6 Best Role Models in the History of Esports

Professional athletes have always been looked upon as role models. In recent years, esports stars have also served as inspirations to young audiences. It’s easy to see why. For many aspiring pro gamers, esports seems accessible. Becoming an S-Tier superstar takes work and commitment, but it’s within the reach of anyone with a passion for gaming. Furthermore, the esports industry isn’t short on inspiring role models for would-be gamers.

6. Jennifer “PixiePoppins” Briggs

Rocket League showing two remote controlled cars chasing a football while another swoops in.

Jennifer Briggs is something of a pioneer in the esports world. Rocket League might have only recently become a heavyweight esports title, but it’s already proving incredibly popular with audiences. The 2021-2022R Rocket League World Championship brought in peak audiences of more than 368,000. What’s more, Rocket League appeals to a pretty broad demographic, with many younger viewers tuning in. This diversity is also represented by the esports athletes representing the game. Take Jennifer Briggs as an example. In 2022, the youngster participated in the first-ever Commonwealth Esports Championships in the United Kingdom. This event was pretty groundbreaking in its right, with esports being hosted alongside traditional athletics. However, Briggs also attracted headlines when it was revealed she was struggling with vision and hearing loss. Nonetheless, she helped the Welsh national team to a very respectable third-place finish.

5. Ovation eSports

Gamers Without Borders has been around for a few years though. Since 2020, the initiative has raised millions of dollars for charitable courses. During the inaugural event, a Fortnite duo representing Ovation eSports came out on top. Although the players themselves remained anonymous, they had no issues handing over their $300,000 prize to UNICEF.

4. Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn

While female esports athletes aren’t exactly a novelty anymore, few women were active in the industry when Sasha Hostyn was at the height of her career. She’s been playing professionally for more than a decade, cutting her teeth as a StarCraft II player. For many girl gamers, it was Scarlett that taught them they had a rightful place at the table. In 2016, she earned a mention in the Guinness Book of Records when she became the highest-paid female gamer of all time. While she’s less active in competitive circles now, she’s still an influential figure and a driving force for change in the industry.

3. John “OGzLabs” Merriwether

While OGzLabs doesn’t play professionally, he’s still a worthy addition to this list. Known as John Merriwether in everyday life, OGzLabs is a beloved Twitch streamer and maintains an active presence on Twitter. While he doesn’t have that many followers, his Warzone and Call of Duty playthroughs have become legendary. What sets this streamer apart as an esports hero? It was recently revealed that Merriwether donates all proceeds from his broadcasts to charity.

2. Shunya Hatakeyama

Beat ’em up titles are tricky enough, but Japanese gamer, Shunya Hatakeyama, proves that anything is possible. This youngster has become a legendary Street Fighter player in his home country. What makes him extra special? Hatakeyama has an advanced form of muscular dystrophy, meaning he relies on an adapted keyboard to control his virtual avatars. While Japan’s esports scene hasn’t reached the heights of South Korea’s, this looks set to change in the future. Hatakeyama might not serve on any team rosters, but he’s a key figure within ePARA, a company that aims to make esports more accessible for everyone.

1. Liu “Zz1tai” Zhihao

It’s never too early to think about a career in esports. Liu Zhihao proved as much when he became a LoL pro at the tender age of 15. Although young, this Chinese player quickly proved to be one of the most versatile League players around. He’s also celebrated as an all-around good guy, known to comfort his teammates if a match doesn’t go their way. While he retired from professional play in 2019, don’t be too shocked to see him return to the esports scene in the next couple of years. Want to see how his old Royal Never Give Up teammates are doing? Check out the latest LoL fixtures at https://www.1337pro.com/en/lol/tournament-schedule.

Written by Dorothy Jones