UAE's first female 'pro gamer' on being a woman in esports, fighting stereotypes

Dubai-based professional esports player Madiha Naz was the country's first female to be a part of a pro team

by

Husain Rizvi

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Published: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 3:18 AM

Last updated: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 10:05 AM

Professional esports player Madiha Naz, affiliated with Dubai-based gaming team Galaxy Racer Esports, is advocating for a career in esports for females. And why not? If you love gaming, might as well make a living out of it. Right?

Graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Madiha found herself unexpectedly thrust into the world of esports shortly after exploring job opportunities typical for new graduates.


In 2020, she assumed the role of captain for the first all-female Middle Eastern esports team, embarking on a four-year journey as a professional gamer. With aspirations of achieving greater success in international tournaments, her team has already left a significant mark by dominating the League of Legends Female MENA scene.

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We speak to Madiha to get insights on the esports scene in the region, a traditionally male-dominated domain. Excerpts from the interview:

You made history as the first female in the UAE to receive a contract in an esports team. Can you share your journey of breaking into the esports scene and what this milestone meant to you personally?

Breaking into the esports scene was a journey of passion and perseverance. I grew up playing video games, but never imagined it could turn into a professional path. The moment I received the contract, it was a validation of all the hard work and dedication I had put into gaming. It wasn't just a personal achievement; it symbolised a breakthrough for women in the Middle East/Southeast Asian esports community, showing that we too can compete and excel in this field.

How did you navigate the transition from gaming as a hobby to making it a full-time career? What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

The transition was both exciting and challenging. Initially, gaming was a way to unwind and have fun. However, when I realised my potential, it was about discipline, practice, and continuous improvement. The biggest challenge was balancing gaming with other responsibilities and dealing with skepticism from those who didn't see gaming as a viable career. Overcoming these challenges required focus, setting clear goals, and maintaining a strong support network.

Esports has traditionally been male-dominated, but your success highlights the growing opportunities for women in the industry. What advice do you have for other aspiring female gamers who are looking to pursue a career in esports?

To other women looking to enter esports, I'd say: believe in yourself and your abilities. The industry can be intimidating, but your unique perspective and skills are invaluable. Don't be afraid to enter competitions, seek mentorship, and network within the gaming community. Most importantly, always keep learning and improving your skills.

What kind of support systems or training did you have in place to help you succeed as a professional esports player? How important do you think it is for aspiring gamers to have access to similar resources?

Having a robust support system was crucial. I had mentors who provided guidance, a team that offered a supportive environment, and access to professional-level training resources. For aspiring gamers, such resources are essential. They help not only in skill development but also in understanding the dynamics of the esports industry.

How do you think increased representation of women in esports can positively impact the industry as a whole, both in the UAE and the world?

Increased representation of women in esports can lead to a more inclusive and diverse industry. It encourages different perspectives in game development, marketing, and storytelling. In the UAE and globally, this can broaden the appeal of esports, creating a more vibrant and inclusive community.

Have you encountered any stereotypes or misconceptions about female gamers in your journey? How do you address or overcome these challenges?

Yes, stereotypes are common. Many assume that female gamers are not as skilled or serious about gaming. I address these by letting my performance speak for itself. As an esports player, it’s about showing up, competing fiercely, and maintaining professionalism. Women can do that too. Over time, consistent performance can change perceptions. However, I do believe there is a skill gap between the level of top female gamers vs top male gamers, I don’t know if studies show if males have an advantage to females in gaming but I do believe it exists. That’s one of the reasons I am happy that a female only scene exists in esports.

Esports is rapidly growing in popularity worldwide. How do you see the esports scene evolving in the UAE, and what role do you hope to play in shaping its future?

The esports scene in the UAE is growing rapidly, with increasing recognition and support. I see it becoming a hub for international competitions and a breeding ground for top talent. My role, as I see it, is to be an ambassador for women in esports – inspiring more women to join, helping to foster local talent, and contributing to the global esports community. I also believe that the UAE rewards those who do well here. I was rewarded the Golden Visa in 2022 which made me feel appreciated by the country and also got to give back something to my parents.

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