By Jamaal Ryan
As we’ve seen in past controversies concerning gender inequality in gaming, they range from misrepresentation – or no representation at all – to unjustifiable exclusions as well as sexual harassment in the work place. But the Hearthstone tournaments that will be held at the Assembly Summer 2014 by the International e-Sport Federation (IeSF) in November fully excludes female participation, gating it as a “male only competition”.
Initially defending the segregation, Assembly head Markus "Olodyn" Koskivirta issued a statement to PC Gamer, commenting that, “"In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation's (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only. This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things."
Before you flip in a what-the-fuck fit, Koskivirta’s statements could have used some elaboration. If women competed in IeSF tournaments, they wouldn’t be eligible for Championship finals. Does it make it any better? Fuck no.
But in defense of their tournament regulations, IeSF attempted to justify them as follows:
"1 - promoting female players. We know that e-Sports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.
"2 - International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues."
These reasons are unsubstantiated, as while there are female only leagues, they don’t exclude female competitors from being matched up against male contestants. In addition, there seems to be an ulterior motive in becoming recognized as an international sport that could churn more funding, better recognition, etc, because all in all, splitting genders in video game competitions makes no sense.
Though there are undoubtedly female athletes that can, and have, outclassed their male counterparts, it’s understandable that if both genders were mixed in the same league, there would be a disproportionate disadvantage when matching up different genders in a physical sport. But Dota 2, Hearthstone, Ultra Street Fighter IV – each held as male only competitions by the IeSF – and fuckin video games for that matter don’t lend themselves to gender differences like athletic sports do.
In addition, a Facebook commenter highlighted that this decision is seemingly in conflict with Article 5 of their statutes:
Article 5: Non Discrimination and Promoting Female Participation
1. The Practice of e-Sport is a fundamental right for all.
2. All parties related to IeSF’s events including its Members and partners shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women, and to promote and elevate the participation of female players in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of women and men, the same rights, in particular, to participate in recreation, leisure and sports activities and all aspects of cultural life.
3. Discrimination of any kind against lineage, gender, religion, politics, individual, organization or any reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.
Each of the IeSF’s excuses sink faster than a cinder block strapped to two anvils. Video games aren’t sports in which males have any hormonal advantage over females, other female-only competitions don’t disqualify females from jumping into male dominated competitions, and the IeSF’s decisions look to contradict their very own standards. These segregations look more to be efforts towards international “recognition” rather than table setting for future female representation as they claim.
In the meantime, I encourage you to begin your own Hearthstone tournaments, or join this one.