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Pro Female Gamer Kat Gunn Puts Equality at the Center of Her Focus

Photo: Courtesy of Khang Mai

At what age did you start playing and what has your journey been like since?

I started playing games at the age of four. I feel as though I had a very unique experience because my entire family plays games. At one point we had to section off play time on the family computer because we all wanted to play “EverQuest” (four family members, two PCs).

“Rainbow Six 3” on the original Xbox was my first competitive game. I started beating up on all the boys online and was quickly instructed by my dad what I could and couldn’t repeat from my conversations. I’m sure you can imagine some of the things those boys would say to me, but my dad was very supportive and allowed me to play with them so long as I was well-mannered.

After getting a taste of the competitive scene I moved on to “Halo” and eventually “Dead or Alive 4”, which is around the time when the World Cyber Games (WCG) and Championship Gaming Series (CGS) picked up the game. I qualified for the WCG US Finals, and a few years later I tried out for the CGS, earning a spot on the Carolina Core.

When the Syfy Channel started the WCG Ultimate Gamer show, I wasn’t able to participate in the first season because I was part of the CGS. However, I still helped out with testing competitors and even providing filler content for some episodes. By the second season of the show, CGS had come to an end and I was able to participate.

After winning Ultimate Gamer, I used some of those funds to build a new gaming PC that was capable of streaming. This is when I got my start on Justin.tv (the precursor to Twitch). Since that time I’ve been streaming a variety of games, while also serving as a brand ambassador for a number of companies. My Twitch streaming has also led me to various other roles within the gaming industry, working for Newegg, Gigabyte, starting my own all female gaming and cosplay team, and more!

What’s the best part about playing against male opponents? What’s the best part about playing against female opponents?

I don’t really see much of a difference in gender when I’m playing against people. Playing against female opponents… they don’t tend to trash talk as much, but otherwise there isn’t much that separates the two.

What’s the greatest memory you have about a game? How has this game shaped the person you are today?

My greatest memory probably comes from playing “EverQuest”. There was just so much to do in that game, and it’s one of my earliest gaming memories. I feel a lot of nostalgia when I think back on my days with “EverQuest,” playing with my family, fighting for loot, drawing out my own maps, it was just a really great experience for me and my family. It also taught me the value of work because I would have to finish chores before I could play. It gave me a strong sense of family and the power behind supporting those you love.

If you can go back in time and give your young self a piece of advice about gaming and being a professional in this space, what would it be?

I would probably tell myself to take more advantage of my success. What I mean by that is there have been times when I assumed I would get approached by companies to work as a brand ambassador or cover an event or something of that nature. And while that did happen, I feel as though I could’ve advanced my career much faster if I had taken the initiative more. Starting on YouTube earlier would have also been a big help. I think you have a massive advantage being one of the few that start on a new platform before it becomes heavily saturated. I find it can be harder to stand out from the abundance of similar content.

What’s something you think all girls and women should know or keep in mind when entering the world of gaming or looking to get involved?

It’s unfortunate that I have to say this, but you need thick skin. Most men will assume you’re only getting into gaming for the attention or trying to make a quick buck. You have to ignore those kind of people and just keep doing what makes you happy. If you have a few close friends to give you reassurance, that will also go a long way. Beyond that, I would just say you need to really stick with it. Gaming is a hard field to break into, but the more you stream or play games or send out your resume, the closer you’ll get to realizing your dream.

As a female in the industry, what are some of the greatest takeaways about this gaming experience and level of play? What are some of the challenges and least favorite aspects you have towards gaming?

It takes a lot of work to get to a competitive level of play. Once you reach that level and you’re beating people and winning games on a consistent basis, it feels so rewarding. Even playing single player games like “Sekiro,” rising to that challenge and beating the game feels so satisfying because of all the effort you have put into getting to that point.

As a female, it’s even harder to get to a competitive level of play, because people will attack you and say harmful things at every turn. There are so many trolls (whether you’re female or not), and it’s so easy for people to be hateful because there’s so much anonymity when playing online. No one is held accountable for their words or actions, so people get away with a lot. I would like to see this change, so I do what I can to enforce rules on those I play with or have influence over to minimize toxicity.

If you could change anything about gaming, and do it yourself, what would it be?

If I could change anything about the gaming industry, I would probably create more opportunities for women and a safer playing and working environment. I would crack down much harder on people who make it difficult for women to enjoy gaming. Perhaps an all-female league similar to the WNBA.

Being that you’ve seen this space evolve in so many ways, what do you think the future of female gamers and gaming will look like?

I believe it’s practically impossible to predict what the future of gaming will look like. The industry has changed so dramatically in the years I’ve been involved. Unlike traditional sports, video games change on a yearly basis. We could soon all be walking around with chips in our head and our own internal user interface controlled by our brain waves. As far-fetched as that sounds, we’re probably headed that way at some point.

Who inspired you to be the gamer you are today? Did/do you have a female role model in your life — one who motivates and empowers you to be the best?

My entire family was an inspiration to me and helped mold the Kat of today, but I would say my father was probably the most influential as I was growing up. He’s an extremely wise man and has had a lot of life experiences. He’s also a gamer, so we’re very close, and it’s very easy for me to discuss things with him. He even comes on my stream every Thursday to talk about life and current trends in gaming and nerd culture.

What are some of your life long goals and dreams that were/are put into place when tackling your daily journey?

I’ve always wanted to run my own gaming league dedicated exclusively to women. Just something to allow women easy access into the gaming industry. During my career I have worked toward that goal, even forming my own gaming and cosplay team made up exclusively of women. Once I have increased my Twitch following enough, I hope to use that influence to pave the way toward that future league.

I often feel like a lot of people don’t know much about female gamers in this space. What do you think we can or should do as a society to help raise awareness and keep people knowledgeable about gaming, and female gaming in particular.

More women need to have notable accomplishments in gaming. That will happen as this next generation of females gets into the industry. With so many avenues open to women presently, I think it’s only a matter of time before they begin to receive that celebrity. Additionally, more companies need to be open to hiring women in prominent gaming positions, such as Jade Raymond at Ubisoft and now Google, or Bonnie Ross at 343 Industries (“Halo”).

Why is being such a well-known gamer so important to you? Essentially, why do you play? What about the game do you love so much and the ways it makes you feel?

I wouldn’t say that being “well known” is important. I will say that I feel with celebrity comes a slight sense of responsibility. I’ve come to understand that the more influence I have over gamers, the more I can impress upon them how playing can be a healthy social building tool. I think that playing itself, the idea of play, is something that we tend to grow out of as children. It is important to maintain a healthy understanding of what that is about, in order to be a well-rounded adult. The satisfaction that comes with engaging with other players in a worthwhile game feels like a good relationship from start to finish. A positive experience. We need more of those.

Within this campaign, what do you think the most important message here should be?

I think that the most important message I could get across would be that gaming itself is a reflection of how life should be approached. Whether you’re playing it with politics, at business, your personal life, or with family, it should be conducted with respect, concern, consideration, love, and overall fairness.

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