Collecting an award on stage at BAFTA headquarters in London’s Piccadilly was never in Emzii’s wildest imagination when she was growing up in Northern Ireland.
However, it’s a documentary about her remarkable life story as a trans gamer that brought her to that “mind-blowing” moment last weekend.
The professional player, whose real name is Emma Rose, was handed first prize in the inaugural ESI Film Festival staged by industry news organization Esports Insider.
Ammmmm.... Excuse me.....— Emzii ️⚧️ ESI FILM FESTIVAL @BAFTA WINNER (@Emzii192) October 20, 2023
Her entry, titled ‘It’s For Everyone’, is a 14-minute film featuring various friends and fellow LGBTQ gamers, Emzii’s fiancee Christina, and their cute French bulldog, Ellie.
It was selected from around 40 entries on the festival theme of “digital inequality, diversity, and mental health.”
Emzii is the central figure throughout and describes the many challenges she faced as a teenager in the small town of Coleraine, an hour north of Belfast.
From bullying at school, to the struggle with her gender identity which left her with suicidal thoughts, through to the online abuse she continues to receive from other gamers, it’s ultimately a tale of personal triumph.
Emzii has thrived as a pro gamer, winning an eFootball gold medal at the Commonwealth Esports Championships exhibition event in Birmingham in 2022 and then taking silver as part of Team GB at the European Championships in Katowice, Poland, this summer.
In the documentary, she says: “Esports for me is a platform and a stage.
“I’m a massively competitive person and I want to win everything I do, but I also want to perform and put on a show for everyone.
“I think esports is a great platform for non-traditionally sporty athlete kids to shine and to really come into their own. The most addictive thing I can think of is that winning mentality.”
The ESI first prize includes a check for about $6,000 and the opportunity to develop future projects.
Speaking to Outsports, Emzii thanked all the team who worked on the film, including executive producer Will Sellers and creative director Sam Strong.
She said: “It still hasn’t quite set in that not only did I get to go to BAFTA, I actually won the film festival!
“It’s absolutely mind-blowing that someone who used to want a career in acting has got to go to such a prestigious venue. I’m literally still on cloud nine.”
She’s now keen to build her visibility in esports and help those from the LGBTQ community or other under-represented backgrounds to follow in her footsteps.
“What’s next for me is trying to find a way to amplify my message and get more people involved,” she added.
“I’m still competing and trying to be the best me I can be on the gaming side, but I really want to pivot towards a more on-camera role, whether that’s hosting events, TV shows or documentaries.
“I want to use my experience to help inspire more women and people from marginalized communities to get involved in not just gaming but anything in the creative sector.”
The anti-LGBTQ online abuse which Emzii highlights in the documentary shows the ongoing importance of breaking down barriers in esports.
Meanwhile, the big Global Esports Games will be held in December in Riyadh, a location which would pose some obvious concerns for the 32-year-old.
If an invitation to the event were offered, Emzii says it’s something she would consider if she felt safety guarantees had been provided.
Until then, she’s hoping the film’s recognition leads to more opportunities and that it attracts a wider audience on YouTube.