We’ve all heard of guys playing video games online and some playing them competitively in professional Esports tournaments, but what about the women? Female gamers seem to never get the spotlight in the world of Esports and when they do, it’s usually not a positive one. There is a lot of discrimination and sexism in the video game industry and its mostly geared towards women. But why? Is it that the industry is predominantly male and that pro female gamers are rare and that they don’t deserve to stand on the same stage as the men? Does it really make sense that men get all the attention and women covered in their shadow? According to the female gamers that have experienced massive success in the video gaming industry, most of them agree that it does take a lot from women to not only become good at gaming like the men are but to even be a part of gaming.
Growing up in a girls’ school, it wasn’t really common to be into video games – Twitch streamer SeriesofBlurs
Much like the regular sports, there is a huge difference in terms of pay and earnings between the male and female Esports champions. A whopping 718% pay gap between the top male and female winners (Ricchiuto, 2018). In order for female gamers to earn more, they are sometimes expected to do more. Due to the overwhelming number of male players in the gaming industry, female players often need to be really good at the games they play. For women, it is like the classic panopticon example where they are always under surveillance. Aside from the high skill expectations, they often receive cyber harassments online.
There are some weird things that streamers get asked to do, like sending panties – people email and ask for that… Twitch streamer Loserfruit
Not only do they get attacked online for their gender, girls don’t get welcomed in the gaming community to the point where there are now female-only tournaments. The comments on female Twitch channels are seen as “characterized by objectification from viewers about the streamer’s physical appearance and relationships” (Aguirre, 2017). On the other hand, males have that sort of mentality and show their actions in that way because some female gamers are perceived to have a desire for that. It was “understood that for some streamers, acting and dressing provocatively was a fast way to draw attention and money” (Shwayder, 2015). This ‘strategy’ helps garner the number of viewers and donations the streamer receives. So how do professional female gamers get to where they are now? One of the ways is through the support of each other. Successful female streamers and tournament winners advocate for the women. They help other female players gain their confidence as well as teach them how to overcome their fears to become better at what they like to do. This is because “exclusion creates expectations of rejection which, together with the identification of gaming as a male activity, discourages women from attempting to enter into gaming practices or associating themselves with being a gamer” (Rutter, 2005).
Making a living on “TWITCH”
Twitch is a live-video-streaming platform that gives people from all over the world the opportunity to watch each other play games (Convery, 2017). In general, gamers start out their professional Esports career as a streamer on Twitch and gradually gain skill and fame over time. There are approximately 9.7 million active users on Twitch every day as well as over 2 million streamers a month (Convery, 2017). One of the top female streamers on Twitch is Rumay Wang, also known as Hafu. She has over 400,000 followers and more than 45 million views on her Twitch channel (Yap, 2016) and she specializes in the game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. She was introduced to online gaming in high school, where she got addicted. At the age of 22, she began streaming full-time, playing games in front of her computer with her webcam on and interacting with her viewers online. Most of her earnings on Twitch come from viewer donations and subscriptions. A portion of it also comes from sponsors and Ad revenue generated from broadcasts. The amount gained is determined by the duration of the streams as well as the number of viewers watching her stream (Aaron, 2017). In her early years of playing video games, she had to go through a lot of harassment online. Hafu thinks that it is possible for women to endure the negativity if you think you have what it takes to be a good streamer. Some of these attributes include having the confidence to appear live on stream at all times during your broadcast, being able to talk for an extended period of time, having the ability to become a charismatic person on camera to keep your audience entertained, and finally having a bit of luck on your side.
Finding Passion & Identity
In addition to streaming and interacting with online audiences, many female professional gamers reach success because they truly love gaming and are willing to sacrifice and work hard towards things in order to achieve their dreams. Not only do you need the skills to play the game, but “presence of mind, as well as fast analytic thinking, is a requirement if you ever want to “make it big” or “go pro” (Comaingking, 2011). Girl gamers that are not afraid of losing or people throwing words at them come out stronger. Those who take their defeats and take it as a learning opportunity usually become successful in the competitive scene. Sasha Hostyn, otherwise known as Scarlett in competitive Starcraft II, is one of those players. She describes her passion towards the game as exciting even though she gets nervous a lot on stage. Her ambition towards Starcraft II made her one of the most successful and skilled women in Esports. She recently won the Intel Extreme Masters tournament held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This win was significant because not only was the tournament recognized by the IOC, Scarlett was the only woman to compete in it (Lumb, 2018). Furthermore, she made it on the Guinness World Records as the highest-earning female player in 2016. Now that is an incredible achievement!
Competing on the Big Stage
When it comes to Esports and competitive gaming, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to compete in massive stadiums playing in front of tens of thousands of fans. In terms of professional female teams, first-person shooter game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have seen the most female players and teams of them all. This is due to a natural aspect of the game which requires a lot of coordination and teamwork in order to come out on top. Members of team “Selfless” explain that they practice together for many hours a day taking time warming up and studying their opponents. They enjoy spending time together and because of this, their relationships with one another is like family. That is the joy of playing on a team, you get to share the victory with your teammates and also make long-lasting friendships. With regards to other players who are just starting out their gaming careers, team Selfless advises to go with the intuition and just do it instead of regretting it later on down the road. It isn’t something easy as it takes a lot of practice and commitment in order to get good at it, just like riding a bike or working out in the gym. But the outcome of it all is extremely rewarding and being able to experience tournaments live in different countries and at the same time playing a game is not something people get to do in everyday life.
As Esports continue to grow alongside technological advancements, players and fans should strive for an all-inclusive non-discriminatory competitive gaming environment. Casters and analysts in significantly large tournaments for games such as League of Legends and Dota 2 should encourage females to play. This disseminates the message across the world and increases awareness because not only will the live audience know about it, but also everyone around the world watching online streams. Gaming policies need to be enforced to get rid of the negative toxicity in online chats. This provides the opportunity for female gamers to gain their confidence through the reduced appearance of sexist comments. It also recognizes the achievements made by those who are good at what they do, as well as encourage more females to play on a larger scale. Game designers need to adjust their way of thinking when designing games to not only appeal to male players, but also female players. In-game avatars and NPC’s should have an equal number of male and female attributes. Customization of characters in the game should not have any stereotypes toward one gender. This is an important aspect because if people are spending a lot of time playing the game, they should be able to enjoy all of the game and not have to be bothered by a fixed negative aspect of the game. Ultimately, time will tell whether online gaming will become socially accepted as a gender-neutral sport.
How can we build towards an equal playing field that encourages all gender game-play and minimizes marginalization?
What sort of actions should males take to give female players more support and what sort of actions should females take to reinforce their position as players in the gaming industry?
How long would it take to diversify the already established cultural aspect into a new positive mentality towards professional gaming?
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