We recently had the opportunity to talk to bellemiku following her and team Great Britain’s second place finish in the Global Esports Games women’s Dota 2 event.
Hey Belle! First of all, for anyone that might not know who you are, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in Dota?
Hi, thanks for inviting me to the interview!
My name is Belle, and I’ve been playing Dota since 2014. I mainly prefer to play offlane, I chose the role because it seemed like the hardest role to play when I first started, because I looked up to S4 and because the offlane seemed like the most “masculine” role in the game, and I wanted to break that stereotype of women not playing tanky heroes. I’m also a hardcore Alliance fan, and have been since the very beginning, every single event, no matter how hard it got, they have a special place in my heart and I love how community focused they are. I’m also a huge S4 fan, even when he left the team and moved to EG for a while.
Belle in her semi-final against Mongolia during the recent Global Esports Games event
When you first signed up to play for team GB, what were your expectations? Did you know many other women in the UK that played Dota?
I knew Sheepsticked, as most people do, and otherwise just some of the friends that I queue with like @BellaDota. I didn’t really have any expectations because I didn’t know who the players would be going into it all, and to be honest I was really nervous playing our first games!
What has it been like to meet and play with them in a competitive environment (for the first time in most cases)?
It’s been really fun, honestly you don’t expect playing at LAN to be so different to the online experience until you’re there, but being able to see your teammates expressions, hear their shouts and sit together between games and during drafts makes the whole experience so much more personal.
There weren’t many matches that you had to play to reach this point, due to low signups from esports associations around the world — the “open” event had significantly more teams participating. Why do you think that is, and what needs to be done to improve the amount of women’s teams performing in future events like this?
I feel like the esports federations and associations didn’t push hard enough to locate women for their teams. There are massive continents like America which only had 1 team sign up, when I know that there are so many women that would love the opportunity to try and play competitively but weren’t given that chance. If these orgs had made the effort to advertise properly, we would have seen a much larger turnout of players regardless of skill level, and the community would have been better off for it.
" I feel like the esports federations and associations didn’t push hard enough to locate women for their teams.
Shortly before the event, Sheepsticked, who was captain and midlaner for the team, had to step down due to DPC obligations, and you were put in the tough spot of having to suddenly captain the team, to learn how to draft, shotcall, and integrate a new player into the team. What was that shift like for you initially, and looking back now how would you summarize your experience?
PANIC. It’s really daunting when the best player on the team has to leave, and suddenly I had a lot more to worry about than just my own in-game performance. I’ve never captained before in my life, but luckily my teammates were very supportive and patient, and Ruby was great with writing draft notes and doing research on the enemy teams to ensure we had the best fighting chance. Looking back, I think we’ve done amazing for how little time we had to prepare. We've improved a lot from our first game and I’m really proud of how well the team came together, and how confident I feel that we can come back again next year and perform even better.
Team GB's Silver Medals — photos courtesy of the British Esports Association.
Looking at the UK specifically, there hasn’t been much of a scene for the last few years — which has instead led to individual players like Tanner, Adzantick & SymetricaL making their way onto the global DPC stage, joined by the talent of Sheepsticked, Teaguvnor and ODPixel. With these pillars of representation now in place, what are your thoughts on the potential for a grassroots UK scene in the future?
In the UK there are events such as Insomnia and Epic LAN, events that bring people together from across the country just to connect with each other and share their love of gaming. There’s nothing like this for Dota, and there needs to be. It’s so simple, with players bringing their own PCs, and the benefits you get from playing with your friends and making new ones in a LAN environment are a necessity to the UK gaming scene.
From this event alone, we know that there are lots of players who are excited about the UK scene and would benefit from having that accessibility.
" The offlane seemed like the most 'masculine' role in the game, and I wanted to break that stereotype of women not playing tanky heroes.
What do you think would need to happen for the UK scene to be successful?
Organising bodies in the UK need to do more to facilitate events and make it known that their presence will be longstanding to ensure longevity of interest from players. Student support is also vital, and with only 1 of the 2 student esports orgs supporting Dota, it handicaps any chance of stability and success in the future. Support from these orgs can’t be half-assed.
When I was back in college, I can’t think of a single event that was helping the female scene in the UK. My experience with women’s esports before this was being pushed into the 5 role, with guys taking all of the core roles on the team. This is a universal experience that needs to change, and the way we can do that is through competitive events for women.
Dota Valkyries have now run two tournaments with the aim of introducing more women to competitive Dota, as well as to showcase their skill, with many more events to come in the future — In your opinion, how would you want the growth of grassroots women’s Dota to be approached?
In the span of 11 weeks Dota Valkyries have already run 2 women-based tournaments, and I think it really shows that they’re here to stick around to support women in the long term. I do feel like improvements could be made, as with any organisation running a tournament for the first time. I feel like the priority for the next event should be to change the minimum women competing from 2 to 3 per team, to showcase the skill of more women in general and to avoid the support role issue that I personally faced.
I also feel like Dota Valkyries should work to partner with esports associations in other regions and countries to drive the global grassroots movement. I know that there are women out there that want to play and just don’t have the opportunity. I’d love to see Dota Valkyries create that for them.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, and congratulations again on captaining team GB to a Silver Medal!
You can find Belle on her Socials here: