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Women Make Up Almost Half of Players in the Videogames Industry, So Why Do We Never See Them in…

Women Make Up Almost Half of Players in the Videogames Industry, So Why Do We Never See Them in ESports?

League of Legends World Championship at the Staples Center [1]

Imagine going to a stadium, sitting down in the stands, not to smell the grass and see sweaty football players tackle and touchdown, but to see huge screens with young teens typing and clicking fervently to move their avatars and chain attacks. This exhilarating experience is known as eSports. ESports is a whole new world of competition that happens exclusively on the computer. Many different types of games are played, with the most popular being League of Legends, Dota 2, and StarCraft. ESports is a rapidly growing industry where gamers from every country compete for huge amounts of prize money and gain lucrative sponsorships in what is now becoming the most competitive sport in the world.

However, similar to most traditional sports, something seems to be missing from the spotlight; Women.

The lack of women making it big in eSports isn’t due to physical disadvantages, since both men and women can equally use their hands to control a mouse and keyboard. There is also no need to separate teams by gender, since there is no changing room, physical contact, or physiological differences that would make the rules for boys and girls different.

An all-male team SKT takes home the trophy for the League of Legends World Championship [1]

The problem also isn’t that women aren’t playing videogames as much as men. In fact women make up almost half of gamers, with 48% of gamers being female and 52% being male [2]. So why aren’t women more into competitive gaming?

The answer isn’t really that simple. The truth is, though many women are interested in playing games, many do not go on to join in competitive gaming.

Becoming a player that is skilled enough to compete in eSports is not easy.

The journey from beginner player to world champ can take years of playing hours a day, watching videos, and analyzing your plays. It requires extreme focus and a love for the game that often transcends school, friends, and family.

This amount of effort doesn’t go unrewarded, however. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora is the top paid player in the world, who plays Dota 2, and has made $2,802,796.47 from 63 Tournaments [3]. UNiVeRsE also happens to be male. However, the top paid female player in the world, Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, who plays StarCraft II, has only made a total of $176,462.82 from 114 Tournaments [4]. If we calculate the amount of pay per tournament, that is $1,547 per tournament. Outnumbering Sasha by leaps and bounds is UNiVeRsE with a whopping $44,488.83 per tournament. Now, given these are 2 very different games and UNiVeRsE is the top player in the world where Sasha is just the top paid female player in the world. However, the pay difference is substantial. Dota 2 also has a much greater prize pool than Starcraft II, but there are so few women playing in eSports that it really doesn’t matter. The point here is that due to lack of women, not lack of skill or type of game, male players are taking home the greatest amount of prize money.

It may not ever be completely clear to us why there are so few female gamers, because it appears that nothing is physically holding them back. There are no physical or mental disadvantages that women have compared to men. However, maybe social constructs surrounding female gender norms, videogames, and masculinity could be to blame.

Since about the 90’s, videogame commercials took a turn from relatively gender neutral to almost exclusively centralizing their advertisements on young boys. The video below shows SEGA commercials airing between 1991 and 1993. In every advertisement, the narrator is male with a gritty and overtly-masculine voice. Boys were also the sole demographic portrayed as customers in these advertisements. Showing boys and hearing a male voice really leads the viewer to believe that males were the target audience of these SEGA commercials. Media can really play a big part on how society behaves, and vice versa. When television commercials are only showing one demographic (white males), that tends to exclude or shame other demographics that may want to participate. It became a norm in society to view gamers as boys, so girls were shamed into either taking up other hobbies or playing videogames more privately. This could be one reason why we don’t see as many women in eSports. Maybe women are still apprehensive about sharing their love for gaming with others, in fear of social backlash.

However, as the gaming companies strive for a more gender neutral and inclusive environment, maybe that social backlash will fade away. If society learns to accept women into the gaming industry instead of excluding them, women could possibly begin to make a name for themselves in gaming. When that stigmatism against women disappears, soon women will be free to compete in whatever videogame they want. As an increasing amount of women take up the gamer life, soon it will be the norm for women to compete in eSports. Someday you will see women training hard to become the next top players in what is now one of the most cut-throat and lucrative professional sports.