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How a teen girl’s mad Overwatch skills struck a major blow to sexism in gaming

No, this 17-year-old gamer girl didn't cheat. She just really is one of the best Overwatch players on the planet.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

A 17-year-old professional e-sports player just crushed her enemies and delivered a blow to sexism in gaming, all in one live stream.

Korean gamer Geguri is currently ranked among the top 10 players in the world in Overwatch, a new team-based video game that has exploded in popularity since it was officially released in May.

As a predominant female gamer in a culture traditionally dominated by men, Geguri’s success is both impressive and inspirational. Naturally, it’s also the reason some of her rivals have accused her of cheating.

In short, Geguri played a huge role in helping her Overwatch team, UW Artisan, rise to victory at a recent gaming tournament — so huge, in fact, that the opposing team, Dizziness, called foul. Two of its players, ETLA and Strobe, were so absolutely, totally, without-a-doubt sure that Geguri couldn’t attain stats as high as she did, they bet their entire careers on their assertion that she must be cheating, agreeing to quit their jobs if they turned out to be wrong.

(Pro-tip: Never risk your livelihood on the claim that someone is incompetent because of their gender.)

As one gaming site explained, some Overwatch players were surprised because Geguri "came out of nowhere" to attain her ranking. (Though the game was just released to the public a month ago, many professional gamers have been playing it since it was in beta.) But while she may be newer to Overwatch than others, Geguri has already competed in nearly 450 matches and boasts an incredible 80 percent win rate when playing as her preferred character, Zarya.

Additionally, Geguri’s "kills/death" ratio of 6.31:1 is extremely high. Overwatch is a first-person shooter game, meaning the goal is to kill your enemies with giant guns while not letting them kill you. Taking out an average of six targets for every time she dies puts her far ahead of the average kill ratio. While playing Overwatch as the Zarya character, individual players self-report "high" K/D ratios ranging anywhere from 2:1 to 5:1. In other words, Geguri is a killing machine.

That’s presumably why ETLA and Strobe assumed she was cheating by somehow hacking the game. Meanwhile, other players wondered if she was increasing her firing accuracy by using moves deemed illegal in a tournament setting.

To get a sense of just how skilled Geguri is, watch the following video of her gameplay from the tournament that brought about ETLA and Strobe’s allegations. You can see that her targeting is jawdroppingly precise: She hits dead center nearly every time.

ETLA and Strobe insisted that Geguri simply couldn’t be as good as she appeared to be — and according to the rumor mill, Strobe also allegedly threatened to show up at Geguri’s house with a knife if she was found to be lying.

Which brings us back to how Geguri ultimately put them in their place.

After a complaint was filed and investigated, Geguri was cleared of all charges; the manager of Geguri’s team even posted a transcript (link is in Korean) of a chat he had with tournament officials. But that wasn’t enough to quell the controversy. So the Korean gaming site Inventory invited Geguri to perform a live public demonstration of her skills.

Take a look at the video from the hour-long live stream; the gaming gets started around 4:28 and things really get intense around 5:40:

The video shows that Geguri’s jittery on-screen targeting — one factor that contributed to the accusations made against her, because it suggested she was using illegal moves — is actually a result of her unusual habit of quickly picking up the mouse while she turns and redirects her aim. This practice seems key to Geguri’s amazing ability to comprehend what’s going on all over the map while she’s fighting, even as she’s simultaneously identifying the main points she needs to focus on.

More importantly though, the video shows that Geguri has fully earned her spot in the world rankings — no matter what many people in the male-dominated world of e-sports would like to believe.

In the aftermath, justice for Geguri has been attained: True to their word, ETLA and Strobe, the two gamers who bet their careers on her alleged incompetence and dishonesty, have reportedly quit the sport.

Meanwhile, the follower count on Geguri’s brand-new Twitter account has shot up, and she’s being bombarded with fan art depicting her playing as the pink-haired Zarya character. Her gaming handle, 개구리, means "frog" in Korean — hence the many works that contain a pink-haired frog.

But all of this hubbub likely would have been avoided if Geguri had been a man competing in what is generally considered to be a man’s sport. Case in point: When two male pro gamers were recently accused of cheating at Overwatch, neither of them had to perform a live demonstration to prove their innocence.

"Sometimes I feel like a woman can't be considered good without people believing there's some sort of sorcery going on," commented one observer on a Reddit thread discussing the situation.

Still, Overwatch’s developer, Blizzard, has been keeping a careful watch over the new game and its players, booting 1,500 Overwatch accounts for cheating at the beginning of June.

Geguri may be the first female pro Overwatch player to have to defend her reputation against the sallies of sexist critics. But with the game’s burgeoning popularity and all the scrutiny being applied to pro players, she may not be the last.

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