international competitive sport. New Zealand too is home to nationally recognized teams, with players set to demonstrate their abilities in Saudi Arabia this year.

The women’s Dota 2 team from NZ (from left): Lucy Tam, Jane Jian Ming Zhu, Rangsey Mou and Janice Tieu.
Photo: NZ Esports

Originally a casual pastime, esports has now evolved into something bigger.

New Zealand has its own national team for this, fondly referred to as ‘E Blacks’. The team is currently getting ready for the Global Esports Games in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in December.

This article features a conversation with the chief of New Zealand’s esports and a member of our E Blacks team on what this sport truly means and its current scope.

“In New Zealand, esports is interpreted as a ‘digitally-enabled competition’. It’s not just limited to video games. It’s actually more extensive,” said Jonathan Jansen, CEO of New Zealand Esports Federation, in an interview with The Detail.

“While the mental image most easily screens someone holding a controller and playing on screen, it also includes activities like simulated racing where players sit in a rig and drive a car on screen. Then there’s ‘virtual sports’, where players ride a physical bike,” he added.

Jansen emphasizes a key distinction between gaming and esports.

Leisure gaming, according to him, cannot be equated with esports. If it’s about competitively playing, it’s esports.

Training to become a top-performing player requires attention to nutrition, proper sleep, hydration, and maintaining good physical health, as a well prepared mind is crucial for esports, Jansen points out.

Ramsey “Magic” Mou is one of the E Blacks’ competitors in Saudi Arabia – representing the all-women Dota 2 team.

“Male dominance is prevalent in Dota,” states Mou.

“The number of women I’ve come across in the rank I play in during my time, is probably in single digits. It’s unfortunate that the video game space appears unwelcoming to women due to stereotypes. This has likely deterred many women from taking it up. It’s a tough barrier for them to break,” she adds.

When tackling the issue of human rights abuses and the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, Jansen comments that representatives from New Zealand have visited the region.

“Our president met one of the princes earlier this year. It seems the locals are accepting of different ways of life. They understand that tourists and visitors have a unique culture too. They are very welcoming in Riyadh,” he adds.

Mou also says that despite Saudi Arabia’s track record, the global body conducting the games believes in inclusivity.

“The Global Esports Federation, the entity responsible for organizing these tournaments, is dedicated to inclusivity and diversity. They strive to make the gaming space accessible to all,” states Mou.

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