Introducing Ephey; Emerging at WePlay AniMajor
Images courtesy of WePlay Holding
WePlay AniMajor is all about becoming a legend, but one storyline focuses on a rising star among the talents as Mira "Ephey" Riad makes her panel debut.
The WePlay AniMajor is all about the anime stories and tropes of the comeback teams, betrayal, perseverance, making legends, overpowered protagonists, and ridiculous power scaling antagonists. But nestled between these titans and shonen heroes is a hidden gem of a storyline that simply can't be ignored.
In 2011 a young 15-16-year-old girl was introduced to the world of DotA by her best friend, Samer, irrevocably changing her life.
I was excited about the video games I was playing and he (Samer) said 'you're not playing real video games'. So one day he gave me a warcraft CD and said 'you are going to install this, you are going to install dotA all-stars, and you are going to play'. So I did. And my brother (feero) and I learned to play it together all thanks to my friend.
Mira "Ephey" Riad might not have been a household name before the WePlay AniMajor, but she is sure to be one after. The soft-spoken 26-year-old from Jordan has been the perfect addition to the panel at the Major and into the anime theme.
Introducing Ephey; Embarking on a new world
Isekai anime stories take a character from the 'real' world and transplant them into another one, which is exactly what it seems like happened to Ephey.
On-and-off through the years Ephey has been streaming and carrying teams in pubs with her Earth Spirit prowess. For the most part, she was living a relatively unassuming life playing a game she loved.
But somewhere over her ten years playing, she started to catch fire and attention for her knowledge and skill.
Omega League, which was hosted by WePlay Esports last summer would have been Ephey's first appearance as a panelist but Covid restrictions threw a monkey wrench into the plans and she was left grounded at home which Mira told GosuGamers really disappointed her since it was something she really wanted to do.
But sometimes the situation that holds us back ends up developing into even bigger and better events in the future. (Dare we suggest this fits into yet another anime trope here?)
And now, Ephey is making her big panel debut. We aren't just talking about the first appearance at a LAN after being part of online events. Nor are we referring to a gentle initiation. We are talking about quite a dunking as a rite of passage, heading out on stage at what is anticipated to be the most viewed Major. Nothing like sink or swim time!
"I kind of feel like I jumped into freezing cold water ... I have no experience at all doing any of these things, I was so nervous I was going to do a bad job, but so far so good I think"
We think so too. In fact, the overall reception of Ephey's presence has been on the positive side.
Offering a new perspective, a fresh face, and insight that has been proven to be on-point and valuable, Ephey has been able to win over the masses.
I was actually worried that people would be offended I was there, like 'who is this person, how did they just bring her to a major?' But then I realized people are going to always find ways to be offended anyway, so I might as well just own it and do the best that I can do.
Introducing Ephey; Overcoming the odds
Anime writers have known for years that the audience really like passionate people trying to overcome the odds. And Ephey's experience fits right on cue.
It’s been discussed before, the topic isn’t new. Women are targets of online harassment, abuse, and discrimination. And by abuse and harassment, that means objectification and cat-calling.
Gender discrimination along with the barrage of harassment is unfortunately even more commonplace in esports than we should be able to admit. Biased gender role views, lack of inclusion of women, prejudice, and harassment continue to plague the experiences of women in esports on a global level. The “usual” verbal gaffes, "flippant" remarks, and offhand oogling all serve only to highlight misogynistic tendencies that then further normalization of such views. The disregard for credibility and legitimization of women in the industry is a mark that should be erased from the ever-growing landscape.
Ephey is no stranger to this.
"I did stream for a very long time. I always take extended breaks from dota and streaming because it can kind of get too much... the way people talk on the internet, the way that you are viewed.
There is no polite way to say it, but there are some really creepy people and they can really impose on your personal boundaries if you are a woman on the internet and I think that happened one too many times for me to be comfortable, so I thought that I was pretty much done with that sphere of the internet for a while, but being at the major has kind of taught me to grow a thicker skin and feel less affected by the things that I hear online. I can definitely see myself streaming again when I get home.
I can definitely deal with it, but I guess to me I thought it wasn't worth it to have to go through all of this criticism and people trying to get all this information from me. I had my email and Instagram hacked a few times.... things like that that never happened before I started to stream, but talking to others who have gone through this before makes me realize I can definitely put up with it better than I give myself credit for. "
At the AniMajor, WePlay has been doing an impressive job in moderating the Twitch Chat and handling the onslaught of inappropriate comments directed towards Mira.
They have been serving as a buffer, putting a certain amount of distance between her and any toxicity which one can only hope will set the standard for other tournament organizers.
I'm really appreciative of WePlay's efforts to moderate. I actually have not read twitch chat or gone over any of the VODs 'coz I knew it would psych me out. My family does watch every panel and they let me know what's being said there. I know a lot of people are 50/50 about the way that I sound. Maybe there is merit to me being able to speak up more, but I really just can't control the tone of my voice. I knew that a lot of people in twitch chat would react to it negatively, so even if that's the case I've been ready for that.
Steps like these lend to much more support for breakthrough experiences as well as for younger girls or women that were hoping to one day take on a more public role in the Dota 2 scene.
In fact, the experience has been such that Mira is looking forward to more in the future and possibly take up casting as well.
I think I would like to [do more events], I have definitely enjoyed it here and I can see myself doing it again. Casting is something I would definitely need to work on before I could work as a caster. So when I go home I will definitely be practicing for sure because things like being a panelist and casters are interchangeable and you have more value in this field if you can do both, so I would definitely like to do both
Introducing Ephey; Leveling Up
While hosting allows for less hands-on experience on a high caliber level, many panelists have been former (or even still current) professional Dota 2 players. Others began as casters for multiple years before taking the reins of the panel.
