The Influencers: Melanie Penner of the Manitoba Esports Association


Melanie Penner/Manitoba Esports Association

Melanie Penner is the Executive Director of the Manitoba Esports Association. Don’t let that province-specific name fool you, though. The MESA’s mission is to create a support system for esports not just in Manitoba, but all across the country.

The Association takes a four-pillar approach to forging connections between esports organizations, whether they’re grassroots or supported by post-secondary institutions. Penner says she and her colleagues focus on four key areas: education, events, partnerships, and content creation.

“Running the largest esports association in Canada is a big responsibility,” she says. “But we hope to see more associations forming in other provinces so we can work collectively together to continue to grow esports within Canada, and have it recognized nationally.”

The first video game I ever played was…

“Should be plural. I spent a lot of time playing on the Game Boy Color growing up. The first game I ever played on the Game Boy was Pokémon Yellow. The first console game I ever played was Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I love strategy and adventure games and exploring an open world with endless possibilities. Zelda and Pokémon have both given me that opportunity. Even now in 2020, I still consider both Majora’s Mask, alongside Ocarina of Time, and the classic Pokémon games on Game Boy to be by far some of the best games ever to be created.” 

Why I got involved in gaming

“I’ve always been a gaming enthusiast. I grew up with a brother and many cousins around my age who loved to game. We played a lot of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 64 as a group. It was quite a bonding experience during family gatherings. As I grew up I ventured out into other titles outside of Nintendo. For example, Harvest Moon, Metal Gear Solid, Star Wars, and Final Fantasy. My favourite game to this day, however, is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was released in 2017. The perfect combination of an open-world adventure involving strategy and puzzle-solving.” 

What I do when I’m not playing

“I don’t play many games anymore because I’m working a lot. However, outside of gaming as a whole I do enjoy watching films and TV shows, travelling, playing soccer and basketball, and spending time with family.”

My esports idol is…

“My esports idol has always and will always be Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. He is the mid-laner for Team SoloMid, competing in the LCS for League of Legends. As a young kid from Denmark playing on Copenhagen Wolves, to currently playing for the world famous organization Team SoloMid in L.A., I’ve watched his career blossom over the years. This man had the drive, skill and passion to become arguably one of the best League of Legends players in the world. He’s respected worldwide, and has grown into a great in-game leader and captain of his team.

“I’ve had the privilege of meeting him and having a few short interactions with him, when he first moved to L.A. He sets a good example of the kind of leader I would like to be—in a different sense, obviously, as I am not a player but in a management role. I’ve always looked up to players who are either born to lead or who learn to become leaders of their team. In a sense, I’d like to think that I am the leader of my management team. Of course I could name other examples. He stood out to me, though, particularly at the time when he first emerged. I was heavily following the pro League of Legends scene.” 

Where will esports be in five years?

“I think esports in 5 years will become more mainstream, even appearing in more in schools and community centres. It is an incredible way to connect with people, be competitive, and have fun in an interactive way, even when you’re at home. I think we will start to see more implementations of esports development, coaching/training courses, and scholarship opportunities across middle school, high school, and post-secondary institutions.” 

Follow the Manitoba Esports Association on Twitter and Instagram.

I have done a lot of different things over the course of my life and professional career. I have interviewed Oscar and Grammy winners and written cover stories for glossy newsstand magazines. I have played guitar in a rock band on national TV and run an independent music label for which I wrote all of the PR and marketing materials. In my spare time, I sweated out a novel about a world where raccoons are kings and dragons are real.

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