In the second article of our Women in Esports series, we caught up with Anna “Banana” Schifft to talk about casting and hosting within the esports community. It’s clear that women are severely underrepresented within esports, especially in the League of Legends community. However, in casting and hosting, prominent figures like Sjokz and Froskurrin have started to make pushes in the community to make it more inclusive to women.
Anna “Banana” Schifft is a 26-year-old freelance colour caster, host and the support player for Divinity eSports’ League of Legends team. She has been playing the game for just over 10 years, since its Season One days. Currently, she lives in Berlin with her boyfriend who also enjoys playing the game with her. We caught up with Anna to talk about her career so far and her goals for herself and building inclusivity for women within the industry.
You’re a colour caster, host, and the support for Divinity Esports. What came first, the broadcasting or the playing?
“I started as a player in a [for] fun team. I soon recognized that I wanted more and that I love league and started to play in more serious teams.
One day the owner of the organization I was playing for asked me if I’d be interested in casting a game and I did it just for fun. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and stayed on that path.”
Let’s talk about broadcasting. What made you want to become a caster and a host?
“The fun of it. Sounds stupid but I really love League. It’s a great game and especially in a team environment it’s awesome. And casting is arguably even more fun – it doesn’t matter what team wins—every game is enjoyable. Also, I have met great casters who became friends now, and it became a passion.”
What challenges do you face in casting as a woman?
“As a caster I just started out 1.5 years ago, and I feel like being female didn’t have a negative impact on my work with other casters or organizations luckily. Maybe I have to prove that I know what I’m talking about first, but I don’t have a problem with that.
A problem that exists while being live with a cast is men trying to flirt with you. Even telling everyone that I have a boyfriend isn’t enough sometimes. The only thing that helps is if he is there too which makes it even more infuriating. Telling people as a woman that you are not interested in a flirt should be enough, but it is almost never enough to make them stop. And if you’re too harsh because you’re getting annoyed you will be insulted.”
How do you think your gender affects the job opportunities you’re given?
“As a player, men often don’t take women as seriously as men. You always have to prove that you’re worth it, and you have to fight really hard to prove that you’re serious about it.
As a caster I hope that it doesn’t affect the job opportunities. If someone wants me to cast for them, I truly hope that it’s because I’m a good caster and not because of anything else. So far no one directly said that they want me to cast just because I’m female.”
Do you have tips for anyone wanting to become a caster?
“Just do it and have fun while doing it! Slowly there are organizations growing where casters group up—that’s where to start. Listen to as much feedback as you can get and cast as many games as you can in the beginning. You have to be dedicated and have a lot of time for it though if you really want to give it a go. Also, you have to decide what fits more—play by play casting or colour casting? After a while you may be able to do both but start with one and concentrate on that.”
What do you aim to accomplish in your casting career?
“A dream of mine is to cast for SummonersInn and maybe to do the German broadcast for LEC or even Worlds one day. But I know that’s far away, so my approach is to enjoy every cast and get better with every cast for now. Also, I’d like to improve on my English casts and to get more comfortable while speaking English.”
Let’s talk about playing professionally. What made you want to play the game professionally?
“Well I would rather call myself a semi-professional player as I’m aware that I’m too old to improve so much as to play pro-diff or even higher. But I guess I have a high competitive drive. I also love playing as a team and to analyze the games and what I and the whole team could do better. I just want to get a little-bit better with every game. We’re now in division 3 in Prime League (the German league) and we aim to at least get into the playoffs to division 2 next splits. It’s also about being a team and being together while winning and losing. I always chose teams where I felt connected to the other players and in which we all shared some laughs along the way as I think that’s really important too (at least in the semi-professional surrounding).”
What are some barriers you’ve faced getting into the professional scene?
“It’s really tiring that you always have to prove yourself arguably more than men, you always have to overcome that first doubt that at least I feel is always there as a female. Also, you will most often be the target of banter or if the enemy team is disrespectful (I saw that in scrims and in tournaments – it’s always against the “e-girl”). Also, there is a lot of subtle discrimination which feels even worse in my opinion because I always feel like I overreact if I say anything against it (for example banning 5 enchanter supports) and generally categorizing champions as “e-girl champs”.
You can make it in the professional scene, but it’s really tiresome, and you have to ignore a lot of the bad behaviour. But if you find your spot, and you surround yourself with great people it’s awesome, and I feel in the same way accepted as any men in my spot.”
What do you think could be an effective solution to these problems?
“That’s hard – the only effective solution would be to eradicate sexism. On the way to achieve that we need more female professionals as players and casters. It shouldn’t be special and should be normalized. For that we need more female newcomers, and we need to stand together as women and men to show that sexism isn’t okay. Everyone experiencing it in any form should speak up and protect whoever is the victim of it. That also applies against racism and any other form of discrimination too of course!
Not particularly a solution but a thing that really helped me a lot are nice people that encourage and help you out along the way. I’m lucky because I met a lot of them and that’s not a gender thing maybe – but these people and the friendships along the way are what I love about e-sports!”
What are you looking forward to in the coming season?
“To try hard again as a player and to pour my heart and soul into casting again. Also, I hope that I can grow as a caster and I hope that people feel entertained and maybe even learn things from my casts. Also, I’m excited about live events and hope that it’s possible again to watch the LEC live in the studio (perks of living in Berlin :D).”
Is there anything else you would like to add, or any messages to your fans?
“I hope that the League community keeps growing together and working together rather than against each other. I’ve met so many awesome people along the way and it by far outweighs the negatives. You just have to be brave and embrace the positives and I hope more female players will be able to do that in the future.”
A special thanks to Anna “Banana” Schifft for sharing her thoughts in this second article of our Women in Esports series, where we aim to raise awareness about the issue and talk about potential solutions. As a caster, host, and player, Banana has lots of experience in the esports scene and her thoughts in this interview reflected that.