Danielle Andrade, known as Cherna, is considered one of Brazil’s top gamers but she is ready to walk away from one of South America’s most competitive gaming leagues. While Cherna played in competitions sponsored and organized by game developer Ubisoft, she told Rest of World she was not offered any public support by Ubisoft after the bouts of online abuse she received while playing, including, she claimed, harassment from other players. Ubisoft never publicly condemned these abuses, she added. She also claimed investments in women’s competitions by Ubisoft were insufficient beyond what she said were tokenistic exceptions.
The 22-year-old esports professional said she will exit Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege league in January 2023, after 19 tournament wins in three years. “It is horrible to be a Black woman playing Rainbow Six Siege,” Cherna told Rest of World. “Ubisoft only cares about the women’s league for the diversity marketing … I won’t stand for it anymore.”
The team Cherna played on is technically not a part of Ubisoft. The developer is responsible for both the organization and sponsorship of the Rainbow Siege Six league, which is why Cherna holds Ubisoft responsible for the toxic environment she alleged she has encountered there. “Whether they like it or not, Rainbow Siege Six belongs to Ubisoft,” she said. “And they have the responsibility to develop diversity and inclusion initiatives to make the environment better.”
Rest of World reached out twice to Ubisoft for comment regarding Cherna’s allegations but did not receive a response.
While she cannot disclose which competitive league she will be joining in 2023, Cherna said the Brazil Female Gaming Association (AFGB), the organization she founded to better the conditions for non-white, non-male Brazilian gamers in esports, will be one of her top priorities.
In 2020, an anonymous survey conducted in Ubisoft revealed that one in four respondents said they had either witnessed or experienced workplace misconduct in the past two years. It raised questions about the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. In an attempt to improve workplace safety for women and people of color, Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, said the company would aim to hire a new head of diversity and inclusion. Ubisoft also promised to increase their female staff to at least 24% by 2023. Ubisoft has also previously announced diversity and inclusion programs aimed at women and “individuals from underrepresented groups.” Cherna says she was not offered access to any of these initiatives.
Rest of World spoke to Cherna’s teammates and Brazilian esports journalists, gamers, and gaming consultants who believe her departure underscored the added costs of being a Black woman in Brazil who excels in a public-facing job.
“The female competitive market is given just the basics to exist, enough to keep the athletes competing, but with a much smaller financial and media investment,” Rodrigo Guerra, editor of the tech and esports site The Enemy, told Rest of World. “When it comes to real action, female leagues are hardly ever given the same structure as male leagues.”
In recent years, the Brazilian competitive gaming field went through a #MeToo moment. Brazil has the biggest gaming market in Latin America and the fifth biggest in the world, and is no stranger to the accusations of harassment and inequality that have plagued the industry for years. A 2020 internal report at the Brazilian game developer Wildlife Studios revealed specific incidents alleging moral harassment and gender salary disparity. Meanwhile, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege in particular is known by women and minority gamers as an especially toxic gaming environment, though Guerra added it’s an industry-wide issue.
Cherna hasn’t been shy about speaking out about the discrimination and harassment she said she has suffered. But, she has come to despise fame and all that comes with it, Cherna told Rest of World. “I’ve been recognized at the grocery store before and I hated it,” she said. Her small following of nearly 4,000 people on Twitter is enough to make her uncomfortable.
In 2018, when she was 18 years old, Cherna became the only woman nominated for the eSports Brasil Prize. The backlash to her nomination was immediate. Rainbow Six Siege fans posted sexist reactions to her nomination on social media, claiming it was merely a diversity quota, despite women making up 51% of the gaming population in Brazil. “They want to force women players down our throats,” wrote one Twitter user.
On leaving Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege league in January, she said she’s looking forward to working on strengthening AFGB as an organization, which she hopes will help women gamers navigate the field and get support after experiencing misogynistic violence. “AFGB was created to expose what’s happening in the gaming world,” said Cherna. “If a woman suffers harassment, and feels alone, she can come to us for mental health help and legal aid, and it will all be free.” Cherna hopes to eventually build an all-women esports team for the organization.
“She has become a person who can be counted on in and outside the servers,” Luiz Gustavo Queiroga, an esports diversity and inclusion consultant based in São Paulo who has long followed Cherna’s career, told Rest of World.
Close friend and teammate Bruna “Maligna” Quini told Rest of World Cherna has always been honest about how women are treated in esports. “She always informed me of what happens in the competitions and how people would treat me, which was really important so I could handle the pressure as a beginner,” she said.