No Girls Allowed – IeSF Hosts Male-Only Hearthstone Tournament


Reddit has once again brought attention to some interesting controversy. The International e-Sports Federation, a global organization based in South Korea that is dedicated to promote e-sports as an actual sport, have been starting the promotions and announcements for the Assembly Summer 2014 in Finland. What caught the eyes of eager e-sport enthusiasts wasn’t the list of games, but who was excluded from the games.


It’s easy to notice the jarring line in the second paragraph: The participation is open only to Finnish male players. Those hosting the tournament were quick to point out that the event is subject to the rules of IeSF’s tournament regulations.

Well that’s a relief, here I thought there was actually a problem. Wait a minute. There is. Why would an organization that wants to promote e-sports as a legitimate ‘official sport’ exclude a good portion of the population from their events? Markus “Olodyn” Koshivirta, the head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 has stated that, despite the Finnish e-Sports Federation’s (FeSP) desire to promote equal rights for female and male gamers, the exclusion in this tournament is due to the fact that if a female won, she would be unable to enter the IeSF’s World Championship final in November, in Baku, Azerbaijan.


It’s clear where the core of the problem is. It isn’t just this one tournament, or the FeSF’s Assembly Summer 2014, but with the regulation put forth by the IeSF, who is hosting the final event. But don’t worry, because there are some tournaments that females can enter. Let’s take a look at the tournament list for the IeSF sixth World Championship this November:

  • Male Competition: Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Ultra Street Fighter IV
  • Female Competition: Starcraft 2, Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Oh, so females can play. Just… not together? And not on the same games?

Players of both genders have been taking to the IeSF’s event FaceBook page to voice their opinions. IeSF came up with the following response:

“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 sport.”


I could almost buy that, except for the fact that IeSF further digs a grave with the next released statements:

“1 – promoting female players. We know that e-Sports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.

“2 – International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.”

These statements don’t seem to mollify players, but only instigate them more. The girls at Fat, Ugly or Slutty have talked before at conventions about how female players often either hide themselves, or masquerade as males, to avoid harassment. That easily means that more females are playing games like Call of DutyStreet Fighter, or Battlefield than one might think. A report from the Washington Times shows that nearly half (45%) of all gamers are females, a drastic climb from 38% in 2006. While these numbers may just be for American players, it’s still unclear where the IeSF received their statistics from.


And while the second half of the IeSF’s statement makes sense on one level, it raises other questions: Why is there no general tournament for both, and why are the games different for both genders? Is the IeSF saying that girls don’t play Ultra Street Fighter IV, and they only play Tekken? Are females not skilled enough for Hearthstone? Chess may be split between female and male, but there is still a general tournament for both genders. (A good example of this is Judit Polgar, who was the lone woman facing off against male players. While the gender ratio was much higher, at least she had the ability to do so based on her own skill. Even the NBA allows females, as Ann Meyers has proved.

The IeSF claims to be creating this division in light of following traditional sports guidelines in order to promote e-sports as a legitimate sports, but clearly the other sports have a different idea of what’s fair. A female tournament is understandable, as a way to encourage females to participate, as chess has done for so many years. But to not only divide the genders, but decide on different games and franchises? Would it not make more sense to have both tournaments share the same games if the goal is to encourage more females to look at professional gaming as an option?


It’s refreshing that the FeSF does not share the views of the larger IeSF, and has opened the rest of the tournaments in the Assembly Summer 2014 to all players, regardless of gender. Clearly the Finnish organization does not share the same views. But the sting still remains when looking at the announcements for the qualifier tournament for the IeSF.

And on a personal note, as a female player myself, there is no way I can look at this without feeling slighted. I detest the term ‘female gamer’ due to the connotation it’s usually used in, or implied. More than once, someone has asked me if I was a female gamer, then followed it up with a question along the lines of “Do you play something other than Sims and Angry Birds?” or something equally insulting. I surprise people when I state I play games like Halo and Titanfall, or that I grew up playing Max Payne, Doom, and Duke Nukem with my father and brother. This entire situation with the IeSF, to me, is an insult not just to females, but to all gamers out there. Not just because of sexism, but because the tournament regulations are depriving all players a chance to play with all available players that can give them a real challenge.

A familiar name dropped a great quote earlier while discussing the issue, and I think I’ll end the article on that. Tell me what you think about the IeSF situation in the comments below.

“I don’t believe in female gamers, just people who play games.” -AMGfail

Sources: Reddit, PC Gamer, Washington Times, The Guardian, IGN

Bio CardKayla

Kayla Swenson is an aspiring author and former DJ from Seattle, WA that procrastinates far too much with video games to get a book out. When she’s not gaming until carpal tunnel sets in, she’s working on dreams of being a voice actor as well as a published writer. Fond of RPGs, she will happily disappear into the void to tackle whatever bad voice acting awaits. Contact her at the email above, or on all major systems/networks as Beltravi.



