Interview with Maria Gunina (Na`Vi Ladie
Hi, Masha. Thank you for your time for this interview. Please, introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, my name is Masha Gunina, also known as Inverno on the net. I play for Natus Vincere DotA2 female team and I hate the word "dotersha" [which means "female DotA-player" in Russian language with a bit of disdain].
Ok, great. But our readers probably want to know more than that. We think that many people would like to find out what are your hobbies in real life. Do you study, work, or maybe even play curling?
I'm studying journalism and going for a degree next year. My degree research is going to be about the journalism in eSports. I also work for some sizable Internet-company which offers its services to many of your Russian-speaking readers, I believe. As for my hobbies, they are more on the creative side: I play piano, do a little bit of singing, like to experiment in the kitchen, and sometimes write poetry.
Journalism in eSports is quite interesting topic. We would like to hear more about it, if you will. Is there any key differences between journalism in eSports and regular sports? What do eSports mass-media lack? What about the advantages and disadvantages for you personally in that kind of journalism?
There are differences, no question about it. The journalism in eSports in the CIS is autonomous for the most part. Many authoritative sites consider the "copy-paste" method to be OK in the process of producing the content. The spoken language of our casters is often flooded with mistakes and obscene vocabulary. SMM sticks to raffling the sets and begging for likes. It's sad, to be honest. If we want eSports to ever go really big, we need to implement some changes right now.
You're right, the current situation is really sad. Do you have any suggestions for improvement in this field?
Every job should be done by the professionals. Many people are mistaken by thinking that if they simply can write they can become quality journalists (or if they can speak - they have a good chance to become great casters). If you do something - try to improve in what you do all the time. Know the theoretical part of your job. I'm itching to drop a few names for the sake of examples but I won't because there have been too many provocations from Na`Vi Ladies this month already.
Let's go step-by-step. First, please tell us about how your team has been formed. Also, how come that now you're playing for Natus Vincere?
It's safe to say that everything started with my old crew Ownedby.pro. We all met there. In the beginning, there were only two of us - me and MooNka. Some time later Nastya (PerfectVoid) joined us. Unfortunately, she couldn't stay with us for long for some personal reasons. Going forward, we found Sonya. LeAyh was a closer on our VKontakte page all that time. Some time later Nastya gathered her own crew which went under the name of Darer (Leya also played with them). Shortly, MooNka left our team to join Darer. All the story is about 1.5 year long. In March Sonya and I decided to disband our Ownedby. Promptly after that I got a message from Nastya who offered me to try and play together with them. All in all, Na`Vi didn't hire us one-by-one - we joined the organization as an accomplished team.
It's obvious that you aren't new to the game. How come a beautiful girl like you got into eSports and DotA particularly?
When I was very young I played some MMORPG. At some point the guys from my guild began to play DotA. At the beginning I was really mad at them for skipping our guild wars but later I embraced that fact and joined them. There were some female teams at the time already including RoX.KiS. At that point an alluring idea sparkled in my mind and the goal was set.
Why DotA? Why no CS, SC or even LoL?
The thing is that I "met" DotA earlier than everything else. It snowballed from that point: your friends are playing DotA, you're playing with them, you meet new people who play DotA - there's no way back. I consider LoL to be a game for little girls (sorry, it's all pink). It will always remain a side-project of IceFrog for me. CS somehow passed me by, but StarCraft is very dear to my heart up to this day. Anyhow, at some point I realized that the game required even more hard work, perseverance, and grinding from me as well as a lot more time spent with Liquipedia. That's how I decided to stick with team based DotA. One of the main advantages of DotA for me is that you can be relaxed while playing it. Running around with rightclick, feeding, laughing in Skype, coming to lobby half an hour later to start some team matches and get serious again.
You started your virtual journey with some other games, as you stated. It's quite probable that you've been spending a lot of time in front of your computer. So how about the parties, hanging out with friends and all that stuff that regular girls do in their lives? Did you prefer gaming only as a hardcore player?
I was an A-student, a wonk and as a result - a homebody. I read books and did some cross-stitching, by the way (no kidding). As for the games - it started as just another in-door hobby kind of activity for me. Of course, I wasn't spending like 24 hours at my house but I never was a true party animal either.
From cross-stitching to creep killing. Wow. Let's get back to Na`Vi Ladies. How would you describe yourself and your teammates in the game and outside of it? Is there any similarities between your behavior patterns in-game and in real life? To illustrate the point, let's take Puppey - as a support, he always has some bananas with him.
Every girl's temperament affects her game, no doubt. For example, Nastya is very judicious when it comes down to long-term strategies while being impulsive in the details at the same time (it doesn't matter if the subject is ganging under the wards or some rough words in the conversation). In contrast, Leya is a peacemaker who usually smooths out the rough edges both in the game and in real life. MooNka could be very well described by Windrunner from DotA2 Reporter movies. Likes to say "miss" when the midder is already down and ask everybody when are we leaving while the whole team is already packed and waiting for the taxi. Sophie is for the dessert. As we live in the same city I always have to support her both in the game and in real life.
Who's your favorite hero and why?
Recently, I got to like Rubbick pretty much. Maybe it's because I'm really bad at playing him. But for the most part - it's because of his ult. You got around 14-15 skills (don't forget about the passives) which have a lot of potential to fulfill. There are no boundaries how far can you go here.
How did joining Natus Vincere affect you? Has anything changed in the team after you joined the organization?
