Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Trans Irish esports star Emma Rose wants to do more than just win at this year’s European Games Esports Championships

Emma Rose is the current Commonwealth ESports Championship gold medalist in eFootball, which she won during the inaugural event while representing Northern Ireland.

Now, she’s heading to the European Games Esports Championships in Poland to represent Great Britain on the virtual football pitch. We sat down with her to chat about her history with esports, her goals for EGEC, and what she hopes to achieve for trans women in esports.

Gayming Magazine: How did you first get into esports?

So I’ve been a fan of gaming since I was old enough to hold a controller! Starting off with the likes of Sonic or Mario and casual fun games that you could play as a kid till I found the world of Call of Duty. I was lucky enough that in my small town, there was a new gaming center that opened up when I was around 14 and they really introduced me to competitive play! The rush of beating other players, playing in the same room, was just unlike anything else! They ran multiple COD leagues where you got to play as a team of 5 against other teams from one of several venues.

I did quite well in these as a kid and eventually got a PC of my own to play from home, and then it just went to 11! I would be scriming every night on COD or Counter Strike and really just practice to be the best I possibly could! I would watch all the majors on Twitch or YouTube and just dream that one day I’d get to play on a similar stage and really get to show off and have fun.

Then flash forward many many years later, I replied to an advert on Instagram that was looking for female gamers in Northern Ireland to come and take part in an unannounced competition. The games I had to choose from were Dota 2, Rocket League, and eFootball. Now I played Dota 2 the most, I was average at Rocket League, and eFootball (formerly PES) wasn’t my footballing game of choice. I actually grew up on FIFA, but we don’t tell people that…. After some back and forth, making sure that me being a transgender woman was ok and proving some transition documents, etc., and asking if I could play Dota or Rocket League, only to be told that I was literally the only girl to apply, I was finally told that if I played eFootball I’d be taken to the Commonwealth to compete in the Inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships. So I instantly said yes and started learning the differences between FIFA and eFootball. A few short months later, I’m playing live on a massive stage in the grand final, where I was lucky enough to take home the first gold medal!

Photo of Emma Rose celebrating a win while wearing her green commonwealth esports championships jersey for Northern Ireland
What has been compelling about eFootball vs. other types of competitive games like MOBAs or FPS titles?

I’m a massive football fan or soccer fan if you’re not from the UK. I live and breathe Arsenal, so playing a game where I basically get to be them was the massive draw for me. I’d always played sports but never competitively until I was lucky enough to get to play for Northern Ireland last year at the Commonwealth.

My passion was, and still is, FPS games because I feel personally I’m far better at them than sports games, but also FPS or MOBAs are seen as more mainstream esports titles, so ultimately making them harder to make that initial step into. I’m a competitor, so I only play games to win, and in eFootball there’s a ranked division in which I constantly find myself grinding to become the best I can! Sports games are also very male-dominated too, so I thought who better to shout for the girls than me and show that we are just as good if not better than the boys?

How have you been preparing for the European Games Esports Championships?

Well, I took a massive break after the Commonwealth and got to travel all over the UK and even out to Las Vegas to talk about diversity in gaming, how to make a career in the industry, tackling hate online, and basically helping support women and marginalised communities! So for a long time I didn’t touch the game! Once I got the call up from GB, I was straight back onto it, trying to see if my hands still remember what to do.

Grinding up the competitive ranking systems, playing friends or just jumping into an empty field practicing skill moves, set pieces, and general ball control. Then if I wasn’t able to play, I would be researching the different teams I had available to play as, seeing what attributes and skill moves certain players had that would best compliment my playstyle. I’ll be honest, I’m a nerd. I made a spreadsheet of the teams I was interested in playing as, then colour-coded certain key items to come up with the best possible team I could be.

Emma Rose esports
Image Source: Emma ‘Emzii’ Rose
Did you do anything special to celebrate your GB call up?

Not really, I’ve been on a massive weight loss and mental wellness journey this year, so I don’t really go out to eat or drink anymore. I did have a wee run around my house with my fiancée and baby dog, then called my mum!

Don’t get me wrong, I am over the moon and extremely excited. I never thought I’d get the call up, if I’m being honest. But as soon as I found out, I started reaching out to contacts on local TV to get interviews and promote it! I’d also just got engaged the weekend before and started a new job working in RIOT’s broadcasting center, so I was already in such a good mood.

What are you hoping your appearance at the EGEC will do for the representation of marginalized folks in esports?

Hopefully help show others that it doesn’t matter where you come from, your gender, your background or anything really. If you want to do something in esports you can. I grew up in a small council estate being raised by my mum. We couldn’t afford the internet or the luxury of a gaming PC or anything like that. I then battled for years with depression but came to realise that I’m actually transgender, and that was why I was suffering for so long.

My hope is that if anyone watching sees me, or hears my story, then they’ll follow their dreams and put themselves out there! It’s less about me winning and more about inspiring others like me to play and compete and just to know that there is a safe space for us out there! That being said, I totally plan on doing my best to win!

What are your other goals or hopes for your EGEC appearance?

Really just raise my profile so I can help more people. I’m a completely open and honest person who’s been through a lot and came out the other side thriving. So I like to pride myself on being approachable and help others like me from underrepresented communities be comfortable in their own skin and happy to compete! Don’t get me wrong, if any financial opportunities came out of it, I’d love that too because transitioning isn’t cheap and well to be completely honest I’m never going to be able to afford gender-affirming surgeries. I’m also a performing arts kid, so another chance to be on stage in front of a camera and broadcast across the world is another chance for me to be unapologetically me. Long-term goal I’d love to have a career in front of a camera or on stage hosting/presenting and just really showing that transgender people belong.

You can follow Emma ‘Emzii’ Rose on her journey over on Twitter.

Ty Galiz-Rowe

Ty is Gayming Magazine's deputy editor and esports expert.