In another startling proof that sexism in the gaming community isn’t going to go away if we simply ignore it, PC Gamer reported today that, while other tournaments are not gender segregated, the Finnish Hearthstone tournament to be held at Assembly Summer 2014, in an effort to avoid disqualifying winners in IeSF tournaments, is slated to be for male gamers only.
Ostensibly, the reasoning behind the exclusion of 45% of the gaming demographic was due to Assembly’s desire to avoid women being disqualified in the upcoming International eSports federation tournaments. The head admin of Assembly Summer 2014, Markus “Olodyn” Koskivirta, was quoted by PC Gamer to have stated that, “In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only. This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things.” This means that Assembly is excluding women because they may not be eligible to compete at a higher level if they placed highly in the Assembly tournament.
The main tournament, slated to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, has segregated several games, and flat-out excluded women from others. PC Gamer reports that of the only 2 competitions that women are not excluded from, Starcraft II is the only one which has a male equivalent. Dota 2, Hearthstone, and Ultra Street Fighter IV are also male only, so women hoping to compete in those tournaments are apparently out of luck.
PC Gamer also reports the reasoning behind the division. The IeSF apparently stated that, “The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports.” It seems the IeSF is feeding into the myth that somehow men and women have different capacities for gaming, and basing it off actual, physical sports.
Separate and Unequal
The decision to segregate is ridiculous. There is no reason to segregate women from men in eSports, because there is no difference in their capacity to perform professionally. To suggest that somehow women are inherently inferior to men in eSports is to completely ignore the ample examples of professional female gamers, many of which, such as Starcraft II’s Scarlett, consistently outperform the top-tier of their male counterparts. Even within Heartstone itself, there are women like icegirl who consistently outperform the competition. After only three weeks of play, icegirl ranked in the top 32 of North American Hearthstone players, and apparently she still isn’t good enough to be competing professionally according to the IeSF.
So, if women are just as good as men, why are they being excluded? Why are co-ed tournaments so unthinkable? Simply, it links back to the widely held belief that women are outsiders within the gaming community. Within online gaming especially, there are ample (often far too ample) examples of women having to hide their genders to be taken seriously. Women who speak up on voice chat programs are often immediately solicited, demeaned, and condescended to. Especially within games like League of Legends, in which the eSports community is thriving, sexism is at its most virulent. Recently, adding to its long history of dealing with the toxic community of League of Legends, Riot was forced to shut down its public chat rooms for being a breeding ground of not only scammers, but undoubtedly also harassment. Speaking to Eurogamer, right pointed out that public chat rooms often “lack moderation tools beyond the ignore button,” which, in League of Legends especially, is a recipe for verbal harassment. This is adding to the fact that the character costumes, and even sometimes simply the characters themselves, are blatantly objectifying and misogynistic. Online gaming spaces, the community has made clear, not only do not want women, they are not safe for them.
Time and Time Again
Once again, we’re presented with another example of garden variety sexism at work within the gaming community. The myths perpetuated by both the companies and the communities at large are again at work to undermine any true sense of equality gamers could hope for. As I’ve mentioned before, representation is important, and when you can’t even be bothered to represent women in the tournament community, you have a problem with representation. The IeSF’s weak argument of “efforts to comply with international sports regulations” in order to gain eSports recognition as a “true sport” is doomed to fail if they cannot recognize that women are not only as good as men, they are often better.
UPDATE: After widespread backlash regarding this policy, the IeSF has revised their rules and now allow women to enter this competition.