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Getting to Know Ezza – WomANZ’s Resident Esports and Education Champion

24 May 2019

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You could easily describe Erin Hughes as something of a trailblazer. More commonly known around WomANZ as Ezza, she forms part of the organisation’s leadership and is always quick with advice or a kind word for members in the community’s discord server.

Like all the members of the WomANZ leadership team, she’s a young woman with a vision for the future of gaming and esports in Australia and New Zealand.

She lists her passions as “helping people, esports and gaming”, all of which align closely with her work for WomANZ and as the manager of the Australian Pro PUBG team, Incognito. Right now, she’s got a front row seat to the scene developing in the Oceanic region.

“I’ve been a gamer as long as I remember,” she says. “I remember playing Duke Nukem 3D when I was around 8…” Playing alongside her older brother, the person for whom she credits introducing her to gaming.

It’s not surprising to hear Erin’s current favourite video game is PUBG. “I’m so heavily involved with the PUBG OCE community.”

But she’s also quick to point out it’s not all about PUBG. “I like variety!” She says, mentioning Sid Meier’s Civilization series, League of Legends, Overwatch, Jurassic World Evolution, and the Sims as some of her top titles.

Currently based out of Brisbane, Ezza didn’t always live in Australia’s north-east. She grew up in New Zealand and spent her childhood in Wellington before moving to Auckland as an adult. She relocated to Brisbane late last year.

She hasn’t had a lot of trouble settling into life in Queensland. According to her, the two countries are “extremely similar, the only main differences are that there are many, many more things that can kill you in Australia and it is a lot hotter!” She does have plans to move to Melbourne in the near future, “unless I get a dream job overseas!” she says.

The other passion: travel

Travel is one of Ezza’s passions too. She says she’d spend every month in a different location if logistics didn’t get in the way. But even this is influenced by her love of gaming and esports. “The relationships and friendships I have made through esports and gaming mean that I have an extended network of places to stay and people to visit around the globe!”

She’s got a pretty clear idea of how her year of globetrotting would pan out too. November to February would be spent around Europe for a “mixture of snowboarding and exploring.” Ezza’s visited Europe before, including a trip to the UK with Incognito recently to compete in the FACEIT Global Summit. “I love the history and culture and the fact that you can stay in an Airbnb in Berlin that is older than how long New Zealand has been discovered!” she says, before adding she’s actually stayed in that very Airbnb before.

Next, she says she’d chase the snow, catching a train from Russia to Beijing, finally ending up in Japan for the cherry blossom festival around April. Where, as she puts it, she’d spend her time eating “so much delicious local cuisine!”

Once summer hit the Northern hemisphere, she’d set off for the USA. “[For] July, I’d head to America. Start off by celebrating the 4th July, spend a month or two road tripping… head down to South America and stop off in Machu Picchu, explore Buenos Ares, eat more amazing local cuisine, attend the day of the dead celebrations… Then head back up to the USA to have my first USA Halloween and Thanksgiving experience.”

Getting involved with esports

Two years ago, when PUBG came out, Ezza got involved with PUBGOCE, s discord community for PUBG players in the region. She ended up competing in the first OCE PUBG community gaming league run by the server, igniting her passion for esports as well as the game.

“After this experience, I became more involved within the Discord and became a moderator.” Then she went on to help third-party tournament organisers run events including both online and offline PUBG tournaments.

Ezza majored in management during her Business degree at University. “I thought that I could use these skills for good in an area I am passionate about.” In 2018 she reached out to Incognito and offered her services as the team manager.

“It took me too long, working in too many roles across different industries, to realise that I was not happy.”

Before she landed in the gaming and esports scene, she worked in public policy in local and central government. She even completed two papers in a Master of Public Policy. But the work didn’t give her any sense of purpose and she didn’t feel passionate about it. “That’s when I realised that life is to short not to do something that you do not love.” She says.

That’s why she took the plunge two years ago to get involved in something she’d enjoyed her whole life: gaming. According to Ezza, since joining the esports and gaming industry she’s been “the happiest I have been in a very long time.”

If she could go back in time and give little Ezza any advice, it would be: “Follow your passions and [do] what makes you happy.”

Joining WomANZ and her visions for the community

Ezza became involved with WomANZ about six months after the organisation was created.  “I became involved because I am passionate about this industry and I would like to share my experiences and encourage as many women to get into the scene.” Taking up the banner as WomANZ’s Esports and Education Champion. “Currently there are very few women in the gaming and esports scene and I know I would love to change this!”

She’s got a lot of visions about education and esports, especially when it comes to her work with WomANZ.

“I definitely want to get more women into esports,” although she says this isn’t the only aspect of education she’d like to work towards providing community members. She acknowledges the diversity of the community and wants to provide something of benefit to everyone. One idea she currently has ‘in the pipelines’ is a WomANZ speaker series. “We’d get one person each week to come in and talk to the community. One week, an accountant to talk to our content creators about tax, next a tournament organizer to talk about their role- The sky is the limit.”

She’s keen to create a space where WomANZ members can ask questions and connect with experts and professionals who will help them reach their goals. Although, as Ezza acknowledges, the WomANZ community itself has plenty of knowledgeable members happy to share their insights and experience. Some of whom have already expressed an interest in being part of the speaker series.

“What I have noticed about the gaming, esports and content creation space is that everyone is so encouraging,” she says. “If one of our members gets encouraged to get into competitive esports, try out content creation or even files taxes It will be a success!”

Thoughts on gaming culture in OCE

“Too often I hear, especially from women, experience, where they have connected to a game and others can see their Steam profile picture and instantly start harassing them.” As Ezza sees it, this kind of mentality is not ok, and she’d like to be someone who helps change it.

She has a message for womenand non-binary gamers out there experiencing any kind of harassment: “Don’t give up, ignore the haters – it does get better.”

Her advice is to play with friends instead of queuing for a multiplayer game solo to avoid the toxicity. If teammates are something you’re lacking in your games, then she suggests joining a community like WomANZ. “If you don’t already have friends to play with, I strongly encourage you to join the WomANZ community. Often our community members have game nights and some have even created competitive teams!”

Combating toxicity through inclusion is something WomANZ is all about and Ezza is all about it too. “I’d like for any person to pick up a game and be able to play some matchmaking without being abused or ridiculed.”

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