By Isaac Chandler
July 30, 2019
Yesterday The Guardian published an article about the Fortnite World Cup that brought attention to a rather stunning fact regarding the tournament: of the over 100 contestants participating at the event, there weren’t any female esports players.
While the title of the article feels a bit “clickbaity” and designed to rile up social media for no reason, Keith Stuart, the author of the article, does bring up some good points about why we may not see many female pro gamers.
While the name of the article would lead you to believe that the finalists were selected at will, in reality over 46 million players competed in the open qualifier to get a shot at the event.
The fact that not a single female gamer made it is rather unfortunate, but skill was what determined whether you made it to the Cup and, unfortunately, none of the girls who played in the qualifiers were good enough to make it, like most people who participated.
The fact, however, that 36% of Fortnite players are women, according to Epic, and yet there weren’t any female esports players who made the cut is rather shocking, and may relate to a more troubling issue with gaming in general.
Gaming has long been thought of as a hobby for nerdy males that could be mocked or ridiculed as a time-waster. The resulting teasing has made the gaming community very insular and protective when it comes to dealing with potential outsiders and lacking trust in those unlike them.
Gaming was a scene for outcasts, and while your stereotypical quiet, shy, nerdy guy may have been a common sight in the scene, many less desirable groups shunned by society arrived right behind them.
Incels, white-supremacists, and sexists found a place free of judgment in gaming, and quickly put down roots and began to spread their ideas throughout the community.
Many got their start in games like Call of Duty and Halo where in-game chat allowed them to shout their hateful message to the high heavens without any repercussions. Others, though, found MMOs like Runescape, Club Penguin and World of Warcraft to be the perfect place to spread their message and recruit those looking for a reason behind their troubles or wanting to roleplay something a bit taboo. They slowly pushed those ideas further and further until these folks became fully indoctrinated in their ideals and in turn, began their own campaign to spread the message.
This situation was only made worse by the 2008 recession, as many people looked for a scapegoat to blame for all their troubles. Race, gender, religion, all perfect targets to point the finger of blame towards to convince others of their horrendous ideologies.
This leads us back to the main point of this article: the lack of women in competitive gaming.
Often there are plenty of women playing a game who are good enough to go pro, the problem primarily lies in how the gaming community generally treats them. Women are constantly harassed when their gender is uncovered in a game. This can take the form of aggressive sexual remarks, general disregard for their accomplishments, belittling after every mistake they make, and much more.
It’s not even uncommon either: recently I entered into the lobby of a League of Legends match between one of the University of Washington League of Legends teams and another team trying to get into an amateur playing league.
Upon my arrival, since I wasn’t a player, the opposing team questioned who I was, to which I jokingly responded I was the UW team’s biggest fangirl.
Within a matter of seconds, I was barraged by an unrelenting amount of comments from the opposing team like “grill? Grill? GRILL?” and “you cute?”. One player on the other team even went so far as to add me to their friend’s list and tried to flirt with me the rest of the day, talking up how strong their team was.
I don’t know if you can tell from my name, but I am not a woman. These comments bothered me plenty as a man, the constant embarrassment an actual girl hearing those remarks must actually feel is downright deplorable.
Women often feel too ashamed or scared by the ridicule they receive online, and many of them are perfectly qualified to be at the pro level. The disrespect and harassment they face daily, however, is holding them back and discouraging them from even trying to compete at the top level.
It’s much the same situation women face today in trying to be NFL refs or construction workers: many can easily do it, but they’re often mocked and ridiculed just for being women.
Yes men and women are physically different, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete and win at the top level. Look at the likes of Scarlett in Starcraft, Goddess in Siege, or Remi back in her days on Renegades in League.
Women are good enough to compete at the top level of esports with men, and while none may have qualified for this Fortnite World Cup, you’ll definitely see them there and elsewhere in esports in the months and years ahead.