Esports: May the Best Man—or Woman—Win

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As we follow the fictional (but fact-based) exploits of our esports team, let’s take a look at participation by female esports competitors. Just what does the esports landscape look like for women? (If you miss any installments in this series, you can read them all at here.)

There were a surprising number of women in the arena today, and that pleased Tomas Castillo. Far too many times his days were spent shoulder-to-shoulder with other guys. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but it was nice to see some women at the controls as well as in the stands.

Aubrey, Tomas’s BFF since grade school was a steadfast supporter. She came to watch him compete whenever she could and she planned to be here today. But watching from the stands and competing were two different things, and the contrast in participation levels between fans and players was vast.

Tomas had read a recent article somewhere that about 46% of the world’s video game players were women, and that jibed pretty well with what he’d seen at their events, but that only 1 percent of esports players were women. Clearly, a huge disconnect, and given what he was seeing today—he’d done a quick headcount and of the 15 or so players in his immediate vicinity, 5 were female—that demographic was changing.

To further illustrate, only a few weeks ago a female-dedicated esports tournament, Supergirl Pro, had been held in Oceanside, just north of San Diego. Eight finalists—all women—had gone toe-to-toe spanning two action-packed days that saw some pretty inspiring League of Legends and Hearthstone play, with lots of juking, aggro action, and split-push strategizing. The event had been well-attended, widely reported, and by all accounts tons of for fans.

With unofficial team captain Zach Reynolds leaving Team Otherworld after this tourney, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that their manager, Hyun Park, would bring in a women to take his place. In fact, Tomas knew that Mr. Park had already interviewed a few potential female replacements, along with a bunch of promising male players.

“May the best man, or woman, win,” he whispered.

Whatever the outcome, Tomas was all for it, not like some of the guys who adhered to the “old boys club” notion of esports and video game playing. Luckily, he’d never experienced it on his own team, but Tomas had witnessed firsthand some of the sexism and narrow-mindedness that many of his female counterparts endured online and in-person.

No wonder female participation in esports competitions was so low. What women would want to put herself through that kind of treatment?

A trailblazer would, Tomas thought. Every sport has them—like Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball; Ronda Rousey, the UFC’s first female fighter, and Becky Hammon of WNBA fame who became the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history.

Tomas had no doubt that esports would soon have its fair share of female trailblazers and, looking around him, perhaps esports already did!

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