It’s safe to say that e-sports in Kenya has been growing over the last few years. This is through the numerous gaming competitions that have also caught the attention of big corporations like Safaricom and LG among more to host such events. But credit also needs to go to Kenyan professional gamers who have also had opportunities to wave the flag on international fronts. One of them is Sylvia Gathoni, alias QueenArrow who had the chance to attend events in South Africa and Montpellier, France. So we had a sit-down with her about her experiences and what her future goals as a pro-gamer are.
I feel like anyone who doesn’t know you by now, already should. And it’s been almost two years since our last talk. So, how has your 2020 and 2021 been as a gamer who wants to achieve the highest yet still juggle with the crazy times?
Sylvia: My 2020 and 2021 has all been about figuring out who I am and learning some difficult lessons. 2020 was about knowing my worth as a gamer and not settling for less. I also had to contend with finishing the remaining units for my law degree and still learn more about Tekken. 2021 has been about putting the final touches on my law degree (I’m graduating this Friday with my L.L.B.), pushing myself as a content creator, doing interviews with major news outlets and learning difficult lessons as a pro-Tekken player.
As crazy as it has been, you would definitely be one of the few Kenyan gamers that’s grateful for the opportunities that came through particularly this year? How did you even get to fly not just to South Africa but also across the world to Montpellier, France?
Sylvia: I got the chance to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa courtesy of Red Bull Kenya and Red Bull South Africa. They wanted me to get the experience of competing at the highest level in my first international major and it was a huge honour to get to experience this and represent my community and the 254. I was invited to France by the French government/French Embassy to participate in the New Africa France Summit and Occitanie Esports Montpellier Expo to do some show matches with popular French player Kayane. Again, it was a huge honour and I got to learn so much from the experience.
How was the experience first in SA and what kind of events and activities did you get into?
Sylvia: The experience in S.A. was challenging and humbling. I got to interact with the best of the best at Hit the Streets and I got to understand everyone’s perspective while competing and compare it to mine. I got to do interviews with Kaya FM (radio station in South Africa), filmed promos for Hit the Streets, did casual matches with the rest of the competitors and made new friends there (and I experienced so much warmth and love there). The biggest takeaway from S.A. was the importance of not just being prepared in-game but being mentally prepared. I also got to learn that it doesn’t matter if you lose but it matters how you pick yourself up after that loss.
Secondly, the trip to France. How different was it, how was the general experience, and how was the reception especially as a gamer coming from Kenya?
Sylvia: The experience in France was really interesting. It was my first time in the E.U. and I was really fascinated at how big the esports and cosplay scenes there were. I experienced a lot of love there and they were impressed by what I had to bring to the table as a Kenyan esports athlete. I really had fun playing with Kayane as she’s an athlete that I’ve looked up to for the longest time and I got to learn a lot from her and she gave me some really solid advice. My biggest takeaway from my time in France was being kind to myself since I am still young and still have so much to experience and grow as a player.
I know we have Kenyan gamers that have flown for international tournaments and gaming events but do you feel like this paved the way for much more growth for you as a gamer?
Sylvia: Oh yeah, it has definitely paved the way forward for me. I came back from both trips wiser and humbled. Right now, I know what to expect when attending an international major and how to prepare myself adequately. I also feel challenged as right now, I figure out the next steps and the path forward for me as an athlete.
From both trips, what did you see that you would implement in Kenya when it comes to the pro-gaming scene?
Sylvia: From both trips, I feel that the Kenyan scene could do more in terms of pushing these events to create more awareness and build hype. Moreover, in Montpellier, I found that parents were bringing their kids to the events to experience them and were even participating side by side. I feel that if we had more parents actively involved in the esports and cosplay scene, it would help legitimize and break down these misconceptions that currently surround these spaces.
I’m sure the whole experience gave you, even more, drive to push as a gamer and streamer. So, what plans do you have now and have your goals become even bigger now?
Sylvia: I have huge plans and right now, I plan on working on my confidence and nerves. I know I have what it takes to deliver the kind of gameplay that I’ve worked so hard towards but it’ll take breaking down these two obstacles. My goals have become bigger and I’ll be damned if I don’t achieve them.