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 Duty, Street 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
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.