Natalie "Panik" Benton wins $10k 2023 Gen.G Foundation Scholarship

Dec. 10, 2023
natalie benton gen.g graphic

“I want to inspire others to take risks and reach for the stars because, with enough hard work, there are spaces for them out here to achieve their goals”

Natalie Benton has been with the program since its conception and has proven to be an exceptional student-athlete, whose passion and tireless dedication have transformed not only her Varsity Rocket League team but the UArizona Esports program as a whole. She has acted as a catalyst for change, nurturing a community where inclusivity and diversity aren't just buzzwords but a way of life. 

UArizona Esports is so proud to announce that she has won the 2023 $10k Gen.G Foundation Scholarship for her outstanding performance as an advocate for minorities in gaming, especially women. 

We asked Natalie some questions to get to know her and her scholarship a little bit better:

Q: What is the Gen.G Foundation Scholarship?

A: The Gen.G Foundation's mission is to develop talented young gamers who can lead the industry’s next generation. The scholarship primarily focuses on women, people of color, and low-income students enrolled in a U.S. university or college who are interested in gaming, esports, entrepreneurship, journalism, or content creation. In addition to the scholarship, Gen.G will equip recipients with resources, knowledge, and connections that will prepare them for futures in the esports and gaming industry.

Q: How does it feel to be a recipient?  
A: I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity to represent the University of Arizona Varsity Esports program within the foundation, hopefully paving the way for other students in Arizona with financial situations similar to mine. I feel proud to represent not just my program here at the University of Arizona, but also representing the hundreds of thousands of women who participate in eSports.

Q: What has helped you find success?

A: What has helped me find the most success in all of my adventures is remaining true to myself. I wish that I could say that my road here has been easygoing and fun all the time, but I think that all of the hardships I have faced have defined me as a person. I had a major crash and burn year in my freshman year of college, similar to many other freshmen going through college for the first time. It’s challenging to leave home and be completely self-sufficient. I remember feeling very lost, not knowing about anything I wanted to do with my life, and struggling to find purpose. I remember joining esports and figured that I might make some friends from it. I also remember being terrified of the thought of being a woman in a male-dominated space. I vividly remember trying to stop and hide my crying while on my first video call with the esports director because even though I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to still put on a brave face and appear as if it didn’t bother me. 

Today, I am on the dean's list every semester since, have successful art projects, and have lots of friends within the esports community on campus and across the nation. I still remember the woman that I was a few short years ago, trying to hide her tears on a video call who felt alone and without the tools to express herself or find her purpose.

I constantly strive to create a welcoming environment within our program and in every space I encounter on campus so that anybody else regardless of how they identify feels like they can be themselves without facing any kind of adversity. I want to create the space I wish I had when I was first trying to figure out where I fit into this community, this world so that nobody ever has to feel alone in gaming.

Q: What do you hope to do with this scholarship and the opportunity to work with Gen.G?

A: In the end, I want to create a space where anyone, regardless of how they identify, can participate and have the opportunity to work towards and accomplish their goals within gaming. Whether that be learning how to cast, or being a player on any of the Academy or Varsity teams, I want to build a space in which people can work together and work towards their goals without any fear of being ridiculed or undermined. I want to inspire others to take risks and reach for the stars because, with enough hard work, there are spaces for them out here to achieve their goals.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: My plans for the future include continuing to grind Rocket League, and get better every day so that when next season starts up I am prepared to do my best! I am also preparing to apply for the Illustration, Design, and Animation program this upcoming March through the UArizona College of Art so that I can continue working towards my career goal of becoming an illustrator. I also want to continue to be a positive role model within the college and the surrounding community, to inspire others to continue working hard and being the living embodiment of “things do get better”.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: The UArizona Varsity Esports program has changed my life in the best way possible. I wake up every day and am thankful for the opportunity to represent my University through eSports. The environment that has been fostered here at the University of Arizona is unique and like no other organization, I’ve ever been a part of. Although I feel that I do a great job of representing the values of my program and the greater University of Arizona, it has been a pleasure to meet so many other talented and driven individuals who also are amazing at esports! I would not have been able to become a recipient of this scholarship without the effort and work put in by not only my teammates but the other teams and the staff working tirelessly as well! Although I am recognized by Gen.G for my achievements in gaming, I would not have been able to get anywhere close to where I am today without the support from everyone in this program. 

I am nothing without all of the intelligent, talented, driven people that I have had the pleasure of meeting and playing video games with. I want to thank everyone for putting in the work so that this program will last long after we have all graduated and parted ways. I will continue to work hard, so that we may shine brightly to other universities and the greater gaming community.

 -Natalie Benton