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milkteaAs part of my series of interviews on women in gaming, I have been lucky enough to talk to Lilian Chen, a.k.a Milktea, former competitive Super Smash Bros Melee player on her experience on the eSports scene, how she felt as a woman in gaming and the projects she’s working on now.

TechRaptor: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are working on at the moment.

Milktea: I am currently a designer living in New York City. Actually, I just left my role at TED to pursue my own design projects for a bit, a personal sabbatical, if you will. I used to be a competitive Smash Melee player when I was younger, but have since moved onto producing various bits of content for the community occasionally.

TR: You used to be a competitive Smash Bros Melee player. How did you get into eSports and what motivated you?

Milktea: It’s a funny little story. I traveled to a local anime convention in Connecticut when I was maybe 16-17 years old. There, I met some of my oldest friends within the Smash community. They actually aren’t involved much more but at the time, we agreed to go to a tournament together. Upon arriving, I did not plan on entering, but they entered me without telling me! Shortly afterwards, we went to a national event in Massachusetts named Cataclysm where I met tons of competitive players. It all snowballed from there.

TR: What were your experiences as a female gamer in the male dominated eSports circuit?

Milktea: So I actually began chipping away at these questions a while back and when I got to this question, I had to stop for a few days to think about my answer. It’s a tricky question.

I think because there are less women in eSports, they are still perceived as a novelty and thus, receive a lot of attention. This excess attention can be both good and bad. A younger me perceived much of the attention I received to be positive upon joining the community. It took me a few years to realize that said attention had its roots in sexism, even if it wasn’t meant to be malicious. That’s definitely not to say that all attention I’d ever received was negative! I definitely also had great experiences where people supported and empowered me for my gender.

TR: You have written about the need to empathize with people instead of calling them “sexist neckbeards”. Why do you think that empathy in this situation is so important?

Milktea: I think my peculiar “upbringing” in the competitive gaming community has led me to value empathy. I used to be misogynistic  as a teenager, but I had NO idea. It was not until I matured that I realized I had ever harbored such attitudes. If you had told me I was sexist years ago, I would have gotten extremely defensive and dismissed you. This made me realize that sometimes, sexist behaviors are not always intended to be malicious and are a byproduct of ignorance. Empathy paves the path for this back and forth communication. In my experiences, being accusatory tends to reinforce defensive walls. As a result, I do believe that in some circumstances, empathy is one of the greatest tools to spread awareness around these subject matters.

TR: You were also at GDC this year as an eSports summit adviser. How do you think eSports have changed since you began?

Milktea: The growth and acceleration of the eSports industry is absurd! The Smash Brothers community isn’t quite at the level of MOBAs like League of Legends, but even our scene has matured significantly in the last ten years. It’s still shocking, really, to see my friends now sponsored and traveling to pursue professional Smash Brothers. I’m not sure if I would have believed you if you had told me this even half a decade ago!

TR: Have you attended GDC before? How do you think gaming and conferences have evolved?

Milktea: I actually have not! And this year I was only able to be around for Monday and Tuesday during the summits. Unfortunately, I can’t comment much on this as I hadn’t participated in many conferences until this year.

TR: You also work for TED. How does your work in gaming compare to your work in the tech industry?

Milktea: Ha! Surprise! I actually left TED just two weeks ago. With that said, most of my time these days is spent figuring out how to overlap my design and gaming worlds. Design lends itself as a great tool for nearly everything, so there must be a way to marry the two together! It wasn’t until this past year that I even realized I could try to merge the two. It’s going to be an interesting path ahead of me.

TechRaptor would like to thank Lilian for taking the time to talk to us. You can find her on Twitter.

What do you think of Milktea’s experience in the eSports scene?

Georgina Young


British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.

  • mrwizeass

    I’m curious as to what positive attention she’s referring to that was “rooted in sexism.”

  • yacrest

    oh for fucks sake everything is sexist today?! come on people

  • Zanard Bell

    I agree with her, it’s quite sad the Smash Bros. competitive scene, while certainly big, has not made the rounds quite as much as DOTA 2 or LOL. What I would give to have a televised eSports event every year, like the old World Cyber Games, and feature versus games that can excite the crowd like Smash Bros.

  • Minty Victor

    “Benevolent Sexism”. If you take sexism by its dictionary definition and not its popular usage, everything from holding doors open for ladies and the “woman and children first” deal are a form of sexism.

    I imagine in something as “beard-y” as the fighting game community, it was white knights tripping over themselves trying to impress her with their kindness.

    “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex” – As defined by my copy of the Merriam Webster dictionary.

  • mrwizeass

    I was referring to the more simple definition of prejudice and stereotyping based on one’s sex. The stereotyping I can see. The prejudice, not so much if the attention she got was positive. And IMO prejudice is begotten by hatred/malice.
    I’m also gonna go out on a limb and presume that since she was 16-17 when she was active in the community, all the guys were around the same age and just didn’t know any better.

  • chizwoz

    Could I be so bold as to ask that in these kinds of interviews, you actually ask people to define what they mean by “sexist”? I think a lot of confusion springs from the fact that people use this word in very different ways whilst borrowing the same emotional impact the word carries.

  • yanderenightmares

    Smash bros Is more fun to watch than LOL any day.

  • kasey307

    “It took me a few years to realize that said attention had its roots in sexism, even if it wasn’t meant to be malicious.”
    Give me a fucking break!
    Attention doesn’t equal sexism, milkteabag or whatever!

  • Mysterious Friend X

    E-sports players and fans are such sociopaths that sexism is actually the least of their problems.

  • Erthwjim

    Or even her saying she used to be a misogynist when she was younger. I’d like her definition of that because to me, it will always mean a hatred of women, something far worse than sexism, yet to SJWs and those that drink from their teat, they use it interchangably with sexism it seems.

  • Erthwjim

    Popular definitions only seem to apply to one gender as well. Because you can’t be sexist against those that are supposedly in power.

  • Erthwjim

    Kind of like sports in general, except Raiders fans will kill people, e-sports, you’ll get a lot of verbal abuse.

  • Erthwjim

    Thank you for the interview, I don’t agree with how she views certain things, but I’m glad to hear where she’s coming from. I think the problem is, as many have said in the comments already, different definitions of what sexism is.

    To me sexism is negative, but now you have this newfound “benevolent sexism” that I had not heard of until recently. How about instead of using the word sexism for that we use a different word, one that doesn’t have a negative connotation attached to it? Because when probably more than half the world hears the word sexist, one specific type of picture comes to mind (one I’m going to say SJWs want to paint, but not to say milktea is a SJW). It’s like someone saying they have cancer, automatically most people will think negatively of the cancer, they’ll start offering condolences, advice, etc… cancer elicits a specific reaction, even when someone says they have a benign cancer, people still have a negative feeling about it.

    But basic gist, it needs to be defined so both sides of the argument can be understood. Here’s what sexism means to the person being interviewed, and then, here’s what sexism means to whomever.

  • Minty Victor

    Its all about poisoning the well. “Benevolent sexism” isn’t a new concept; its attached to the original, politically and morally neutral original definition of sexism.

    The word itself has been unfairly loaded and charged with connotations is doesn’t necessarily deserve. I am not sure how I feel adding an entirely new word to the dictionary to describe something we already have a word for, just because of its negative connotations.

    I think the solution is to take these words back. They can continue to try and force politically charged definitions on neutral words; we’ll just have to work hard to make sure things stay fair.