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Hearthstone player becomes first woman to win at BlizzCon finals

‘Forget your gender and go for it’

Li “VKLiooon” Xiaoeng holds trophy during Grandmasters finals Helena Kristiansson/Blizzard Entertainment
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Chinese Hearthstone player Li “VKLiooon” Xiaomeng won the Hearthstone Grandmasters Global Finals over the weekend in Anaheim, Calif — and in doing so, she made history. Li is the first woman to not only win a Hearthstone Grandmasters event, but the first woman to win a BlizzCon final across all games.

Following a 3-0 victory over U.S. player Brian “bloodyface” Eason, Li addressed the cheering BlizzCon 2019 crowd. Two years ago, she was waiting in line for signups at a Hearthstone event and a fellow player told her it wasn’t a place for women — “It’s not for you,” he said.

“And now I’m here, with all the support from the fans,” Li said through a translator. “I want to say to all the girls out there who have a dream for esports — for competition, for glory — if you want to do it and you believe in yourself, you should forget your gender and go for it.”

There are women involved in all areas of esports, but there’s still a disparity in gender for professional players. Reasons are complicated — women aren’t barred from entry in esports, but sociological barriers can discourage women from competing. The gender discrimination Li faced at the event two years ago is likely familiar to other women competing in esports, whether casually or at elite levels.

Li has been involved in the Chinese Hearthstone community for years. The Hearthstone Grandmasters trophy also comes with $200,000 in prize money.

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