Esports club Cardiff Saints looks for female members

An esports club is opening its doors to women-only games nights in the hope of attracting a wider pool of talent.

Cardiff Saints hopes monthly “ladies nights” become a regular fixture in the Welsh competitive gaming calendar.

Female players make up 42% of competitive gamers in the UK, according to industry body UKIE.

But that is a figure Kelly McMahon, of Belong Cardiff gaming arena, hopes clubs like Cardiff Saints can help change in the future.

Esport is competitive video gaming, where competitors can earn millions taking other gamers on, often in teams.

“A lot of the ladies that come down feel like they’re not good enough for games, so we try to make it a really chilled experience,” Ms McMahon said.

“We grab pizza, do mini-tournaments. It’s literally a hang-out spot.”

She said there was still quite a lot of negative reaction when people hear the term “esports”.

“Once you go to the big events you can see how big this is and how many people have an interest in it,” Ms McMahon added.

Jessica is one of a growing number of women who now regularly attend team nights, something she said she would have little access to otherwise.

“Other than ladies night and the girls I’ve been playing with tonight, every single person I play a game with is a boy,” she explained.

“Games need to be looked at as more than just something teenagers do to waste their time.”

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For some, like Nate Mark from Llanberis, Gwynedd, those hours spent playing games have been lucrative.

Known as Ataraxia, he is one of a new generation of professional e sports players who are making a living out of computer games.

Now a member of a team competing on Smite, a massive online multiplayer game, he’s moved to the USA in order to pursue his dream of becoming world champion.

“I did psychology at the University of Liverpool. That’s when I started playing Smite,” he said.

The Smite World Championship had a prize pool of £2.1m and the players on the top teams will usually earn up to £37,000 – not including any prize money.

Last weekend, a 15-year-old boy won half of $2.25 million (£1.8m) after coming second with his teammate in the Fortnite World Cup finals.

With the global esports industry estimated to grow to £1bn by 2022, Wales is the latest country looking to cash in.

“People don’t really get to see the whole picture so they think ‘it’s just computer games’,” added Ms McMahon.

“As a global or as a national thing, we’re not where we could be.”

The idea has been discussed in the Welsh Assembly, with Conservative AM David Melding raising the possibility of Wales attracting a major event in the future.

He said the level of spectator interest was “astonishing”.


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