Today, Newbee announced the lineup for their newest 2017 Dota 2 squad, Newbee Boss. In addition to bringing back Chinese veteran Zhang “xiao8” Ning, whose retirement lasted a total of six days, and fielding alleged Newbee CEO Zei9 in the role of support, the roster contains another surprise: their offlaner, axx, is the first female player to appear on a top tier team like Newbee in the history of Dota 2.
While axx has yet to compete in a major tournament, she’s cut her teeth playing in the CDEC Master, an in-house league where some of the best Dota 2 players in China regularly compete. There, she’s competed alongside top-tier players like EHOME’s Ren “old eleven” Yangwei, or Invictus Gaming’s Fu “Q” Bin. Here’s a clip of her playing a mean Invoker against Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei, one of the best carries in the world:
Newbee Boss’s roster is filled out by Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi, formerly of Invictus Gaming, and Wong “ChuaN” Hock Chuan. That brings the count of seasoned, highly skilled professional players on the team up to three, and if axx’s CDEC games are anything to go by, she won’t be the weak link in Newbee Boss’s chain.
She does, however, have the unenviable position of being the single visible woman currently playing at the highest echelon of competitive Dota 2. In other esports, time and time again, this leads to a deluge of harassment, threats and generally contemptible behavior from the darker corners of the internet. League of Legends’s first professional player, Maria “Remi” Creveling, was chased out of the LCS by this kind of attention after only two months. During the Overwatch World Cup, Twitch chat devolved into a marsh of misogynistic garbage-talk every time Team France’s Kitty Kathee was on stream.
Of course, these fears, while founded in recent history, could be premature. The Dota 2 scene is unique in many ways; let’s hope the community’s attitude towards its female pro players will be better than the rest of the pack.