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South Africa says farewell to one of our outstanding female gamers

Maryke Kennard.jpg

Maryke Kennard is an exceptional lady. She might not score the highest points in a match, but she knows how to lead a team to success. Many know her for those leadership skills and her unwavering determination to take on whatever challenges life throws at her. She has a few "firsts" feathers in her cap, and she's just gotten started.

First female captain of a Mind Sports South Africa team, first female to captain a South African team in an eSports World Championship, and the first female to shoutcast at the International eSports Federation World Championship. She relocated to Bahrain (Persian Gulf) a few days ago where she will do her medical degree and establish the IeSF's new eSports branch.

Maryke started gaming at seven with the likes of Unreal Tournament and Diablo as her favorites, but her greatest passion was sports. "I used to be a sports jock, did netball, kickboxing, underwater hockey and some athletics as well." During a kickboxing match, her opponent fell on her knee - she had six knee surgeries, couldn't walk properly for three years, and immersed herself in gaming.

The rest is history.

Representing South Africa at the 7th IeSF World Championship

How were you chosen as the captain of the MSSA League of Legends team?

“I was the captain of the Tuks team, and since the majority of the players were from the Tuks team, the captainship was transferred to the ieSF team.”

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Tell us about your experience competing in the 7th IeSF World Championship

“When we arrived there we received a warm welcome, everybody was friendly and wanted to find out more about gaming in SA.   I think the first real competition was drawing into group stages because we all knew which teams we did not want to face. Luckily we avoided the Koreans but got dealt the Swiss, and to be honest, we were almost just as afraid of them.  

Our first game was against the Swiss team, and it being our first game on nine ping, we had a lot to adapt to. It felt like a completely new game, but we did well initially, it just snowballed when we got a few disconnects and a few dumb mistakes because we couldn't time our spells and stuff. But overall, they were the better team and finished 4th at the IeSF in the end.  

The second game against Thailand was a close one, way too close for anyone's good. We had a great game against them, and one misstep caused us to lose a game. I feel that if we had one hour of practice on low ping, we would've been able to take this way easier. I would love to face them again in the future. The third game in groups we faced off against Iran, and it was a beautiful game by us. We won all our lanes and just ran around killing things for a while until we pushed for the win.

We learned a lot from these people as they were all higher ranked and more experienced than us and I feel we did great against competitors of that skill level.”

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Tell us about the shoutcasting at the IeSF

“The shoutcaster who was supposed to work called in sick after severe flu, at the time I had a conversation with one of the organizers and he asked me if I had any experience. I had some, not a lot, and it was a big step from what we have in SA. I was shaky but by the second set of games it was great, I had bad puns and facts ready to fire.”  

What does it mean to you as a gamer, female & student to travel with a group of male gamers & compete internationally?

“It takes a lot of time from my studies, but it’s like playing sport. It’s amazing to be exposed to all the new cultures and meet gamers from across the world. Men still have to get used to having a girl taking the lead on things in the industry, but that will happen with time.”  

Mind Sports South Africa - The good & the bad

You probably know about the negative views SA gamers have abt the MSSA. So, what's your experience been like with the organisation?

“Ahh, that infuriates me. Ok, so first I would like to mention that I spoke about the hate with the other international players with the South African's mindset towards the MSSA, and they were astounded. Their organisations follow the same rules and regulations, and some are even more strict.

I think the LoL community has now warmed up to the MSSA, and many of the top teams see this as the new platform to compete (next year should be amazing to watch), but a lot of development will be needed from the other communities. Yes, there are some kinks at events locally, sometimes the internet doesn't run too great and we have some lag problems, but we get it done, and we get to play and compete against each other. They run it like any sport is run in this country but we do need more people to stop expecting to be treated differently than other sports.  

At the IeSF we were taken care of, everything we needed was organized and we had a great time with the group.”

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Does it really cost as much as people think to be part of the MSSA?

“No, like any sports organization they have a yearly fee. Some sports even have a monthly fee. For university students, there is no fee and school kids pay something like R5 as far as I am aware. If you are employed you pay R85 per year (as far as I remember from last time) and let’s be real, R85 will not kill you in any situation.”  

Have you ever felt that there's truth in the accusing that the MSSA is draconian?

“Not at all, your basic rules are set out as in any sport. Even with fines in contracts that make sense – again, as in any sport. I think most gamers have not played any sport for a national team and are thus unaware of how strict they are. Also, we have votes for most decisions made as clubs.”  

It's time to say "farewell South African eSports"

What's next gaming wise?

“I am moving to Bahrain in the next few days and going to be starting up an affiliation of the IeSF there. I will be finishing my BSc degree there and then doing my degree in medicine as well :). The Shaikh of Abu Dhabi has an affiliation there, but not all the middle eastern countries are part of it yet. So I will be communicating with him to help me set up another "branch" I guess.

So I will approach the guys around and try set up the whole middle east, so we can get eSports growing.”

Any last words to SA’s eSports community?

“I hope to see eSport grow in SA and the communities take this chance to get involved and grow the MSSA. Change needs to happen from within the communities if they want to change the organization.  

I will miss my gaming friends here, especially the ones from the LoL side, but I know they will keep on being great :P.”

We wish Maryke all the best; may the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi invest in eSports and may she continue to add many more "firsts" feathers in her cap.

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