This February, The Fintech Times is taking a deep dive into the world of gametech. Grab your headsets and controllers and plug in to hear about the latest tech and celebrities influencing the market to the development of eSports and much more.
Despite nearly half of the world’s gamers being female, with many successful women influencers and players, very few are making it in the competitive world of eSports. While this is getting better as time goes on, with more women appearing in every facet of the industry, there is still room for improvement. Here we speak to some of the industry’s finest to find out what should be done to help encourage more gender diversification in eSports.
The Covid Effect
Samina Seth, co-founder of Walee, thinks that it’s the perfect time to increase representation.
“eSports was given an exceptional push during COVID days with homebound newbies testing opportunities, she said. “Combined with the diversity on many organisations’ agendas, now is a great time to push the female participation narrative.
“My view is to take a holistic community approach and build infrastructure and programs to cover a typical sales funnel – awareness, engagement, conversion. The endpoint is growing female eSports participation ratios by at least 10% at mixed tournaments and equalising pay as top female talent earn less than 50% of counterparts Apart from institutionalising eSports as a career option, the key for an inclusive ecosystem is to involve all participants, from sponsors, players, recruiters, teams and leagues, to provide opportunities to learn, earn and thrive.
“Community – female eSport influencers can encourage female fanbases to join and participate in regional/global female communities to nurture their interest by educating on experiences, opportunities, and practical pathways to be a pro-gamer.
“Connections – based on interest and skills, qualified fans can apply for purpose-built programs, whether in academies or incubators, where coaches help graduates earn certifications and succeed – added to global program rosters, ready-for-recruitment. Concurrently, graduates can build a social presence that can be monetised as their popularity grows and use platforms like Walee as a side income.
“Conversions – host all-female sponsored tournaments and leagues to debut and showcase talent with teams and organisations looking to diversify their rosters and are prepared to stage them in big games.
“We know change is slow, especially for a mindset and industry change – can females earn a fair wage? As the gig economy is in full swing thanks to the acceleration of work-from-home options supported by improved internet connectivity, speed, and access, it may not be too long to establish a strong female eSports presence.”
Shaping the space
Bradley Beal, Event Manager at BADASS Studios and founder of BADASS University All-Stars believes the current ecosystem should be made more accommodating for women.
He said: “I don’t feel like incentivising women with anything more than what is already available is the goal in mind. Specific goals should be made for editing and shaping the pre-existing space to become more accommodating.
“Whether this be through leagues/orgs/companies having rulesets around how you treat everyone as individuals, or whether you have specified and created environments like leagues where it is ONLY women to get them used to the competitive space to then move into mixed-gender leagues.
“I think eSports has come a long way, especially when it comes to the gender imbalance, although abuse is still common, eSports and teams have come far away from “women-only” teams at a tier 1 level. The best example of failure was a CSGO T1 team that was made of purely women and was a publicity stunt gone wrong considering they never won a single match at a T1 level. Success stories can be found more at a more community and national level, within Rainbow6 we have specific leagues with large prize pools for people and defining themselves as a “safe space” for those who wish to compete in a constructive atmosphere and free from any kind of abuse from other players.”
Roger Caramanica, PhD. Programme Chair, Gaming & eSports Management Post University agrees and believes its all about the opportunities present to female gamers.
He said: “The beauty of eSports is that it’s a sport that has a level playing field for everyone regardless of their specific demographics. I don’t think we need to incentivise women to take up eSports, but rather we need to build better opportunities for those who are already playing. There are plenty of female gamers who play recreationally, but their numbers dwindle among the competitive ranks. Historically, the opportunities were not there for women to reach this level. We need to make competitive play a safe space and a more welcoming environment, providing women players with a path to success.
“One of the best ways to do that is by offering role models in all phases of the ecosystem, from competitive play to leadership positions. Post University is proud to partner with thegameHERS, an online community dedicated to empowering female gamers. With thegameHERS we’ve developed a successful mentoring program. Our female gamers partner with successful women gamers and then pay it forward by serving as mentors to younger female players.”
Issues with inclusion
Christian Konczal, Director of eSports at Champlain College said: “We know that the gaming industry at large has issues with inclusion and the competitive eSports sector is no different, and here at Champlain College we view it as our responsibility to help change that.
“Unfortunately the answer isn’t a simple one; there are an incredible number of variables, examples, and theories on how to promote the diversification of eSport enthusiasts and participants. One of the most significant elements pretty much everyone who has participated in multiplayer gaming has experienced is the pervasiveness of toxicity. Any differentiator a player exhibits is an opportunity for their opponent to exploit through harassment, with the end goal of disrupting their focus and their gameplay.
“Anonymity allows people to exhibit a level of vitriol most would feel uncomfortable associating with their image, something everyone who has ever visited a comment section has witnessed. As a direct result of this intersection, I would say that the majority of the women I have interacted with in this capacity play with their mics turned off, and in some cases even using voice-changers to hide their identity. This is a huge barrier of entry for the marginalised, and while attempts have been made to help rectify this issue by game developers, (limiting player interaction to emotes, player reporting options, blocking text for banned terms, etc.), it is still a basic element of online gaming that everyone confronts at one point or another.
“To incentivise inclusion we in the competitive scene need to be proactive and deliberate with the behaviour tolerated from our participants, which is one reason I am very glad the collegiate eSports industry is growing so rapidly. We have the opportunity to create a walled garden, since participation at this level removes the anonymous component of digital competition it becomes an opportunity to define the culture of that environment. Institutional teams, club teams, and the leagues they participate in can dictate who is, and is not, a representative of eSports. And while our efforts may only have a limited impact on the culture around casual online play, we can make these values a priority that promotes normalising better sportsmanship overall.”
Things aren’t all bad when it comes to women in eSports, for example, Hailey Aeppli, Freshman at Post University and Eagles eSports Team member said: “Committing to a seemingly male-dominated video game on a team of all-male players has been motivating, as they have never discouraged me from being myself. I do my best to encourage every female I know to step out of their comfort zone and try new things and am always there to support and guide them however I can along the way. On occasion I might tell someone that I am a competitive collegiate gamer with the tag of RandomEevee, and their face might light up as they reply, “Really? You’re an actual competitive gamer? Like, you guys battle other colleges??” and I’ll just smile and say, “Yes, exactly! You should try really getting into gaming sometime, too, it’s an incredible experience.”
“I like to try to inspire people to not just follow in my footsteps but to forge their own path, reach for their goals and maybe even discover a new passion.”
Mehwish Aslam, the chief business officer of bSecure, a fintech ecosystem focused on reducing abandoned cart rates and product returns, said:
“Pakistan is now coming forward with a women-centric eSports tournament called HER Galaxy. The rise of such a big platform only proves that the female gaming audience is not only big but steadily growing. The largest advertisers such as PepsiCo and Telenor are also taking this opportunity to own another passion point by introducing gaming as a part of their brand identity. Some steps advertisers and eSports platforms can take to expedite the adoption of eSports among women while ensuring equality of prize money, safe and comfortable gaming environment, proper dissemination of knowledge of gaming and technology, and lastly a consistent and world-recognized platform to enable women eSport.”
Finally, Josh Hafkin, CEO of Game Gym believes things are different in the industry.
“In the past, women weren’t encouraged to play games or enter the tech fields,” he said. “Now, things are different and we are seeing an increased effort to reach out to and support women in the gaming space. There are amazing advancement programs, all-female eSports teams, and male and female executives who understand the value of equality, working on initiatives to create a more diverse ecosystem. However, it will take time to see the results of these efforts.”