OverTake presents our Hero of the Month for January: League racing commentator Jessica ‘JessGames95’ Ball.
Image credit: Jessica Ball
Community-based online racing has been around for many years, long before the top level esports series we know today were around. Leagues have existed as a safe space for likeminded people to gather and scratch that competitive itch, but with these communities being so small scale, there’s a lot of responsibility that needs to be handled.
Jessica Ball is a stronghold across the entire league racing scene, and she carries a lot of responsibilities across multiple communities. Along with that, she juggles it all with providing enthusiastic and high tier commentary over many different online races, indulging in her love of racing and sharing it with everyone. For her selfless dedication, we decided to make Jess our Hero of the Month for January!
Jess always had loved driving games from a very young age, her earliest memories of playing them was Midtown Madness on the family computer that she begrudgingly had to share with her brother. But it wouldn’t be until 2016 when she got into the F1 games as a result of watching the likes of Aarav Amin and Benjamin ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly. It compelled her to get involved in the F1 gaming scene so she picked up F1 2017 and her involvement only went up from there.
After racing on a casual basis within various communities, Jess saw an opening for a commentary role with Apex Online Racing, at that point the home to all the top drivers in league racing. She applied and got the word from one of the organisers named Chris Buxton who offered Jess the opportunity to commentate on their second tier Xbox league.
So happy and delighted for you to join the AOR Commentary Family again woo, because you are one of the best commentators around imo. 🙂 I know you are going to have fun! 😃 pic.twitter.com/nx0bHXBtS6— Jessica Ball (VSR) (@JessGames95) October 15, 2018
Ball continued to commentate for AOR’s Xbox racing on both the F1 and Project CARS games, and expanded her horizons with PlayStation and commentated for another community called Inside Line Racing. In 2019 though, she became affiliated with One Hub Racing, an F1 and Assetto Corsa Competizione PlayStation league who have just recently partnered up with Sim Grid.
As well as commentating for One Hub Racing, she then became part of the management team as head of commentary. From there, she went on to take up that same role with Premier Sim Gaming Leagues, and also commentated in their Xbox racing before now currently doing the second PlayStation tier.
Alongside getting that Head of Commentary role, Ball considers her personal highlight being when she was offered to do some commentary for Sim Grid which included some rounds of the More Female Racers series (which French streamer Theamusante created and participated in).
@PremierSimGL PS F2 TITLE DOWN TO THE WIRE!📢@vFaBiiF1 qualified P8 today. But he was the only one that went on hards out of @SHZ_Soooku and @WOR_Guil during the SC. vFaBii crucially overtook both of them to win the title.— Jessica Ball (VSR) (@JessGames95) December 13, 2021
Congratulations to him! ❤️https://t.co/xDY153Sah0
During Ball’s time commentating, she’s unfortunately faced plenty of unwarranted hate. Being at the time one of the only women in the community commentating when she began, there was some toxicity to overcome, which she admits that at the time, it did bother her. Now though, she realises that those who are hateful and vocal are the minority, and that more people appreciate her than don’t.
Blazing a trail
Ball acknowledges a lot of the responsibility she bears as being one of very few prominent women in the online racing community. She credits people such as Steph Wentworth who served as a pundit on the F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, and also the likes of Kiera Megan, Theamusante, F1elly, MaximeMXM and her friend Naomi – who is a Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator who goes by the name Hun – as important and inspirational people within the community that help women feel like they have a place in the world of online racing.
Did you see us!— Just Hun (@JustHun_) August 27, 2020
The Top UK Streamers of @Formula1game on Twitch!!! 🏁🏁🏁
Absolutely amazing stream!
Thank you @JessGames95 💖
And to everyone who joined us! 🏁🏁🏁#girlracers #girlstreamers #twitch #f12020game pic.twitter.com/a8ccCkqJ36
She also believes that the factor that prevents a lot of women getting involved in the world of online racing is that they’re given insurmountable barriers. The toxic gatekeeping mindsets that plague the community mean that it can be impossible for women to enjoy what racing, gaming and streaming has to offer.
Alongside the aforementioned women, Jess credits a lot of others in many different avenues serving as inspiration. The person who got her interested in becoming a commentator was Justin Sutton, who you can see commentating over all F1 Esports Challengers races alongside Kieran McGinley every other week.
Sutton was one of the first racing game commentators that Jess got to speak with, and she even had the chance to commentate with him. As she got more involved, she began to work with the likes of GingerAndy, Jack Cunnane and George Morgan.
Before COVID, Jess frequented with an amateur theatre group and was never afraid to give in to the joy of it. She credits her time there as being her way of expressing herself, thus allowing her to open up and to have commentary come more naturally to her. Jess is hoping that later this year, they will be able to put on a production of Dick Whittington.
Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t get all the footage, but here is the majority of my performance from last night talent finals. 🥳 pic.twitter.com/wQwLm4qyZd— Jessica Ball (VSR) (@JessGames95) October 15, 2018
As far as the future is concerned, she’s set on continuing to commentate and manage racing communities as well as actively doing more for women to feel like they have a place in the online racing space. She also would love to one day consistently commentate on both top level esports-tier racing and even local real racing.
Jessica Ball is truly an irreplaceable member of the online racing world, an essential cog in the community machine that keep it running like clockwork. It’s people like Jess who keep community level racing going strong as it has done for many years.
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Are there any personalities in esports racing you would like to nominate for the next edition of Hero of the Month? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!