Ephey did not.
"I was nervous about going on a panel with people like Capitalist, Fogged, AUI ... like these people have been around for so long and they are so good at what they do and I was really nervous I would look uninformed or unintelligent compared to them. But they are so easy to talk to, they are receptive to my points and keep the conversation going."
I was worried that maybe my pub knowledge wouldn't carry over to the pro scene at all, but I was surprised to see that the way that I play and what I think of the game from pubs does carry over. I was so nervous the first day that my pub knowledge would look so stupid but I just learned something about dota which is that the game doesn't change, if you play it a lot you can definitely talk about it.
Ephey's knowledge is expansive and it is clear in both the drafting phase during picks and bans as well as in the post-game discussion. Her insight is solid and her understanding of strategy is sharp.
Despite that, she keeps herself in check by being aware of her shortcomings and attempting to adjust for that moving forward.
"I think that I need to elaborate a bit better actually. Sometimes I say something that sounds pretty obvious in my head, and I feel like people at home actually watching would know why I just said it. I forget to elaborate more about the idea that I am having. I should definitely explain it in better detail so I'm going to actively work on that in the playoffs. Instead of just saying something in simple terms, I would like to explain more for the less informed or the more inexperienced players to understand it better.
I'm glad that the event had such a long build-up so I was able to realize what I had been doing wrong so far and I could actively work on that as it progressed."
In such a short amount of time, we already witnessed Ephey's progress. With more and more experience she will build more confidence in herself and be a natural on the panel. She's already thrown a few zingers at Kyle, but speaking up more and relaxing a bit will be small improvements that can carry her a long way.
We certainly need more women's presence at events to create a diverse and inclusive scene.
Introducing Ephey; A Monologue for exposition
Staying true to her promise of elaborating more, Mira tells GosuGamers her thoughts on the best storyline of the event so far.
"Easily Team Nigma. They came into the tournament, where no one thought they would do well. They haven't performed very well, they will probably have to go to qualifiers with the likes of OG and Tundra for one spot for TI ... but here they are they came into the Major as the underdogs somehow and they stomped their way to the playoffs.
It's so anime, the protagonist of in your favorite shonen just level up, just level up and get stronger and stronger and watching them become the heroes of this story, so that's been a lot of fun.
It's almost as if they always do well at these WePlay events!"
Being able to predict the two teams at the grand finals will be rough according to Mira.
"Here's the thing, we haven't watched the teams from the upper brackets yet. So from what I saw in groups, Nigma and LGD are terrific. I don't even know if there are teams in the upper bracket that can compete with these teams."
Something I noticed was teams that weren't able to adjust their playstyle from what they commonly played at the DPC didn't do that well 'coz a lot of these came prepared. If you come into this Major wanting to play the same kind of Dota you did in the league, you won't do well.
Introducing Ephey; From zero to hero
Mira's approach and attitude about her debut and Dota 2 experiences are not just commendable, but inspirational.
Not quite a Hikikomori (shut-in), Ephey confides in GosuGamers that she is really more of an anxious and nervous person by nature. Moving on to such a public platform has been a big step for her that she has embraced with a level head.
"It's definitely gotten easier. I've always been more of an anxious person, so putting myself in these situations that can be very out of the box for me, I was worried that I would choke on my words, or put my foot in my mouth, or stutter like not being able to deliver my points really clearly, but really it was just the first day that was really hard, the first day that I had to get through and every day it is starting to feel more natural."
Vulnerability, anxiety, and apprehension are incredibly identifiable emotions. These feelings speak to most aspiring or hopeful future talents and the younger generation.
But it takes a lot of strength to step out into the spotlight in spite of those fears.
I'm really grateful I got this opportunity. It's not something that I pushed for or anything. I got reached out to, so to see that leap of faith that they took in hiring me and the belief that I would do a good job really inspired me to do the best that I could, to watch as many dota games as I could and prepare as much as I could and just do a good job 'coz when someone puts their faith in you, you don't want to let them down.
Ephey's core values are obvious. She's a woman that believes in showing up, speaking up, and standing strong. She'll do her best and work hard to make sure that she doesn't let who is counting on her down.
It's clear in the role models she told us she has.
"In dota, Sheever because she’s so mentally strong and resilient. In anime, Tanjiro from Demon Slayer because he extends his kindness to even the worst people. In real life, probably Bernie Sanders because he isn’t afraid to speak up about his values."
Introducing Ephey; Season 1 takeaways
Mira's storyline is definitely one for the WePlay AniMajor
books manga. Filled with hope, overcoming the internal struggles, rising and leveling up in status and class, and being an example for all of those that aim to follow a path for an esports career, Introducing Ephey encompasses it all.
Mira has shown us:
- By nature, esports is an inclusive platform that allows the passionate ones opportunities to showcase their talents and skillsets. It is only humans and power dynamics that complicate things
- Never forget to focus on what you want to achieve
- Lean on those who you can trust
- Continue to strive for improvement
- If you want something, you’ve got to take action and be willing to manage the risks that come with it.
- If it’s scary, do it. And you’re bound to grow from the experience.
- Hard decisions are some of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
- What someone says about you says more about themselves.
Introducing Ephey; Credits
"A big shoutout to Kyle [Freedman]. He's been the person that believed in my abilities the most and the one who pushed me to be here. I have always been a reserved person and if it wasn't for his pressuring of me to do this I wouldn't have been here.
And to my family. My little brother Rudy has been the biggest help, who watches every single one of my panels, talks to me about the teams that he likes, and about dota strategies. He's just the best, I love him so much."