The esports organization Gen.G is partnering with dating app Bumble to form the world’s first all-women professional Fortnite team. Gen.G already backs teams in League of Legends, PUBG, and Apex Legends, and Bumble is known as a friendlier dating app for women, requiring women to make the first move when they match with a man.
Team Bumble formed shortly after the inaugural Fortnite World Cup. The event got lots of attention from fans, but not all for reasons Epic would probably like. While the World Cup was a hit from an attendance perspective, it also drew some criticism because there were no women among the event’s 100 solo finalists. That’s despite Epic’s own estimation that 35 percent of Fortnite players are women, and figures from the Electronic Software Association showing that women make up 46 percent of gamers overall.
The new team will include Kristen “KittyPlays” Valnicek, who is also Gen.G’s head of new gaming initiatives and organizer of #TeamKitty, a coalition of hundreds of women in gaming. Also on the roster are pro Fortnite players Carlee "Carlee" Gress, Madison "maddiesuun" Mann, Tina "TINARAES" Perez, and Hannah "Hannah" Reyes. The team is not currently recruiting beyond those members, according to Engadget, but may bring on more players in the future.
Team Bumble will have a dedicated streaming room at Gen.G’s Los Angeles training facility, provided by Bumble. The dating app also plans to co-host events with #TeamKitty and work on other initiatives to support women in gaming. While Team Bumble is the first organized all-women esports team, there are already plenty of women playing Epic’s hit game professionally. During the World Cup, a 13-year-old player who goes by "Ewok" became both the first female player and the first deaf player to join the popular FaZe Clan esports team.
The lack of women in the Fortnite World Cup and other high-profile events doesn’t reflect a lack of women playing the game, but may instead come down to the atmosphere of competitive gaming. Anyone who’s played a ranked match in a competitive online game has likely been witness to some form of toxic behavior, if not a target themselves, and women tend to face even more abuse than men. Women who drop out of esports or stop playing online entirely frequently cite sexist harassment as one of the biggest factors, along with a lack of female role models in gaming. Team Bumble won’t turn the culture around overnight, but the presence of more high-profile women in esports could make it a more welcoming scene for others.