  1. Could this be their (poorly accomplished) way of weeding out “gamer grrls”…the female players who actually do try to use the gaming world to score popularity points instead of just playing the frickin game? In my experience, there’s 2 types of female gamers:
    1. the aforementioned “gamer grrls” who take time before each game (videogame, tabletop game, pen & paper RPG, etc) to let you know they are female and act/speak with a weird, overly aggressive stance and
    2. the actual gamers-who-happen-to-have-vaginas, who act/speak like a normal person and just want to enjoy the gaming community as is, and based on merit rather than how many guys they have following them.

    The first type are a big issue in my mind, as parts of the gaming community are still bastions of the “awkward/nerdy” male population who have trouble fitting in elsewhere. I work at a comic/gaming store, and it’s truly a sanctuary for some of these guys…they don’t need or want women coming in to “play” (aka show off their boobs and have guys stare at them in awe), but they will always accept a woman who loves the game and just wants to play as an equal.

    I would like to believe that this is what IeSF is trying to do, albeit in a really not-thought-out way. But if this is the case, they need to have the same exact games/franchises available for the female leagues and a general league for all contenders. In other words, if they want to be taken seriously they need to act it.

    1. I honestly don’t think IeSF is giving any thought to whether the female players are the fake girls or the real players. And in the end, if they play the game, are they not gamers?

      The problem here is the ‘gamer grrrl’ (and I’ve run into these problems and had the same debates and gripes about them myself) is at least partially built from the desire to not be shut down by the fact that they are female. Some are looking for attention and for a quick cheap fix of ‘love’ and ‘admiration’. Some are acting out because they get so much crap for being female that they automatically overreact and try to exaggerate their feminity because they don’t want to feel ashamed.

      Which, unfortunately, IeSF is only furthering. IeSF, to me, is sending this message: You are not as good as a male player. You don’t deserve the same attention. We’re pretty sure that all female gamers are jokes.

      The Gamer Grrrl is the Macho Dude Gamer. She poses half-nude with a controller and plays CoD and Halo for attention. He grabs beer and shouts ‘DUDE F*** YEAH EXTREME’ and plays Madden and CoD because those are manly. But if we exclude the female players to weed out the Gamer Grrrl, then we should weed out the Macho Dude Gamer by eliminating the male competitors as well, according to that logic.

      Whether or not we like them, they ARE gamers. They are players. They are part of our community. And it makes no sense to eliminate the demographic for the annoying cousin of the demographic.

      It’s like the complaints about Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. They are TERRIBLE pieces of literature. But at the same time, they convinced people to pick up a book and read it. At least one out of five of those people pick up another book because those literary pieces of crap opened up the door to the world of books.

      And besides. None of those Gamer Grrrls or Macho Dude Gamers would ever make it to the tournaments anyways. The players who dedicate time and craft to it would.

      So I have no idea where IeSF is heading with these thoughts. It’s mind-boggling especially when statistics prove that more females play than they think.

  2. Hearthstone is a TCG, similar to Might & Magic, TCG’s are highly stigmatised by women, who generally view men who play magic card games, as loosers & nerds

    TCG’s arent regular video games, they require hundreds of times more strategy & skill then a regular video game

    They require extreme amounts of left brain thinking, ie extreme levels of logic & projecting calculations, something men excel at

    Unlike regular video games, TCG’s biologically speaking are highly incompatible with a girl gamers need for emotion & drama, as theyre mostly logic & algorithm based

    Women need to stop stigmatising men who play TCG’s & stop associating them with loosers & nerds

    1. Wow. While I’m sorry that you’ve had those experiences to give you such a jaded view of how females view TCG’s, I myself am boggled. I know just as many men that trash on TCGs as do females, and just as many females that play them. And not just Magic. I know girls that still collect YuGiOh cards, World of Warcraft cards, even Pokemon.

      And whatever science says about the ability of men and women to perform or excel in different areas, I have found it very lacking. I have met just as many women who are logical and can project calculations with ease, as well as strategize without turning it into something emotional, as I have met men who get frustrated, get stuck on a strategy, and throw down their cards in anger.

      Once again, I’m terribly sorry that you have had those experiences, but to me, that’s a very ’80s and ’90s grudge to be holding. And honestly, your comment itself comes across as extremely sexist. By your comment alone, you are stating that you believe all females to need emotion and drama in their games. Funny, considering how many women will sit down to play games like Call of Duty multiplayer, where the only emotion and drama is teabagging the guy who camped you.

      Maybe you should revise your own opinion on the video games and open yourself up to a new perception. Generally speaking, in MY experience as well, many of the people who get treated like that act like martyrs and don’t bother trying to change what their pre-conceived notion is of how OTHER’S pre-conceived notions are.

      The problem is with both genders here. Don’t lay all of the problems on the one that bleeds every month.

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