Minnesota’s first all-women pro esports team wants to reshape gaming culture – Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota’s first all-women pro esports team wants to reshape gaming culture – Minnesota Public Radio News

Video games have always been a part of Natalia Jackson’s life. When she was 4 years old and lived with her family in Japan, it was her grandmother who nurtured her love of gaming. 

“She actually introduced me to games on the Super Nintendo like Mario Kart and Bomberman,” Jackson, 27, said. “I probably got my competitive edge from her because she, my sister and I used to battle it out on those games.”

For years, Jackson played casually. In 2017, she bought her own computer and tried some PC games, including Counter-Strike, a multiplayer first-person shooter game. That video game brought her into contact with other amateur women gamers.

Jackson joined an all-women team and as they racked up wins, they started getting noticed.

“We started qualifying for tournaments and winning money,” she said. “That’s when I probably realized, I really enjoyed playing competitively and that it was possible to pursue a career in esports.”

After four years of working toward that goal, Jackson signed a contract in September with VersionX, an all-women professional esports team launched by Eagan-based esports company Version1. Jackson joins four other VersionX teammates who train at a facility in Eagan, Minn. Players receive housing and full-time salaries and compete in national and international competitions.

“It’s really about representation and making that next generation of gamers look a little different,” said Annie Riley, vice president of marketing and creatives at Version1. “Right now, there’s a lot of men in professional gaming, and there should be no reason that
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