Esports Central – Episode 9

Video gaming has evolved far and wide from the dark rooms with overweight guys munching chips and playing well into the night. We no longer have this stigma for the typical guy gamer. Why then are girl gamers still met with doubt and scepticism.

Okay, so yes it’s changing. But more needs to happen. Check out our latest Esports Central episode for some great context. Building from this discussion, there’s a few key points here.

Yes, the culture is shifting. Gamers aren’t overweight and socially awkward, and neither are they simply just males. As Max pointed out, around 52% of people playing games are women, however, the realm of professionals is completely dominated by men. Why is this still happening when there are more women playing games?

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Images like this are far too common in the pro leagues (Photo credit: ESL One and Mineski)

Firstly, it’s about the games themselves. Again, this is changing and Overwatch is a fantastic example of a game that appeals to all ages and cultural backgrounds. Typically speaking, games in the past have been geared towards guys with many titles featuring all males or at least a lack of women protagonists.

But this is all changing, and there’s lots of top rated games with a variety of women. Let’s put this argument aside because it’s not so much about the games anymore. There is still an ingrained culture, but it’ll take time and the steps in place are working. But somethings aren’t.

So… what’s the big problem then? It’s stigma.

Girl gamers are widely seen as only playing games to “impress the guys”, gain attention, or have a legit reason to cosplay. But this is totally not right. Girls aren’t in it to get the attention of the guys or be better than them. Women are there because we enjoy playing. We like to play games, to play with our friends, to be immersed in something out of this world, and put in the time and effort to be good at something.

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I like to play games because it’s a place where you can immerse yourself into a fantasy world while playing with your friends (or complete randoms). (Photo credit: Kevin Lumoindong)

There’s also no scientific evidence suggesting males are in some way biologically more capable than women at video gaming. Instead, girls are usually subjected to more criticism while gaming online, and I’m not talking about constructive feedback. Tips are good, being toxic isn’t. Geguri for example, the Overwatch lady who plays with the Shanghai Dragons, said she considered getting a computer program to change her voice so guys would play with her. She talked about her rise as a star and how difficult she found it when entering the chat rooms and people found out she was a girl.

When someone finds out, there’s almost an automatic wall that goes up, and a feeling that just somehow we won’t be as good as the guys. Sure, there’s a lot of guys who are better than us at playing, but there’s also a tonne of girls who are better than guys. There’s no reason to shun people because of their gender or how they sound. Luckily for me, I haven’t received much of this type of criticism. My voice is husky (hence the IGN Huskie), so I can easily be mistaken for a guy in chat. A lot of my friends however haven’t been so lucky. I know lots of girls who have simply stopped playing due to constant backlash from the guys. It’s just not on and it needs to change.

And it is! Last night, the All Womens Overwatch competition run by Digital Sporting Group kicks. The tournament is designed to provide a fun environment for women to compete for the first time. Many of us who played (me included) played for the first time, and probably hadn’t considered playing in a comp before. It’s not about creating a girls club with no boys allowed – the people running, casting, and organising the show are all guys. No, it’s about breaking down the barriers for women so they feel comfortable to go out and play with our male counterparts. As organiser, Jon, said

“We essentially created this to become redundant. It’s about giving women the opportunity to compete in a safe environment and then opening it up to all… We support players of all levels to develop strong skills and even stronger friendships with each other.”

That’s it. It’s about supporting and helping people. I love Kale’s comment. Kale in fact will be casting the women’s tournament and he said this about the whole thing:

“It’s pretty simple really.
Has this encouraged girls to play that weren’t competing otherwise? ✔️

Are they still free to play in mixed tournaments? ✔️

This is a gateway to the competitive scene, lowering the barrier of entry, helping girls feel more comfortable in a team environment before potentially going further.”

It’s just so good. It’s so true, and right on the mark. That’s exactly what the tournament is designed to do – encourage women to play, and build a gateway to competition. And it was awesome. 11 teams with a bunch of amazing women played. The comments on Twitch were “go girls”, “this is awesome”, “can I play too”, and “wow, this is so much less toxic than watching guys”. Click here to watch our re-runs.

So why is it good? Why does it matter? Well, as the figures state, it’s pretty much a 50/50 split of males and females playing video games. If there are no girls in the pro circuits, and it’s not due to the fact that they aren’t good enough, then everyone is missing out! Teams are missing out on a huge chunk of talent. If you’re only taking your players from the 48% of male gamers, then there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

Even on the owners, sponsors, and partners side. Sure a bulk of the audience right now is male, but that’s because the whole sector is dominated by guys. If more girls play, then more ladies are bound to watch – then you have more people watching, more audience, more scope for sponsors etc.

Therefore, yes! Yes it does matter whether women are in esports or not. We need everyone in esports, otherwise as an industry, we won’t grow. We will only remain at 48% of our potential.

Ann bought up a very valid point too. And that’s it’s not all just about players. We need good women, good role models, in all aspects of esports – casting, managers, coaches, sponsors, partners, broadcasters, hosts, everywhere! Again, it’s all about untapped potential and appealing to the broader mainstream market.

There’s a few things happening on this front, as least in Australia. Chris Smith is running the Women in Games mentoring courses to help girls get on top. Then there’s Girl Geek Academy who hosts a multitude of epic events, including SheHacksGames, a hackathon for girl gamers to come and develop games. It’s on this weekend in Melbourne so sign up!

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What do you think? Is this all a load of rubbish or are you on board? Who are your favourite women to look up to in the industry? Comment them here. Tweet them, message me, reply, carrier pigeon, smoke signal, teleporter, whatever works for you. I want to hear you shout loud and proud about your idols here. I’ll try and touch on them all in the next article.

In the meantime, make sure you check out Twitch for the epic replays of last night’s first all-womens Overwatch competition.

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