The computer gaming industry is an exciting field to enter because of its relevance to culture, entertainment, and technology. The opportunity to become a pro gamer is a dream for many young people – both boys and girls alike. You’d think the realm of eSports would be an ideal environment for gender equality. But discrimination is a real challenge in every sphere – even virtual worlds!
Research, history, and plain common sense show that men have more raw strength than women when it comes to athletics. This is not surprising, given that women lack sufficient testosterone to grow muscles as large as men’s. That’s why traditional sports are divided into men’s and women’s teams to level the playing field. (Or at least that’s the way it should be!) However, eSports – unlike athletic activities requiring physical strength, stamina, and skill – are competitive video game tournaments requiring mental acuity, eye/hand coordination, and tactical mastery.
Since eSports aren’t based on physical attributes, gaming can be considered gender-neutral. Computers, video game consoles, and virtual reality technology appeal to both genders equally, and there are lots of girl gamers online. Nevertheless, female gamers experience a great deal of discrimination, especially in the professional arena. Statistics show that there is just one woman among the top 500 eSports earners, and she’s sitting at position 301 in the list. The pay gap is only one of the hurdles facing female gamers; other pitfalls include stereotyping and cyberbullying.
If you are a girl who likes to play games, chances are that you too have encountered discrimination in the form of sexist comments, insults, or name-calling. Some female gamers struggle to be taken seriously. For others, their reputation is at stake. SeYeon Kim, a professional Overwatch gamer, was accused of using an illegal program to enhance her ability – viewers couldn’t believe a teenage girl could play that well! Likewise, Hearthstone pro player Alyssa said that she was accused of cheating because she is female. For these reasons, female gamers often disguise their identity, create masculine or neutral avatars, and avoid using the microphone.
In a 2017 thesis titled Gender Inequality in eSports Participation: Examining League Of Legends, author Se Jin Kim concludes: “[To] resolve the essential problem of the gender stereotypes, men who are the majority should strive to obstruct such stereotypes. New systems should be created in online games to encourage those who are attempting to make the gaming community more welcome regardless of gender. Furthermore, the penalties meted out to those who are harassing others should be intensified, thus purging the virtual world.”
Playing video games is fun, and many of us also enjoy watching other people play them. As eSports continue to become more mainstream, a greater number of women will be playing and viewing them. If the eSports industry is going to live up to the ideals of equality made possible by the games’ inherently virtual nature, it’s important that everyone involved put forth an effort to make eSports a safe, civil, and inclusive community for all gamers.
Want to help the gaming industry level up? Here you can find all the statistics and facts about gender inequality in eSports:
P.S. Watch this funny 3-min video from Viva La Dirt League, which parodies everything we’ve been talking about. In the skit, Rowan just realized that girls are gamers too…
If you are a girl gamer, we’re pretty sure you’d agree that women can be as great players as men. Have you ever faced discrimination in gaming?