BAHRAINI female eSports gamer Marwa Ashoor has made the entire country proud after bringing home the top prize at the Arab eSports League Championship staged in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
In the first-ever Arab-wide championship of its kind, Ashoor won the gold cup playing the video game ‘Tekken 7’ competitively against players from eight other Arab countries and walked away with BD800 prize money.
Players can pick an in-game character to compete with other players in ‘Tekken,’ a Japanese fighting video game series.
Because each character has a unique set of moves, leading gamers often choose one character to specialise in, and train for years to perfect character-specific gaming techniques.
“The competition was quite fierce,” Ashoor told the GDN. “I have always played computer games for fun but never expected that I would one day play in a serious capacity.”
The full-time software developer added that entering the championship was a last-minute decision, after she was recruited into the Bahrain eSports Federation’s (BESF) national women’s team.
“It had been three years since I last trained to play Tekken 7, and I only had two weeks to prepare for the tournament!”
Despite needing to re-learn the game, the 25-year-old champion went on to win all five rounds against professional players from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Djibouti.
Ashoor told the GDN that her love for gaming began with playing ‘Crash Bandicoot’ on ‘PlayStation 2.’ Competitive gaming came much later, however.
“In university, my friends and I had long breaks between lectures so they would play Tekken 7 and I would watch,” said the Bahrain University computer science graduate.
“I thought to myself, ‘I could do this!,’ and started training with friends. Eventually, I started participating in local tournaments and even winning.”
She explained that professional tournaments test gamers’ knowledge about different moves, combos (combinations of moves) and finishes. “Mastering a video game is a science. There are many different techniques strategies one can pursue,” she added.
In 2020, Ashoor was recruited into a UAE League of Legends women’s team in a competitive capacity, but never considered going fully professional.
“Everyone calls gaming a waste of time or a trivial hobby. Besides, there was no official eSports scene in Bahrain,” she explained. “The establishment of the BESF changed that.”
Being at the Arab eSports League Championship was an eye-opening experience for Ashoor. “The tournament made me realise that I really want to do this,” she said. “It’s often said that you should do the thing you like for the rest of your life. Perhaps I will be able to.”
She also wanted to emphasise the significance of the event for women in eSports, and that she hopes her win will encourage more girls to join the games.
“As the BESF is providing more opportunities for women in eSports, I expect the coming tournaments to be more challenging and competitive – so I will practice harder until then!” she said. “When you are a girl in the gaming scene, male players often dismiss you as an attention-seeker. I want to change that perception.”
She expressed her gratitude toward her coach, fellow eSports player Yusuf Shaker, who won the fifth place in the men’s ‘Tekken 7’ tournament.
After the golden win, BESF president Hussain Al Kooheji thanked Supreme Council for Youth and Sport first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa for supporting the sport.