The eSports industry is a growing multi million dollar industry. "Earlier this year at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, a crowd of 20,000 gathered to watch the 2016 championship final of League of Legends, the widest played video game in the world. The winners of that event, the drearily named SK Telecom (the team is backed by the South Korean wireless telecommunications operator) took home a $2m purse.“ In addition, just last year "Activision, the publisher of Call of Duty, created a dedicated eSports division headed up by Steve Bornstein, the former head of ESPN and the NFL Network. Later in the year, rival Electronic Arts – publisher of the Battlefield series – announced The EA Competitive Gaming Division.”
With many corporations like Coca Cola, Samsung, Nissan and Red Bull getting in on the growing industry, Capcom is looking to take full advantage of the access marketing dollars. Capcom, the creator of the popular Street Fighter series, held it’s 2016 Capcom Cup in Anaheim, California, a two day event highlighting the best Street Fighter 5 players from around the world.
This year, Ricki Ortiz was one of two Americans to reach the final day along with six others hailing from Japan, Street Fighter’s origination. As Ortiz made her way to the finals (along with her American counterpart Du Dang), she was also making history solidifying herself as one of the top Street Fighter 5 players in the world. In a sport where it’s hard for women to be considered serious threats for championship titles, it’s even harder when you’re transgender.
The Capcom Cup was broadcast through ESPN and streamed on Twitch to over 100,000 spectators. While many focused on Du Dang’s gaming prowess, some online audience members choose to comment on Ortiz’s appearance. Despite the distractions, Ortiz was able to concentrate and give a great showing. Unfortunately she was not able to win the entire event, but finished second overall, taking home $60,000. Du Dang the overall tournament winner took home $230,000.
As eSports continues to grow, the audience and unfortunate distractions will only increase. But Ortiz is more worried about the comments of her age. At 32, she’s one of the older players in Street Fighter 5 industry. In the end, Ortiz can only prepare herself for what she knows.
“People always ask me: what are you going to do when you’re 50,” she says. “Won’t you have bad reactions or arthritis? I say to them, we’ll see – eSports hasn’t been around long enough for players to compete at an older age. Nobody knows what will happen.”
Regardless, the history Ortiz is meaning is a win for eSports, and a win for the LGBT community.