Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Tasha Romero just became a legend in the world of esports — or at least a winning reality show competitor with a prize that includes $10,000 and a dream job opportunity.
Romero, who is graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture, spent one of the last weeks of her final semester at Arizona State University in Berlin, Germany, as one of seven contestants selected for the second season of “Making the Squad,” an esports reality show competition that brings together some of the best competitive players in the world and biggest personalities in gaming.
Romero has been playing video games since she was 3 years old.
“The reason why video games have always been special to me is because this is the one way I found to connect with other people easily,” she said. “I have four older brothers, and I used to have so many issues with one of my brothers that the only way we could really connect is by playing video games together. Since all of us live very far apart now, we use games to stay connected and close.”
The world of esports continues to grow across the globe. Revenues exceed $1 billion and audiences are predicted to reach 645 million by 2020, according to a recent article in Forbes.
As a contestant on the show, Romero got to meet the CEO and other employees of G2 Esports, one of the leading entertainment organizations in esports and the producer of the show. G2 selected contestants from an application process, and said it was “searching for stars with iron determination, a heart of gold, and a diamond personality.”
“I found out about the competition on Twitter,” Romero said. “I applied thinking, ‘Why not?’ and next thing I knew I was accepted.”
Romero also applied to ASU on a whim — another decision that paid off for her. She had recently moved to Arizona from Utah and wasn’t sure where to go to college.
"I remember someone telling me ASU had a good arts program, so I just applied without giving it a second thought,” said Romero, who is graduating from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering.
“When I first applied for (the) digital culture (degree program), it was based on a gut instinct,” Romero said. “The moment I felt 100% that this was a fit was when I went to the Digital Culture Showcase. Staring at all the projects and realizing there is an unlimited possibility of who or what I can be, I knew that this was the degree for me.”
She said what she learned as a digital culture student helped her in the competition.
“The biggest thing that digital culture has helped me with during the whole show was problem solving, creativity and time crunches,” she said. “We never knew what challenges they would throw at us and had to constantly be ready for the possibility of anything.”
This season featured gamers and creators who have an interest in playing the newest League of Legends “autochess” game, Teamfight Tactics. The competition included playing the game as well as other challenges, including curling, baking Teamfight Tactics-themed cakes and more.
“I found myself being able to throw the craziest things together under short amounts of time as well as adapting and solving different situations through creativity,” Romero said. “I think that is very much how digital culture works as well. We have to find ways to address different problems through artistic solutions and be ready to adapt to whatever technology throws at us.”
Following graduation, Romero hopes to launch a career in content creation in esports, and she is well on her way. One of the winning prizes includes a chance to sign as one of G2 Esports’ official content creators.
“I aspire to continue streaming games, creating videos, making costumes and somehow find a way to bring more meaning to the world of video games,” she said. “Video games for me have built communities, they have helped me with mental health issues, and they have allowed me to explore infinite possibilities.
"For me, winning just goes to show anyone who is dedicated and passionate and authentic can be in this position. … I barely started streaming at the beginning of this semester. This whole thing has happened so fast it’s still hard to believe it actually happened. At the end of the day it just shows that it could be anyone. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the family I made along the way. I’m grateful that it was me."
Watch Romero in the full season of "G2 Making the Squad 2" on YouTube.
Question: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
Answer: I feel like I learned so many valuable things from all the professors that it is hard to pick just one. I think one that really stuck with me was during my capstone. Professor Kim Swisher and Professor Grisha Coleman implanted in my head the questions “Why?” and “What for?” A lot of projects we made were made because we could make it. In capstone we were forced out of this comfort thinking and were asked to really question why we made the things we made. This curiosity has found its way into other parts of my life, and I always find myself questioning things.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I think the biggest thing I learned at ASU was how to be completely comfortable with who I am as a person. There are so many different people that attend ASU with so many different cultures it was refreshing to come to a place with diverse ideas that ended up helping to solidify my own.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Keep breathing. When it gets tough and everything comes piling down on you just remember to take a second to breathe, find your grounding and get back out there. Remember that everything is going to be OK and if it isn't — well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. As long as you do the best that you can do and don't have any regrets.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: Stauffer B. I spent my entire time in the building whether it was for working, studying, doing projects. I made so many friends in that building.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Inflation and housing affordability. As minimum wage increases we start to see the cost of housing and living increase as well. This counteracts the purpose of minimum wage increase, making it harder to find housing that is affordable. I think this is especially difficult for younger adults who are trying to go to school and don't have the luxury to live with family or parents. This issue is important to me because as a young adult I had to work two jobs and go to school full time just to afford rent. Eighty percent of my paychecks went towards housing. This didn't account for other living expenses such as food and transportation fees.