By James Dominic Flores
Off the top of your head, name a female professional esports player. No, not a streamer, a competitive esports player; one that actively competes in the highest level of their preferred esports discipline.
Most people tend to struggle to come up with names because at the peak of esports, there are only a handful of them and because of this, the professional scene is sometimes viewed as a men’s club.
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Despite the stereotype, there have been notable female players at different moments of esports’ lifespan. Seo Ji Soo, a.k.a. “TossGirl” is one of the earliest female professional gamers dating back to 2001. She had dominated the Korean Starcraft: Broodwar female leagues and became the first female to compete alongside the males in the professional leagues with respectable success until her retirement in June 2012.
In Europe, Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr has been placing and competing in fighting game tournaments in France and all over the world. Competing against the top players in various fighting games such as Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, and Dead or Alive, she entered the Guinness Book of world records at 2012 holding the titles of “First Female Super Street Fighter IV World champion” and “Most podium placements in a Fighting-game Tournament for a female”.
These two icons have paved the way for numerous female players proving that women are as capable as men are to compete in the big leagues.
Why does esports have a male face?
If we acknowledge that women are capable to compete at the highest level of esports, why then do we not hear about female esports players often? One of the most obvious answers to this is player base, on a base level, more males play video games compared to females.
This can be attributed to gender roles much like a boy being expected to play with toy cars and girls given dolls. However, if we dig deeper, females encounter a unique struggle in the gaming world: Cyberbullying.
The anonymity of the internet allows people to be more brash, and sometimes toxic, during in-game interactions with other players. Oftentimes, this is brought about by the lack of perceived skill in-game, unfortunately, because of the said gender stereotypes, female players may experience toxicity not because of their skill, but simply because of their gender.
A survey by casino.org showed that 57% of female gamers were harassed during game time after the players find out that they are playing with a female, majority of the harassment coming in the form of sexist comments to add to the usual trash-talk.
Women esports players to watch
Despite these struggles, women have showed that they can achieve in this career. Filipino players such as Cara “Caracute” Vergel De Dios and Jia “Jia” Dee have made waves in the popular card game Hearthstone as players, and even as casters or panel analysts.
Carrying Kayane’s and TossGirl’s legacy are Cuddlecore and Scarlett, two north American players specializing in Tekken 7 and Starcraft 2. These women are also actively using their platforms for gender equality and inclusivity in the esports scene.
Esports has a long way to go to gender inclusivity, but it is moving forward. Aside from moderating systems in various games to penalize or punish toxic players, esports companies are making themselves more accessible to play and with that comes an effort to create a safe and fun environment.
The beauty of video games is that they are made for all who wish to play them regardless of gender. It is in the community, both developers and players’, best interests to nurture a healthy environment for gaming. There is no gender prerequisite for skill, and there should be no gender prerequisite to have fun in your game of choice.
About the author: James Dominic Flores is Program Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at San Sebastian College, specializing in psychology. He is also a competitive gamer specializing in fighting games.