By Juan Calvillo
Female gamers interested in video games should be encouraged and their talents fostered as much as male gamers when it comes to esports and gaming.
Women in gaming, much like women in many other professions, are given a hard time with things ranging from sexism to outright harassment.
This not only needs to stop but, efforts need to be made to be more inclusive of all sexes in all forms of gaming.
One example of this in gaming and esports was reported on Associated Press in March focusing on the disparity between men and women getting esports scholarships across various colleges.
The article explained that their survey into colleges was a smaller sampling that had challenges. Despite that caveat, the evidence is still damning.
Within one simple article two very interesting and sad truths are made clear. First women make up only a small sliver of collegiate players. Men take about 90% of the spots on teams that were surveyed. Second women are not given enough incentive, through scholarships, to want to become members of any collegiate teams to begin with.
When it comes to how these scholarships are divided up, 88.5% of scholarships go to men. Looking at these two separately is important because from one perspective, one influences the other.
On the first point the obvious question to answer is why aren’t there more women in esports, and fortunately the answer has been documented all over social and traditional media. Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and many other social media outlets have videos and text filled stories of the blatant toxicity and hate that is leveled to female gamers.
Men and boys, often the culprits of these rants, go off criticizing and taunting female gamers by using slurs, hate speech and outdated mentality.
Barbara Dunsheath, chair of the women/gender studies program at East Los Angeles College, said society as a whole has an unconscious bias when it comes to gender. She said toy stores are a great example of companies making toys that are meant for just boys and those meant for just girls.
“They don’t label [toys] boys and girls. But the type of toys that are manufactured and marketed and sold and distributed and therefore tend to be played with are very, very different. From the beginning day that those little babies are brought home, they are either put in a pink blanket or blue blanket. So that’s society imposing its ideas onto these babies and children,” Dunsheath said.
This unconscious bias has seeped into esports and gaming in general. AP’s article talks about the male-dominated and more traditional games that are involved in esports, such as “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty.” These games are marketed to males almost exclusively. “Call of Duty” pushes the male ego entirely front and center, using “kills” and “domination” as ways of marketing the product.
When a gamer gets outplayed by anyone they tend to get angry. This leads to toxic reactions, but these reactions are so much more toxic when it comes to female gamers. This is why more women are needed in gaming. Johnny Phung, online multimedia specialist at Los Angeles Mission College and adviser for the college’s esports team, said the type of rhetoric that women get online is truly toxic.
“It’s very toxic for girls when they play, especially when they play with random people. They just get a lot of trash talking to them. So it’s very disappointing and concerning for any person,” Phung said.
Ego is another thing that breeds toxicity. Phung said the ego on some male players becomes an issue when they are not even able to see how badly they played, almost to the point of not accepting constructive criticism. He said women online and on streams had different ways of doing things.
“A lot of them are really understanding and saying, ‘Okay I need to work on this,’ and they do. And I like to see that,” Phung said.
He said that a lot of female gamers are also self deprecating saying they are not really good at games. Phung said he consistently backs those players with positive reinforcement. He said given the same play time women can be just as amazing as any other player.
This positive reinforcement is key to building up female players and making them essential building blocks of not only future competitive teams, but just gamers that have the will to keep playing. Doing away with the negative comments is one way to make female players feel more accepted into the gaming community.
The second point concerns the idea that colleges have yet to think of a proper way to inspire women to join collegiate esports teams. Normally scholarships would help female students take the chance of going out for a team. But the scholarship situation being is dismal. Dunsheath said colleges need to be careful with scholarships and sports. From the Department of Labor’s website, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Dunsheath said if any school were to say that one gender would get more than another it would become a legally actionable instance. She said scholarships for esports would need to be made based on criteria that is not contingent on gender.
The AP article said some schools don’t have their esports programs as part of their sports departments. The article also pointed out that there is no current governing body that presides over esports at a collegiate level. Phung said there is a need for more organized play in the collegiate sense. He said the California Community College Athletic Association is creating a solution that he believes will not only create a better atmosphere to play in and one that would encourage better collegiate interactions. The CCCAA is the group that governs community college sports in California.
“There’s a committee that’s trying to formalize legislation to make esports an actual sport. And they want to either get it up and running or become an actual sport in Fall of 2022. Or they are going to try and submit the legislation…in Fall 2022. So that’s on the horizon. So that’s a step towards having an organization to manage esports,” Phung said.
This solution, like the National Collegiate Athletic Association for college level sports, could be enough to create trust with prospective female esports athletes.
Phung said with the creation of this governing body comes money and backing to start esports teams and that it would build up confidence for females to take a chance and play.
Phung said he would like to see three types of leagues set up. The three leagues would be all male, all female and mixed league.
This is what needs to be done to increase the faith female gamers, esports enthusiasts and esports players have in the gaming community. Athena40.org said female gamers make up 45% of total gamers. On their website Athena40 is a “platform for parallel activities that promote women’s voices and participation in decision-making positions worldwide.”
Knowing that such a huge percent of overall gamers are female, it would be silly for colleges, development and publishing companies and the other 55% of gamers not to try and prop up women in the gaming space. As a gamer, it is understood that the reason for playing video games is to have fun and lose yourself in a new adventure. The next adventure could be as simple as being accepting and understanding.