Esports: Where are the women players?

Electronic sports(esports) is reaching new heights worldwide, as one of the most exciting professional sports in the world. Despite this, women in esports, are not as common as the number of men involved in it. While critics will put it down to sexism and supporters will put it down to marketing strategies, there are still a few who are changing the way females are perceived in the world of esports. According to interpret’s 2019 report- female esports watchers have a 30 per cent share compared to all esports watchers; however, it has consistently gained gender share nearly every quarter since 2016 with a total growth of 6 per cent over the last two years. The one who play games considerably in  esports on console/PC, only 35 per cent are female, of those that consider themselves esports watchers, 30 per cent, and of those that watch esports leagues, 20 per cent. Casual gaming, however (defined as those who log many hours on mobile and few on PC/Console) is dominated by females (66 per cent). The report also discloses “Extremely low female involvement in major esports titles like CS:GO (24 per cent Female), DOTA 2 (20 per cent female), Hearthstone (26 per cent female), Rainbow 6: Siege (23 per cnet female), and even Overwatch (26 per cent female) highlights the core challenge in attracting more female esports fans.” However  earlier in 2019, the Entertainment Software Association reported that 45 percent of U.S. gamers are female, yet women make up a scant portion of the professional esports player pool. Executives for games like League of Legends and Overwatch say they are eager to add women to pro rosters, where players can make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet LoL’s Championship Series hasn’t had a female gamer since 2016, and the Overwatch League’s inaugural season featured just one. Reasons behind such less numbers of female players worldwide? Many says the industry is known for harassment, bullying and toxic behaviour. Taking example- at the Gamergate scandal of 2014, when a group of male gamers organised to target women throughout the industry. Women say they feel marginalised within the community and are routinely subject to nasty comments about their ability or appearance. For elite gamers, much of it comes from fans, but opponents and teammates are sometimes just as challenging. At the lower levels, women are often bombarded by hyper masculinity in a space where most everyone is anonymous.
Saloni ‘Meow16k’ Pawar
While talking to AnimationXpress Indian female driven CS:GO esports team GE:Rayne, team captain Saloni ‘Meow16k’ Pawar, who started her self-motivated gaming journey at the age of 15 said, “Gaming has always been a taboo. The male players have dominated the gaming culture and it was like only men are suppose to play. When I started playing  I have been told girls don’t play all these games why are you playing ? At the initial level it was a bit of struggle but once you are more into the community and you are introduced to gamers in the community at that time everything changed. At the same times girls don’t actually feel comfortable to reveal their identity while playing games even I used to do that.” One of the biggest drawbacks of the industry is that no matter how much women try to put their best foot forward for an inspiring journey there are always hindrances in the ecosystem which puts blockages in the form of sexist and judgemental remarks. The same has been the experience for Shagufta Iqbal, who is a streamer (Apex legends, PUBG, CSGO and so on), influencer and associated with an esports organisation called Entity gaming. She says, “Even though the gaming industry is dominated by males, I have put my name up there with all the males! I do receive some mean comments but I just ignore and I don’t let it affect me since at the end of the day, I love gaming and nobody can stop me from doing what I love.” Seconding Iqbal on how she move forward with gaming ignoring nuisances that she have to face Pawar simplifys by saying, “gaming community has two sides one is positive and other one is negative side and getting into a community it will have both good and bad experience. It is good to accept and move ahead for what you want. Mainly girls are very much insecure of their indentity and they are exploring newer side in the community.” What other ways one can move forward? Becoming an esports player becomes easy when one build up their team and move forward together as a team. “What helped us was unity I think if you help yourself by finding four other women along with you who enjoy this game, I think it will be really nice because when you have companions with you, it becomes easy, you know the corners. I think if you have friend that are interested, just get them on board and start anew,” Pawar shared her experience. It is always important for a woman esports player is to stick to what she really wants to do. Inspiring all other women esports players, Pawar adds, “There’s going to be a lot of bullying and stuff. People will say, ‘go back to the kitchen’. Meanwhile, all you have to do is be consistent enough in what you’re doing, know what you want to do and keep doing it no matter what anyone says. You have to keep achieving your goals.” We are sure there are many female players out there, who are even today afraid to share their identity as a ‘female player’ however their style of playing games is equal to a pro esports players irrespective of their female gender. We would like to say you are not the only one and esports is for all!