Surveys show that even though women are active gamers their number falls disproportionately low when it comes to their participation in eSports.
In eSports the fan base continues to be approximately 90% male dominated, whereas in the larger gaming community women make up 45%-50% of the target audience.
In a survey of three tournaments that were held during a period of one year, eSports production company WellPlayed found that of the total participants, 2040 participants were male and only 69 participants or approximately 3% were females. The disparity in eSports is huge but things have been improving in recent times as more female players have shown an interest in eSports.
AnyKey, an organization that promotes diversity in eSports conducted its own research during the Intel Extreme Masters Tournament where players compete in Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) and League of Legends (League) games. Their researchers found that of all the people attending, CSGO had 8% women in attendance whereas League had 15% women in attendance.
Sexism Does Exist In The eSports Industry
eSports in some societies is considered masculine therefore men are more often encouraged to pursue these sports. Even though the barrier for women in eSports is comparatively less when compared to other traditional sports, female players are subjected to harassment by their male counterparts. Women players are not taken seriously by their male counterparts and tend to get judged more by their physical appearance. Women players who overachieve are labelled as frauds or cheaters. The general perspective is that if a team with women players looses, the loss is blamed on the women, and if the team wins, the victory is credited to the male players.
Studies have shown that men who perform poorly tend to harass female players more. These men are often submissive in front of better skilled male players. They feel less threatened by male players and it would not be wrong to assume that these players feel a lot more threatened by female players.
Marketing Incentives Favour Male Players
Specific marketing campaigns by companies are another reason in creating this imbalance. The core audience for eSports is mostly male between the ages of 21 to 34, and the size of this audience is growing year on year. It is this target audience that marketing agencies are focusing on. For eSports marketing agencies, the benefits and gains that they can derive by targeting a female audience would be extremely limited and as a result these companies do not have the incentive to expand their target market.
Remuneration Disparity Hurting Female Players
There is a huge pay disparity in the eSports industry as well. eSportsearnings.com lists money made by eSports players and clearly reveals a huge disparity between the earnings of male players and female players.
Amongst female eSports players, the site lists Katherine Gunn, who goes by the player id Mystik, as the number one female player with the highest overall earnings of $122,000.
Amongst the male players, the highest earning player was Peter”ppd” Dager, whose overall earnings was more than $2 million. In fact, as can be seen on the site the top 284 male players earned more than what Katherine Gunn earned.
The New Rise of Women Gamers
The silver lining is that the number of female eSports players is slowly increasing and their market is expanding at a steady pace. Korean player Seo “ToSsGirL” Ji-soo maintained a 100% victory record in all of the female only tournaments that she participated in.
Her other achievement was that she was at one time the only woman to compete in the Korean professional gaming scene.
Another female player who goes by the name of Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn has won a major gaming tournament which was open to all i.e. she competed successfully against men.
Women Gamers Collaborating To Make A Bigger Impact
Now new development in the eSports industry is that women are now uniting and forming women only teams. Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey founded CLG Red, an eSports team which provides tough competition to high-caliber male teams.
Like their male counterparts, female teams also have intense training sessions where they hone their skills, strategise and learn tricks and techniques by watching other teams from around the world.
Tournaments that were traditionally open only to males are now changing their acceptance criteria. A tournament held in Finland where participants compete to qualify for the International eSports Federation World Championships, which was open only to male players, changed their acceptance criteria and created two categories; one event was created which was a female only event and another event was created which was open to everyone.
Increase In Industry Promotions Targeting Female Players
Now eSport companies have made an attempt to try and increase the participation of women in eSports. French eSports company Oxent is one such company. The company is providing an opportunity to women by holding a number of women only tournaments for games like Counter Strike. They also hosted a special League of Legends tournament for women with prize money fixed at $25,000. The company received applications from dozens of teams, from which it selected the top teams, who then participate for the grand prize. Other gaming companies such as Counter-Strike, Dead or Alive 4 and StarCraft II have started their own female only tournaments.
Female Players Taking On More Responsibility
One of the best tools for more women players and women only tournaments is by launching specifically targeted promotions and through education. Women players themselves are now taking the initiative upon themselves to use similar strategies to promote eSports and bring in more female gamers.
Tammy “furryfish” Tang, from the all female team Dota-2 runs the Female Dota 2 website which connects teams to potential gamers and educates potential gamers with all aspects and nuances of the gaming industry.
The High School Starleague supports students in the US in setting up gaming clubs. Girls make up approximately 7% of the membership and this number is rising. There is also effort to promote the game in the general community through which female involvement is expected to rise.
Organizations like AnyKey advance the cause of diversity in eSports. The organization is currently focussing on increasing participation of female players in the sport by providing a better platform for women gamers and by providing resources to female gamers to allow them to compete.
Bringing In More eSports Female Players
It is hard for women to compete effectively in the eSports world today. In an ideal world, there would be no difference between male and female players and the sport would be integrated completely. There would be no separate women only tournaments or women only teams. Rather mixed teams and women only teams will compete with male only teams.
To attract more women, game designers should focus on the female audience when designing their games. The eSports worlds needs female champions who put in top performances and win on a regular basis so that they can become role models and promote the eSports globally. This will also open up marketing and sponsorship outlets for women in the industry.
In order to increase diversity in the eSports industry and bring in a bigger female player and fan base, efforts have to be made by key stakeholders such as eSports organizations, associations, marketers and players.