In the world of professional video games, those with a swift mind and a faster finger can find their way from a mediocre lifestyle to that of a millionaire within a year. While professional sports in general will separate men and women on the basis of physicality differences – a real genetic variance, why are we separating women from the men in virtual environments? As of the first few days of July, the world of gaming is up in arms over a segregate ruling which keeps women out of the male-only Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft virtual card tournament with no merit on any physical or mental skills that might require separation. Given the lack of physical separation, we ask the world, why are we segregating professional gamers?
Markus “Olodyn” Koskivirta, head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone International e-Sports Federation Qualifier is under the false impression that there may be “possible conflicts” in female player eliminating a male player during a round of eight, tournament style competition. As a member of the gaming community, and avid professional game viewer and solicitor, I find the prospect of women being separated in gaming unnecessary and demeaning. There is no basis behind it, and if tradition in sports is our only logic, that needs to change.
By separating the men from the women in virtual match play, we can only set the precedent that we are not equal people, which is absolutely not true in the gaming scene. Even I, as a man – hairier and possibly testosterone driven to lift heavier things, hold no greater weight to out-think a woman nor out-click her. I pose no height advantage in the virtual world, and no other stereotypical barriers that should separate us in digital representations. The IeSF doesn’t separate men and women on this basis, however.
If Mr. Koskivirta is to be believed, we need to change our outlook on gaming as a global sport in the most basic levels before we can move into professional sporting. “…in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports,” males would be separated from females in tournament play – until a small uprising began on Reddit which both destroyed the IeSF’s credibility in the eyes of the community, and changed their opinion ultimately — but only in part.
The IeSF, to be clear, are set to host the Assembly Summer 2014 event which will play out six professional competitions, two of which were said to be set for men and women to be separated in – Hearthstone and Starcraft II. While Mr. Koskivirta claims that this separation is in the best interests of women entering, any “possible conflicts” he was hoping to avoid should be washed out with sportsmanship. Otherwise, let’s have a look at the other four titles – Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Tekken Tag Tournament II, and League of Legends. None of these four titles are made by Blizzard Entertainment, but Blizzard isn’t separating the sexes here. If conflicts occurred between men and women as individuals, we know how that may be taken care of in any sport, just ban them. Given a proper banning, any gamer who cares about their profession will whip themselves in line, but it should be noted that the “possible conflicts” come from international affair, are not directly from within the IeSF, according to their official press release. These separations come from segregation on the national levels, and the international, resulting in “conflicts.”
When speaking with Polygon in reaction to the news that their titles would separate competitors on the basis of sex, Blizzard Entertainment is working for equality.
“One of our goals with eSports is to ensure that there’s a vibrant and also inclusive community around our games. We do not allow the use of our games in tournaments that do not support this, and are working with our partners to ensure they share the same goal.”
After working with Blizzard Entertainment, the segregate nature of the IeSF tournaments have changed, opening the tourney to both genders, though the tournament will have to adjust the way players qualify, and will continue with some women’s-only runs. While the adjustment is fantastic, why can’t we have a sweeping change in the way tournaments are output through the world to ensure the best possible games are played for the fans? Why rather should we have the false sense of inclusion that may ultimately leave the “women’s-only” tournaments with less prize money than the mixed or men’s title contests?
Changes were made, and that’s progress in the immediate sense, but the sensibility of the IeSF did not change with their schedule change. The IeSF, along with their subsidiary branches are still separating women from men for the sake of “increasing diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events. Without efforts to improve representation, e-Sports can’t achieve true gender equality.” the IeSF will continue to hold women-only contests throughout the event in Tekken Tag Tournament II and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. If the IeSF TRULY wants to improve their professional gaming women, they need to campaign for it. Get women interested and scout for talent. With millions of hours in Twitch streams, and ridiculous levels of bracketing in League of Legends, Dota 2, Starcraft and other titles, it won’t be hard to find the best in the world – we just have to get women more intrigued to play the games at the highest level. There are many women capable, and countless better than I am, but if the professional scene is going to treat them like lesser people, why would they apply?
It’s time that we change the way that the world thinks of professional sporting, and let gaming take the lead in equality between the sexes. E-sports aren’t reaching out to more women by hosting any women’s only tournaments, we’re just holding them back on a subconscious level. Start advertising for women, not using women as a visual stimulus. If you want to host two tournaments, that’s fine, but let’s make them professional and pro-am, not men and women.