Like many sporting events, we tend to talk about the male teams.
In competitive gaming, this is no exception. We often see most eSports teams such as Cloud 9 being mentioned, with players such as Skadoodle being brought up, or EnvyUS’ KennyS, in terms of the Counter Strike GO eSports scene.
eSports is being driven by young men who’s skills are second to none. KennyS is 20 years old, and Skadoodle is 22 years old, for example. They are all incredibly talented with the mouse and keyboard and their communication skills are on point most of the time.
Whilst the male eSports scene is large and loud, the voice of women is but a whisper in the conversation and the hype. However, this won’t be the case for much longer.
With the evening up of the gender gap in competitive gaming, we’re bound to have more female competitive teams and gamers eventually.
Stephanie Harvey, also known as “missharvey”, the 29 year old founder of the five women eSport team called CLG Red, which sits under Counter Logic Gaming’s umbrella amongst several high caliber, yet male teams. Prior to this, she was on a team called UBINITED, which took home gold in the 2011 and 2012 World Championships in the female division of Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
These victories have subsequently placed Harvey and her teammates as one of the best gunwomen to grace Counter Strike, and have placed highly in tournaments ever since.
If you watch a women’s Counter Strike game, you’ll notice that their gameplay is consistent and a good watch. The only thing they’re missing is the front line in eSports.
According to Intel’s interview with “MissHarvey”, “Female eSports is still like a little baby in America, but it is getting bigger and bigger.”
The audience for eSports was anywhere from 70 – 96% male last year. There was no professional female League of Legends player on the entirety of the United States in 2014, according to Polygon.
When the Intel team spent time with Harvey and her team, they found that Harvey and her team were run through 12 hour a day training sessions which included playing the game, fixing any strategic errors, and scouting the game style of the European women.
It’s not always women vs women for CLG Red. They face off against men for warm ups. However, in this instance, when Harvey and her team faced off against a few male teams in the Fragadelphia 5 tournament in Philadelphia, they struggled to find their game and struggled.
It certainly isn’t easy being a woman in eSports.
“A girl must have really thick skin to handle all the hate and not get emotional about it,” Harvey said, explaining how insults and toxic online behavior are more than enough to kill the motivation of anyone.
According to a study on Slate, research found that males who insult and harass female counterparts tend to be those who perform poorly in said competitions. These same men act more submissively around their more skilled male counterparts, which indicates that losing to another male who is of superior skill is less threatening than losing to a female player of the same or even superior skill.
That’s why it is important for women to band together in all-female teams, Harvey explained, rather than disseminating in intramural teams.
“We could all play with male teams, but we want to make a difference,” she said
Instead of having female players peppered across the huge global landscape, a unity of the sexes sends the signal that eSports are for women, too.
“For now, continuing to have strong role models for women who want to play and compete [will draw more women into the sport,]” she said.
“That’s how I started, and that’s how most of us started. And that’s why we still play.”
It is an interesting way to think about their situation in eSports, but one I would have to disagree with. I am no expert in eSports competitions or teams or anything like that, however I do think that segregating female and male teams is the wrong way to go about it.
A female gamer has every ounce of ability to be as good as a male gamer. Unlike sports such as football, rugby, wrestling, UFC fights and so forth, there are no physical barriers for females. In the field of eSports, in games like Counter Strike Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota and so forth, females have the capability to equal or even exceed the level of male players.
As an observer and someone who often asks questions, I always question why there aren’t any integrated teams. Teams with males and females. The fact that all female teams are forced and encouraged to compete in all female leagues, I feel, is a sexist move on behalf of eSports.
In this instance, I have to disagree with Stephanie Harvey, I don’t think that having solely female teams will encourage more females to come into the eSports scene. Female players are undoubtedly talented, especially the European players from Counter Strike in particular. There’s just a hunch that keeps saying that having women in women only teams in a women’s only league will not draw more women into eSports.
It’s completely understandable that women have to deal with the toxicity and negative attitude that comes from the largely male demographic of eSports, but if female gamers are able to start breaking into teams like Cloud 9 and so forth, then the demographic, as well as the communities, in particular the Twitch community, will slowly adjust.
The demographic as it is won’t go and watch female eSports for the sake of watching female eSports.
It’s not that they can’t make a difference being in solely female teams, it’s just that it’ll take several years longer to do so and will be largely ineffective if they continue this way. If female competitive gamers really want to make a difference, they need to find a way to break into the mainstream competitive gaming scene, on the same stage that players like KennyS, Freakazoid and Scream play on for Counter Strike, the LoL scene or whatever scene they play in, but they need to break into it, not segregate themselves.
There is no physical barrier, and the skill barrier can be eventually conquered, and is likely the quicker and more effective way to revolutionize female competitive gaming.
In order for attitudes to be adjusted, in order for female gamers to reach the forefront of eSports, a breakthrough is required. As difficult as it seems with the toxicity of various internet communities, it is not impossible, and in due time will be effective.
In turn, if they breakthrough and make it onto the big stage, rather than playing with the poorly covered, rarely mentioned female leagues, then it will inspire more women to try to get into and succeed in the competitive gaming sector, as well as encourage more females to watch eSporting events and attend events live, which is beneficial for the various eSports organizations.
In my eyes, it’s a win for the female gamer if they make it onto the main stage, and a win for the female spectator, since they have someone to watch and aspire to play like. The way is to breakthrough instead of going independent in gender-segregated leagues. As painful as it might be for female gamers already, it is likely the road that will finally put competitive female players on the map and give them the recognition they deserve.
This road is difficult, but I hold the belief that it will be the best road for competitive female gaming to take. Time will tell if female eSports grows into the big child it has the potential to grow into, or falls short.
I truly hope competitive gamers make it onto the main scene soon, one way or another, or that’s a lot of talent going unnoticed.
Article by Jonah Raj