Studies show that near half of all digital game players are women, but most play casual games on their smartphones or tablets. Although competitive online gaming is still a male-dominated sport, that's slowly changing.
A team of female gamers called CLG Red, part of the Counter Logic Gaming eSports organization, found some competition recently at an Intel developer's conference in San Francisco.
“We have come so far with gaming and women and the female scene, and it is growing bigger and bigger each day,” said team member Diane Tran of Houston.
Members of Tran's team play online from different cities and have traveled internationally to win world championships.
Digital gaming is a $20 billion industry in the United States, and it's like any other sport for the players involved, said CLG Red's leader, Stephanie Harvey of Montreal.
“I practice. I have a team. I have coaches. I have a staff. I have sponsors. I have leagues. I have official matches, I have tournaments, and fans, just like a pro sport,” she said.
The team plays a combat game called "Counter Strike" and has thousands of fans who watch on the website Twitch and see recaps on YouTube.
Charges of sexism have rocked the industry, but despite prejudice, women hold their own in this male-dominated sport, said Bonnie Ruberg, a game researcher at the University of Southern California.
“When they hit a moment where there is discrimination, somebody says something about them or about women, they know how to stick up for themselves in that environment,” Ruberg said.
CLG Red's Benita Novshadian, who studies computers at a California college when she is not competing on them, said that "right now, I am majoring in information systems, which is basically IT (information technology), and I really hope to stick within the gaming industry and maybe my degree can back that up.”
In the meantime, she and her teammates are enjoying online fame and the fun of professional gaming.