Gaming: Women today are overcoming stereotypes. Be it in politics, governance, sports, law enforcement, vocational and technical areas, Bhutanese women are making headlines.

In the area of e-sport (online gaming) in the country, one name reigns supreme among the Bhutanese women who have ventured into this once male-dominated sector.

Pinda Rika Dorji is the only gamer from Bhutan who makes a living playing games. The 22-year-old left her engineering job in Malaysia to pursue her interest for e-sports particularly for Dota2 (Defence of the Ancients), one of the most popular multiplayer online games today.

Pinda Rika Dorji, popularly known as pindaPanda in the gaming world, is very nimble with her fingers. These talents of hers along with the passion for online gaming got Pinda a job as a TV-talent/personality (TV anchor) with Astro eGG (Every Good Game), the first 24/7 e-sport channel in Southeast Asia in Malaysia.

Pinda graduated from the Infrastructure University in Kuala Lumpur last October and immediately started working for a construction firm as project administrator.

“It was a job I actually studied for and I was fine with that. I was interested in it. I liked it, but I wasn’t loving it,” said Pinda, adding that her new 8 to 5 job would hinder her game time. “I knew that would mean less hours on Dota and, eventually, I would have to stop playing entirely. I didn’t want to stop the game, it was my area of comfort being away from home and family.”

Today Pinda earns four times more than what a normal civil engineer earns in Bhutan.

Pinda stared gaming at the age of five. It was her grandmother who introduced her to Super Mario. “I was a casual gamer and still am, until Dota happened to me three years ago,” she said. “Initially, I watched my siblings play a lot of Warcraft, so that’s when I began to be interested in video games.”

After reaching Kuala Lumpur she started playing Dota2. “I got so addicted that one time I played for 71 hours straight,” said Pinda. “My interest grew and I’d became a hardcore gamer.”

Pinda said that the stereotype that video games and e-sports are for men makes it difficult for a girl or a woman to take up e-sports.

“It’s tough to be a girl in this field because people don’t really take you seriously. You don’t see a lot of girls playing and it is difficult for girls to make a high impact,” she said. “So it was certainly hard gaining respect, but I wanted to make a point that girls can play. Dota2 is not about strength, it’s about using your mind and your hands.”

Pinda credits her achievement so far in e-sports to her mother. “My mom has always been supportive. It’s encouraging to hear your mom being supportive,” she said. “Parents must be supportive. Without my mom, I wouldn’t be here right now. She is my idol.”

Apart from hosting international Dota tournaments and interviewing players in the region, Pinda reviews the latest game gadgets and gaming accessories on her TV programme 306.

She also makes vines and memes on Dota. “I like to create vines, and I like to entertain people and my videos were quite funny,” she said. Pinda has more than 76,000 followers on her Facebook page. About 1,457 are Bhutanese.

“Nothing is easy in the beginning. I had my share of hard times, balancing between studies and gaming,” said Pinda. “But the key here is to take risks and never stop yourself from exploring options around you.”

She said that there will always be people discouraging one from taking up one’s passion, but only moving forward will lead one to a successful life.

“People will always judge, for good or bad reasons. Never let that affect you,” she said. “Its okay to mistakes. Knowing when to not give up is important.”

She said in Bhutan there are people with talent and the passion for e-sports. But the mentality that everything should be spoon-fed is killing the opportunities for most Bhutanese.

“There are gamers who had no shed to live in before. But today they are millionaires. Dota made them millionaires,” said Pinda. “So instead of complaining there are no funds or platforms, why not create one for yourself? Narrow down your interest, explore the opportunities and learn form mistakes.”

Pinda said she would still chose gaming over a regular job. “Because this is my passion, my heaven. Anyone can lead a normal life. Giving up is easy; staying positive and self-determined is the real challenge.”

Pinda enjoys playing basketball and badminton. She is also an artist with profound interest for music and sketching.

Younten Tshedup