“It’s 18 or 19-year-old men that we play against – and then I bring my little girls in.”

An all-girl team of gamers from a secondary school in Londonderry use their gaming skills and know-how to challenge stereotypes in the male-dominated world of esports.

The St Mary’s College team was formed five years ago and membership is thriving.

Their groundbreaking story – told by 13-year-old team-mates Orlaith Henry and Erin Campbell – is set to be shared with thousands of esports enthusiasts after the girls won a UK games industry journalism award.

The Derry School believe their team is Northern Ireland’s only all-girls eSports team. That impressed the jury.

Orlaith and Erin wrote about “how we’re an all-girls team and the competition and opportunities we get,” Orlaith told BBC Radio Foyle’s The North West Today program.

“Not many people believe that girls can play video games,” she said.

“I think they think it’s more of a little boy thing than a little girl thing, that’s people’s opinion, it’s really dumb. We represent girls and we play video games.”

The girls were crowned journalist award winners at the Digital Schoolhouse event in London earlier this month. Her article will be published by Esports News UK in the coming weeks.

Digital Schoolhouse is a schools-based initiative run by UKIE, the trade association for the UK games industry.

According to the UKIE, women and girls make up 42% of gamers in the UK.

But at the elite level of esports – competitive video games – male gamers dominate in an extremely lucrative and growing market.

Hundreds of millions of people play and watch eSports worldwide, with many big brands involved in partnerships, and it has also been showcased at the Commonwealth Games.

Orlaith Henry and Erin Campbell St Marys Esports

St. Mary’s students were crowned winners at a major esports event in London earlier this month

Erin is also adamant that being a girl shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to gaming.

“Gender doesn’t matter — anyone can do whatever they want, as long as they have fun and enjoy what they’re doing, it’s fine,” she said.

She recently joined St. Mary’s. Joining the team was important, she said.

“I joined St. Mary’s in early 2022. The friends I made there are already part of the school – and they’ve started telling me about the After School Club.”

Esports News UK editor and founder Dominic Sacco praised the girls’ award-winning journalism as “engaging, well-written and humorous too”.

“All the entries were good, but this was different,” he said.

“I think the angle, Northern Ireland’s only all-girls eSports team, was really interesting. It was fun reading it.”

students and teachers of the st marys esports team derry

English teacher Rebecca Poole says getting more girls involved will help “level the playing field”.

He said there have been issues in esports with the number of women competing at the highest level, but “now more women are coming to the fore.”

“E-sports is for everyone, we just need to get more women on these top teams,” he said.

St. Mary’s teacher Rebecca Poole hopes the groundbreaking gamers will inspire other girls to get involved.

“We come to tournaments and it still happens that we play against 18 or 19-year-old men and then I bring my little girls,” she explained.

“We have this ongoing issue where we’re not equal – it can be quite difficult for the girls to get in but they still have a great time.

“We’d like to see more girls compete,” she continued.

If more girls get involved, she added, they will help “level the playing field”.


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