Organising an esports tournament of any kind, online or in-person, is a logistical achievement: for Init Esports, who decided to make their one-of-a-kind event Screen to Speed both online and in-person, it was a tour de force. Launched in December 2022, the event was designed by women for women. Over the course of two months, competitors from all over the world were invited to join the qualifiers online, playing the sim racing game iRacing. By racing and making their way up the leaderboard, competitors could qualify to be flown to Las Vegas, where the finals would take place in person, during a real NASCAR event. The prize: $15K cash, a pro-level racing simulator, VIP passes to the Kelly Moss IMSA Race, and the chance to drive a Kelly Moss Porsche on the NASCAR track in Las Vegas.
For Stefy Bau, founder and CEO of Init Esports, the event was a much-needed first event bringing women into competitive sim racing: “Sim racing is a very male-dominated industry. Init Esports is the only women-led esports organisation in sim racing around the world, so we decided to speak with the voice of authenticity through something impactful and fun to involve as many women and non-binary people from around the world.” One of their first challenges, of course, would be the registration and safety of competitors as they joined the online qualifiers: as a female-only, worldwide event, safeguards and enforcement were necessary. That’s where Init’s long-term technology partner GamerSafer came into play: their cutting-edge player verification technology guarantees the absence of fake or duplicated accounts, ensuring players follow competition rules and promoting a level playing field for all participants.
Maria Tamellini, co-founder and COO of GamerSafer, felt secure in the use of their software in the context of Screen to Speed: “GamerSafer’s solution is mature and onboarded players from 15 countries in a small-time frame. Whenever there is a competition designed to expand space based on gender, there are natural debates about how this is translated into enforcement, rules, and communication. Having clarity about end goals and rules and embracing meaningful conversations is essential in this constantly evolving space and the Init team successfully managed those.” Stefy describes the solution with a motorsport analogy: “It is akin to a driver’s licence: because we are working with games that are two- or four-wheels related, we try to make that connection to the real world.”
GamerSafer’s system also provided support for the distribution of game licences, as well as overall data privacy management and compliance, giving Screen to Speed a solid track to race on. Stefy truly believes that it’s incredibly important to have people be part of a community that is safe, first and foremost: “Using GamerSafer’s software is incredibly important because then people can be verified, therefore they can feel like they completely belong in a community that is like-minded. By bringing accountability in, all of a sudden we see a decrease in bullying, trolling, and even cheating. We really love the relationship we have with them.”
And so how did the live March 5th race go? “It was fantastic,” says Stefy. “I like to say that we were hoping to make a wave, but instead we created a positive hurricane. Not only were all the participants women and non-binary, but the commentators were women, and we had guests and drivers coming over who were female. And of course, it was led by me and Victoria Thomas, the co-owner of Kelly Moss. This whole thing, Screen to Speed, is really about attaching the digital world to the real world. It’s a good way to create a pathway for people who are interested in motor sports and who do play games, because motorsports are really expensive, so by lowering the barrier of entry, then it becomes much easier to get more people in. For us, it’s all about creating critical mass at the bottom, so then we can open up doors and show the different opportunities, even in the work space, that can be coming up through gaming and motorsports as a whole.” This year’s edition was the first of what will hopefully become a long series of sim racing events for Init Esports.
Finally, Stefy and Maria are not done working together. Their next collaboration is already under way: Init’s new program Sim4STEM just launched for a first time in May of 2023. They’re partnering with Indie 500, in Indianapolis, and getting 200 high school girls from the area to participate in a four-day, hands-on program. “We’ve managed to be a full-on stem.org accredited program, so they’d be doing STEM activities which would be motorsports-related, and what they learn could then be applied in the simulators. It’s another way to get new people that would otherwise not get involved in sim racing or video games in general. By bringing them and making them feel a part of the community, with GamerSafer being an important part of that.” Maria echoes that sentiment: “We are excited about our developments and collaboration with them. More to come!”