Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Excluding Women From E-Sports Does Not Legitimize It

Carly Smith | 2 Jul 2014 20:30
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In the seventh grade, I joined the chess club. Out of 15 people, I was the only girl in the room, including the advisor. Despite how isolating it felt being the only girl in the room, everyone was welcoming, and no one asked me to prove my "chess cred."

But chess doesn't face the same marketing as nearly the entire video game industry, which continues to feed into the myth that women just aren't as interested or as skilled as men. From early childhood, entertainment is segregated into men's and women's sections with so-called divides drawn out in blue and pink that continue down the aisle into adulthood. From deciding what clothes to wear, which toys to buy, which shaving cream to buy, to which colored portable game system to buy, centralized executives try to create a narrative for women's entertainment, telling many of us that certain hobbies are male by default.

The International e-Sports Federation's decision to keep men and women separated in e-sports, which is something IeSF decided more than a year ago, comes from its "effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports." It is also in the wake of normalized misogyny that limits choices and opportunities for women. The Finnish qualifier tournament, open only to Finnish male Hearthstone players, is just one example of women being forced out of e-sports. While the Finnish e-Sports Federation is lobbying for equal rights for male and female players, the IeSF set up a male-only tournament on purpose. Its reasoning for the Finnish qualifier being male-only is that the World Championship tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan, is only for men. However, IeSF set up the rules for the World Championship. IeSF controls the requirements, and in its hands, it has decided to exclude half of its potential players.

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This isn't new. Gaming publishers and marketing executives have made a living off of specifically targeting young, affluent men to buy their product. From old advertisements in Maxim to more recent videos about saving men from their wives, girlfriends, and responsibilities, they're sticking to a well-rehearsed script. In e-sports specifically, major brands look to it as a way to reach a specific demographic. SuperData Research's brief on e-Sports this April reported Intel and Coca-Cola invested in e-Sports to reconnect with affluent young men aged 18 to 34. With the way the games industry is, e-sports is the perfect opportunity to find people who are comfortable in a male-dominated (and sexist) sphere.

Many women stay away from professional e-sports because they feel unwelcome. The first woman to be picked for a StarCraft 2 team, Kim "Eve" Shee-Yoon, was selected for "her skills and looks," according to the team manager. Semi-retired Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive player Lilian "Milktea" Chen asked herself how competitive communities could claim they seek out the best when there are so few women present for tournaments. Chen notes that she faced scrutiny for choosing to look cute while competing, and she was often seen as someone's girlfriend rather than her own person and a fellow competitor. Now she spreads awareness for women in the community, combating the idea that women only get involved in e-sports for the attention.

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