It hasn't affect the team as an entity but it really has changed that little something inside the head of each one of us. At some point one could almost feel that Na`Vi was some kind of a goal, the tipping point, the end of a stretch. In reality Na`Vi is just the beginning.
It's a known fact that there are almost no DotA2 tournaments for the female teams practically at all. This brings up the question about your motivation. So, how do you maintain your aspiration not only to play but to remain a competitive team while being in a tourney vacuum so to speak?
We don't get stuck with the female league, that's it. We participate in leagues and events for the amateur/semi-pro male teams. We improve mostly for the sake of our own team. The sky is the limit and it all can only end up in Seattle, if you know what I mean.
Yeah, we know. What about your results against the male teams, by the way? Do you see any key differences between the play styles of male teams and female teams?
As it was proved during the SLTV Pro Series, we are able to compete on a decent level with those guys. If I were told this half a year ago I wouldn't believe it. As for now, I don't see it possible for the female teams participating in Pro Series but who knows what's gonna happen in the next half a year? As for the play styles, I don't think there are any really significant differences. It all boils down to particular people, not their gender. Somebody's good at defending, someone can fight really well, other people are better at farming or pushing.
You topped the rankings at the first LAN-tournament for the female teams. Looking at the brackets, one may conclude that you went through like a knife through the butter. But was it all that easy in reality? Were there any tough games and if so - how did you manage to overcome those?
We were thinking deeply about the strategy against Virtus.pro for a long time. They defeated us online many times so they were our main rivals in the event. We managed to crush them strategically as early as the pick phase started. That's why those matches came out pretty easy for us. I'm sure that if we (or they) had different heroes everything could go some other way.
Your victory at the first female LAN-tournament was a little bit spoiled by some kind of scandal which developed in the community. What happened? What's your take on this and how do you view the reaction of the audience?
Our vigorous Sophie (but not only her) reacted in a very negative way which was caused by the behavior of some girls at StarLadder. She expressed herself in quite rude manner but the problem didn't disappear. The reaction of the community could be described by the following sentence: "I fully agree with the speaker but blame her nevertheless." When v1lat was talking about the dissolute life style of some girls during the tournaments that same people were applauding him.
You mentioned that you were able to beat Virtus.pro because of the changes you made in your pick strategy. So the question is what do you base your strats upon and do you watch the games of the male teams? Do you have anyone famous helping you out with this or do you girls try to figure everything out on your owns?
We do everything ourselves for the most part. Of course, we watch professional games and consult with our experienced male friends. In Kiev it went like this: we were discussing the best way to counter the destroyer on mid with Goblak. Pugna turned out to be one of the options. I shared this thought with Nastya. As a result, we re-worked this in our picks and Pugna became one of them but in the role of the semi-support.
Is there any foreign female teams or is it only the CIS phenomenon?
I know something about the Asian teams and one from Romania. Also, I'm aware that Kelly (Alliance manager) is trying to build a team, too.
Do you believe that female eSports have any reasonable chances of going big? Is it possible that we see more female tournaments in the future? What drives the top squads like Na`Vi and Alliance to come to the territory of female teams?
It's really hard to predict anything here. Female DotA has its own path, thus we can't rely on the experience of, say, female CS. Nevertheless, female DotA has its own niche which is proved once again by the expressed interest in female teams from the big names like Na`Vi.
It might sound a little bit rough but we have to ask this. Have you ever thought that Na`Vi expressed their interest in your team just for the sake of getting a rare "exhibit" for their "collection"?
It's possible. I don't have any illusions and try to view the situation rationally. We are the experiment but I hope this experiment will turn out successful. I believe that the female teams have the potential in the game, in mass-media, and in business.
Thank you for your frank answer. Now, tell us a little bit about the team life of Natus Vincere female crew. How often do you stream (if at all), in which events can we find you?
We play almost every day rarely taking the days off. Nevertheless, we allowed ourselves to get some vacations recently. But in general our schedule is very tight: we play fastcups at StarLadder and ESL, practice with the other female teams. Also, we don't forget about our fans. There is a special thread on Na`Vi forum where anyone can challenge us for a heads-up. It's not a marketing thing. We play with everyone conscientiously. We don't stream as of now but we should pretty soon.
How does your family treat eSports? What do they think about it?
My parents view it as a regular hobby because I've been playing games for a long time. I have a bright memory about the moment when I told my mom about the success of our guys in the first International. "Ok, Masha, then why aren't you at your computer practicing?" - she replied. My boyfriend shares my passion because he's a gamer himself. It gets a little more complicated here. As I said, hardcore gamers are usually homebodies but my presence at Na`Vi is connected with a lot of traveling and meeting new people. That's why me and my boyfriend live in a little bit different rhythms now, so to speak.
If you could change only one thing about the game what would it be and why?
I would fix the towers. Firstly, to eliminate their dependence of the attacking speed on the position of Saturn. Secondly, to enhance the mechanics of retaking the tower with the allied unit.
That's two things, Masha, but we'll take it alright. Thank you very much for your time and profound answers. If you have anything left to say to the community and the fans, here's your best opportunity to do it, go ahead.
Thanks for the interesting questions. It was a pleasure for me to answer them. I'm very grateful to Natus Vincere organization for believing in us. Thanks to all the people who helped us grow as players by running pubs in Garena back in the days. And, of course, I appreciate very much the support of our fans who cheer for us with their kind words in a whirlpool of jokes about the kitchen.