Many gaming enthusiasts gathered around their individual screens, eager to bond over a fun multiplayer game. As the meeting was adjourned, a voice spoke up to address them all, one familiar to them but unexpected to many outsiders.
Gaming Knights, the most prominent video game club at UCF, separates itself from many other gaming clubs in the fact that it has a female president.
“I get a feeling when I talk to another female who joins the club, and they find out I’m the president, I feel like they feel much more lax about things," Gaming Knights President Karina Cuesta said. "They know ‘If she’s the president, there’s no way I might get targeted for anything, there’s no way anything bad can happen.’”
Despite the fact that many women play and enjoy video games, some tend to shy away from gaming focused clubs. Cuesta said this mindset is attributed to the hostile environment women may experience in online gaming, something she has shown no tolerance for in her first semester as president of Gaming Knights.
“When you’re playing games and that’s the environment you’re playing in, the idea of joining a club full of people like that is just not easy to do,” Cuesta said.
Cuesta said that the gender ratio of Gaming Knights is around 70 percent male to 30 percent female. She made it a goal to make the club more accessible to everyone and eventually see the ratio even out.
Her goal fits into the larger theme of inclusivity that Gaming Knights has embraced this year. Cuesta said she takes extra care to reach out to new female members and make them feel welcome in the club.
“I reach out to them. I talk to them. I try to create that kind of bond to make them feel comfortable talking to me, because it can be scary to not know anyone in the club,” Cuesta said. “I’ve been trying to promote that sisterhood bond of being female gamers.”
Female members of Gaming Knights agree with Cuesta’s remarks, and feel having someone like her as president has helped them feel much more at home than they would otherwise.
“It makes me very happy people like me are accepted so readily. There’s a lot of female gamers in the club, and I think her position there allowed us to sort of connect and find a sense of community in an area where there’s usually a lot of pushback,” said Abigail Jones, freshman mechanical engineering major and club member.
The club had a major change in identity this semester. In the past, Gaming Knights was a competitive gaming club that focused on holding tournaments among its members to hone their skills.
Gaming Knights became more focused on creating a more casual gaming environment this semester. One that will fit with all video game fans, regardless of the type of games they play, their skill level or any other factor.
Cuesta said the change in identity helped the club become more inclusive. She said it allowed the club to focus and devote all its attention to a specific target audience.
“Since then it’s been much more lax, a lot more focused on the community aspect of it. We get to reach out to more than just the most competitive players out there, and we can have a mix of casual members as well,” Cuesta said.
In her short time as club president, Cuesta has already made a positive impact on Gaming Knights and its members. Many club members have praised her organization, planning and enthusiasm.
“I’d say she’s definitely made a good impression with me,” Jones said. “She’s very put together during meetings and everything, but she’s also very welcoming and kind as a friend.”