1,000 Dreams Fund brings women gamers to Las Vegas to boost their esports careers

Turning virtual-world skills into real-world careers isn’t easy, especially for women, who still face discrimination in the growing esports industry.

“It’s been an all-boys club for a really long time,” says Stella Chuu, a notable live-streamer and cosplayer (short for “costume player”), during an interview at the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas inside the Luxor. “People still don’t believe that girls can be good at video games,” she says at the venue that is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month.  

The 1,000 Dreams Fund is doing its part to change that by helping women build their esports careers. The national nonprofit supports the dreams of talented young women by providing funding, mentorship and other resources. It has partnered with Allied Esports, Harman International Industries and HyperX to bring women gamers from across the country to Las Vegas for a behind-the-scenes look at how esports tournaments are produced. In addition to the all-expenses-paid trip, each winner of the “BroadcastHER Academy Challenge” receives a $1,000 grant to use toward individual gaming goals.

The first four of nine challenge winners arrived at the HyperX Esports Arena hours before the popular Friday Frags Fortnite tournament kicked off on March 15. They toured the arena, met with industry mentors, and enjoyed an up-close look at tournament production. They also had the opportunity to chat with Chuu, who hosted the tournament, about the industry and their plans for the future.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity,” says Giselle Colon, a 26-year-old gamer and application developer from Stillwater, Okla. “I’ve gotten so much insight and so much help.”

Female gaming grant winner Giselle Colon is interviewed at HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas Friday, March 15, 2019, in the Luxor. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

To win the trip and grant, Colon spoke in her application about wanting to be a full-time live-streamer and design games to help people escape or overcome challenges. She plans to use the grant money to upgrade her streaming equipment.

Another winner, Atlantic City resident Alesha DeBose, 27, speaks about wanting to help make the esports industry more welcoming to women and black gamers such as herself. “There’s a lot of us in the gaming community that I don’t think are thought of or kept in mind.”

While women represent nearly half of gamers and are rising in influence in the esports industry, they still face plenty of unpleasant roadblocks. Those include a substantial pay gap and harassment from online trolls who “either want to pick on my race or my gender,” DeBose says. “It can be a bit ostracizing.”

Colon, who live-streams six days a week, says that “people always try to bring you down. Luckily, I have pretty tough skin.”

Christie Garton, founder and CEO of the 1,000 Dreams Fund, says esports “clearly is an industry in which women can make a lot more gains toward equality.” The BroadcastHER Academy Challenge grant is one way to help support those women.

“We shine a spotlight,” Garton says. “Their stories inspire the next girl who applies for funds.”

Las Vegas has begun to embrace esports in recent years as a way to attract younger visitors. In addition to the anniversary of the 30,000-square-foot HyperX arena, the city is also home to the 15,000-square-foot Millennial Esports Arena, which opened at Neonopolis in 2017. Numerous venues around town also host gamer competitions.

Chuu, a Los Angeles resident, couldn’t be happier about the trend. “I’m so excited that there is now esports in Vegas.”

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

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