In the latest article in our Women in Esports series, we got to talk to Alena “TIFA” Maurer. TIFA is currently the mid laner for the all-women team, Galaxy Racer EU Female. She has been playing the game for many years and has been on various teams, both in the mixed and the all women League of Legends’ scenes.
Here is a little about her and her thoughts on League and women’s representation within the esports scene.
Thanks for taking this interview, could you tell us a little about yourself?
“Hi, I am Alena, and my in game name is TIFA. Maybe some of you know that [there is a character named] Tifa from Final Fantasy 7 – this is my favourite game of all time. I started playing games when I was a child. My cousins were playing Crash Bandicoot on Playstation 1 and gave me the controller to join them [to] play. From that moment on, I never stopped playing games. My father kept coming home with a lot of new Playstation games, like Tekken, Tomb Raider, Spyro and Final Fantasy, and even back then I tried to be the best in all games and complete [in] them 100%. I never stopped playing!”
You’ve played midlane mostly throughout your career, what drew you to the position?
“In all games that I played before League of Legends, I always played the damage dealer. Next to being the carry, I’ve always enjoyed fantasy, and animals. So when I saw Ahri for the first time, she was just the perfect combination of all the things I like. After I tried Ahri out, I just knew instantly that mid lane is where I belong. Playing mid lane felt so smooth, and just fit me like a glove.”
What is your favourite champion and why?
“Ahri is my favorite champion because I enjoy her fantasy – animal like appearance, but I also like to be a carry and deal damage. Her mobility fits my play style of making solo catches here and there, but she is also a great team fighter.”
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
“I am happy that I have been [the] number one Ahri [on the] EUW [server] and number two Ahri in the world last season for a long period of time, and that I am consistently Master Elo, and peaked Grandmaster by playing mainly SoloQ. I am proud of my team and myself, [and] that we consistently win in Master Elo mixed tournaments, and also all female tournaments. Besides that it makes me proud to travel around the whole world to play tournaments like the female world championship with my friends – my teammates, and earn prizes together. For this season, my aspirations reach an ultimate high and I want to work on myself and improve every day, and become an even better player than I ever was before.”
Who has been your biggest inspiration in esports?
“This is maybe unexpected, but my biggest inspirations for my esports journey came from game characters like Tifa; who never give up, are kind to everyone, super skilled in what they do, and follow their dreams.
In Esports, my current inspirations are players like Caps, who are insanely skilled at the game, but also noticeably have a lot of fun playing the game. But also coaches, like Yamatocannon, or commentators like Froskurinn, really just hardworking people who work on themselves every day, improve and give their best always. [They] are a huge inspiration to me.”
You’ve mainly played in all-female tournaments, like the Galaxy Racer Female Invitational and La Ligue Féminine. Do you think that all-female leagues are an effective way of incorporating women in the esports scene? What about all-female teams competing in mixed leagues?
“While it is true that we play all female tournaments there are, we do also compete regularly in mixed tournaments, and win. Even when we scrim, we mostly scrim against male teams multiple times a week, because male players are the majority and greatly outnumber female players at all levels.
I think big female tournaments, like the female world championship, make League of Legends more attractive to women, for financial, social and publicity reasons. Tournaments like this inspire a lot of girls to start playing League of Legends, but also to not stop playing, and to steadily keep improving. It is fun to compete against those teams that consistently try their best, and it is also simply fun to play with other girls sometimes.
The female scene [has] existed for other sports like chess long before it [has] for League of Legends, for the same purpose of incorporating more women into the scene. A lot of women have been discouraged from pursuing gaming, and those tournaments offer a motivational environment to make more women play. Once men do not greatly outnumber women at all level of competitive league anymore, tournaments like all-female tournaments fulfilled their goal to why they exist in the first place, and won’t be needed anymore. For now tournaments like this exist because women are a minority of league players and/or female role models in general, and the tournaments try to counter this problem. “
You played with a mixed gender team, Glorious Gaming Belgium, in the ESL Proximus Championship 2019 Winter Season. Do you think being female impacted the team synergy at all?
“No, it did not impact the team synergy at all. I was just helping out a good friend of mine, and subbed in for 1 game, because one of their players could not attend.”
You were a sub for Splyce in their early days in the EU LCS, what was it like being part of the team?
“It was very inspirational, and I appreciate the chance to be around so many professionals; from staff to players. I learned a lot, from in-game aspects like scrims, stage experiences and game knowledge, to diet, workout, and meditation.”
Do you think your gender affects your ability to get onto teams or be offered high-level opportunities?
“No – I think if there was a woman on the level of LEC / LCK / LCS / LPL, she would be picked up at least by some team(s).”
What do you think is keeping women from making it into the major 4 leagues (LEC, LCS, LPL, LCK)? Do you think they’ll eventually make it there?
“I believe that this is a complex topic with many dimensions to it, but the most important reason I believe, is that there are simply [fewer] women pursuing this career path, than there are men. Like I mentioned above, men greatly outnumber women, and we can debate forever the reason why it is like this, but I believe the gap is narrowing slowly and steadily.”
Do you think there are any notable programs that support women getting into professional esports scenes? Do you think there should be more programs? What kinds of programs do you think could be effective solutions?
“Besides tournaments, I am not sure if there are many programs that support women specifically to get into professional esports scenes. But there are programs that enable talents, male or female, to live their dream and serve as role models. The Esports Player Foundation is a great organization that supports players to develop themselves, and the inclusion of women is helpful and motivating in itself.”
Do you have any tips for other women who hope to play the game professionally?
“If this is your dream, just try your best to improve yourself every single day, don’t get discouraged by others, eat a healthy diet and work out regularly, sleep well, focus only on yourself, don’t disregard the mini-steps that lead to the final goal, and in the end you will see results.”
Is there anything else you would like to add, or any messages to the fans?
“Your support means so much, and is one of the reasons why a lot of things are improving. Your kindness is valued, and appreciated more than you know. Thank you.”
A thank you to TIFA for sharing her experiences throughout the years, a little about why she loves mid lane and Ahri so much, as well as her opinions on the issue.