Hello! Once again, Eurogamer marks Pride with a week full of features celebrating the intersection of queer culture and gaming. Today, Ed Nightingale speaks with Emi “Captain Fluke” – esports’ most prominent transcaster – about the past, present and future of LGBTQ+ representation in the industry.
“If I can use the position I’m in because of the kind of privileges I’ve been given here in the esports world then I need to make sure I can leave it better than I came in, and then I can leave it’s happy with what I’ve done.”
Emi “Captain Fluke” is an esports caster for Rainbow Six: Siege and Valorant. In fact, she became the first openly transcaster of an esports major, a pioneering position that has come with ups and downs.
She started by experimenting with games and content on YouTube. Since she always liked to talk about games, she tried out some commentary with friends. Over time, those streams got noticed and she was eventually offered paid work, turning her into a full-time esports caster.
Much of that passion was tied to Siege. “Siege was a game I fell in love with,” she says. “I think it scratched that itch in my head that I love shooting games, but I love the opportunity for creative solutions. And that’s the core of Siege for me.”
Esports as an industry has a reputation for being toxic and unwelcome to anyone who is not a cis white straight male. But that’s slowly changing as more diverse players and casters join the ranks.
“It has certainly been an experience,” says Emi. †[Abuse] happens from day to day. It’s something that, as awkward as it is to say, I hope a lot of 13/14 year olds who don’t really have that opinion but feel like they want to say things to hurt people. They want to be sharp, they want to be confrontational. They are teenagers and they feel invincible.
“I also know that there is a great community that, while it may not be vocal every day, looks at me and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, and they see someone to stand behind.
“They don’t care, but every now and then you get a message of ‘thanks for what you’re doing.’ And I think it’s that weird dichotomy of people who want to hurt you will be the loudest, and the people who wanting someone to look at someone the most will be quiet because they need it the most.”
Just a quick video about my thoughts on the day and being LGBT+ in esports. pic.twitter.com/kM4YVk03gB
— Emi | Fluke (@CaptainFluke) May 11, 2021
Emi was certainly wary of coming out in the industry. She started transitioning before becoming a professional esports caster, but as she notes, “You never stop coming out. It never ends.”
Eventually, as her work grew, she realized she needed to come out in public. Still, online gaming is a very young and immature industry, with the advent of voice chat “became a great breeding ground for that problematic energy of teenagers who thought they had a room where they could say anything”.
“It’s created a very strange, toxic environment that is slowly being cleaned up,” she says. “But I think [coming out] had an element of ‘I know this isn’t going to be great’. Well, I actually have to do it, because… fuck it.”
As her fame has grown, Emi has received a lot of positive support from her close colleagues. “I’ve never had a negative kind of interaction with anyone I’ve worked with directly,” she says.
And as her career has evolved alongside a number of other now established cyclists, her colleagues have supported her on her journey.
“They’ve had questions, I think it’s always something I’ll never shy away from or shut down,” she says. “I think it’s obvious when someone is curious and someone who is evil. I know it is often said that we should not be the educators of people, they should try to educate themselves. But I fully understand that I “I’m the first in the industry to do this, at this level. I’m the first to interact with many of these people. I have to be receptive to the idea that people are going to have questions.”
“And I have to understand that I have to answer these as long as I’m in this role. I’m so excited for the future where more people are in this role and it becomes less important that’s imposed on me and I can disagree a little and I But I know it is my responsibility to be able to answer at least some of these questions.”
What also touches the audience are the games themselves. Last year, Siege added his first trans character in Osa, as well as a character with a visible disability, a gay character, a Native American character, and most recently a non-binary character.
“I want to commend all the writers behind the game and the creative staff here for working on a fantastic push for diversity,” said Emi.
And Ubisoft faces an uphill battle. “Siege was originally built in that proto-military style. It appeals to a lot of younger cis-white gamers, especially male gamers,” says Emi. “In front of [Ubisoft] to continue ‘fuck it, we are going to push more openness and diversity’, I think it’s very good what they are doing. And I think it’s the hardest audience to do.”
Valorant, on the other hand, has a more inclusive audience because Riot built the game from the ground up to have a diverse roster of playable characters that appeal to a wider audience, and to focus on women in esports with The Game Changers Program†
†[Riot] has been very open and accepted that ideal,” Emi says. “And it’s reflected, I think, in the mindset of a lot of the players, also in the mindset of the audience, which I think in terms of a gender gap of the audience has one of the highest populations of people who are not males. And that’s rare in esports.”
In short, when games themselves are more diverse and inclusive, it attracts a more diverse and inclusive audience. That is something Revolt and Ubisoft are now well aware of it, despite being criticized in the past for their less than progressive corporate culture.
“You’re naturally drawn to seeing things that you can identify with. And it gets you into the atmosphere, it brings you into the environment, you support the teams you can see yourself in,” says Emi. “And that’s something that those games built, and because of that they have an audience.”
Emi has seen much success in her role, most notably winning the Gayming Magazine Award for Best LGBTQ Contribution to Esports† And while she feels pressured to be the first openly trans esports caster and a sense of responsibility as a role model, she also wants to stay grounded.
“I think the pressure I felt was that I had to be perfect, which nobody is. You’re tricked by social media into thinking that,” she says. “So I think there was that pressure that I felt like ‘I always have to make sure I don’t slip’. But then there’s the understanding and the realization that until now I’m not. And as long as I’m still making decisions what I think I can sleep with, and what I’m happy with, that’s it.”
Earlier this year, the first Six Major Siege tournament of the year was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. And after the pandemic, Emi was able to meet fans in person for the first time.
“Because there are so many people who are gender diverse or allies or they know someone, come and talk and just be able to talk to those people, that was a moment where I felt like I was doing something right,” says they. †
“And it’s what allows you to keep going, because otherwise people worry that they’re not doing enough. But I think, for the people that matter, you’re always doing more than you’ll ever know. And sometimes you have to remember that.”
As a result of Emi’s visibility – and other diverse casters – the face of esports is starting to change and people in recruiting positions are taking notice. The future is certainly brighter, compared to the toxic reputation of esports.
“I see all the faces that come up, breaking the mold of what is understood,” says Emi. “And the talent they have is one that comes from a passion that I think has finally been unlocked by being able to see people like them represent them at the highest level.”
#Pride #Week #Emi #Captain #Fluke #Openly #TransEsports #Caster