Intel and ESL are pushing for diversity in eSports

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gamer

Diversity in eSports has always been a hot topic. Why don’t more girls play games? Why is there a stereotype surrounding girl gamers? And most importantly, why do male games behave the way they do when it comes to girl gamers? These questions are slowly becoming a thing of the past as more and more female professional gamers are springing up around the world.

Last year South African Counte-Strike player Sharon “ShazZ” Waison joined Team Karma and competed at the Copenhagen Games. Sharon grew up in the burst of competitive eSports in South Africa competing at the highest level against all her male friends. After being at the receiving end of a few thrashings myself, I can honestly admit Sharon is one South Africa’s top CS:GO players, and she’s a female.

Team Karma
Team Karma at ESWC (Sharon “ShazZ” Waison in the center)

This weekend top CS:GO teams from around the world are heading to Katowice, Poland for the Intel Extreme Masters but that’s not all there is going in Katowice. Today ESL and IEM announced a new initiative called AnyKey which aims to draw attention to underrepresented minorities in gaming, namely the LGBTQ(+) community in gaming, and people of colour.

The initiative is run by Jesse Sell, senior manager of pro gaming, business and strategy at ESL, and this will all be on display at IEM Katowice. In a statement to Fortune, Sell had the following to say about this new initiative:

“We’re looking to broach a subject that most shy away from. It’s a daunting road that lies ahead, but we have a fantastic team on board and we’re confident we can make a difference.”

The AnyKey initiative is separated into two teams, one focusing on research and the other on implementation. Research into this disparity of diversion in gaming has been a hot topic for many years. The implementation of such programs, including gaming minorities, has slowly but surely begun to take shape over the past few years. Female teams have taken part in various tournaments across the world from ESWC to Copenhagen Games, and this weekend the Intel Challenge will once again include a female only tournament.

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IEM Katowice

The aim behind the two teams is to work hand-in-hand as the research team, headed by M.I.T professor T.L Taylor, will offer insight to the implementation team, headed Morgan Ronnie of Ubisoft’s female gaming team Frag Dolls, who will then put the research into a more practical form and increase the involvement of minorities in gaming.

This new initiative will include a new feature at IEM  Katowice, the AnyKey Lounge. The Lounge will act as an information point for “conversation, information exchange, and networking,” according to Fortune. The official AnyKey Code of Conduct will be revealed for the first time and gaming organizations and hosts will get their first look at this revolutionary drive for diversion in eSports.

As it currently stands, research by Newzoo shows that 131 million people reside in eSports globally, from players to general enthusiasts. Stephanie Llamas, from SuperData Research, confirmed that the United States viewership shows that 27% are women, while 73% are males. The initiative hopes to prove that female only tournaments might swing the current disparity in favour of a more even viewership among the genders.

Women-only tournaments

There has often been a debate on whether women and en will always attend separate competitions, with the current growth in eSports. If this initiative does close the gap in the current market, could we possibly see mixed-gender tournaments in the future? That is an extremely broad question and the simple answer is “maybe.”

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Unlike conventional sports, eSports offers almost no physical advantage for male gamers, and can go further into some physical aspects such as reaction time and motor skills. We can debate this for hours but I’ve always maintained that the main reason why we see so few women gamers is because of a cultural difference. Gaming has always been seen as a “male cultural” past time. Men play games, that is how we’ve always seen it. But that is a horribly incorrect stereotype. Perhaps in the past it was seen as “un-woman like” to play games, but again we cannot make that excuse for much longer.

This is a great initiative and I’d love to see South Africa also take part and push for a few tournaments for women first, instead of integration – just until we reach that stage that it is no longer seen as “men only” pasttime.

Last Updated: March 1, 2016

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit’s esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere – but my work here is independent of that.

  • Commander Admiral Chief

    UGH, ffs, this irks me.

    Who gives a rats ass? I don’t care if it is a woman/man/child/pink/yellow/purple/brown/white person.

    If he/she is a damn fine gamer, then that is all that matters to me. If he/she is part of a team consisting of a man and woman a chihuahua and a mentally unstable manchild who still watches WWE and the team does extremely well, then that is all that matters.

    Representation, bah, a true eSports person craves not these things.

    MERIT and SKILL and CHARACTER outweighs race and gender by a factor of 9000.

    It is a pity that these fine people are being treated differently as they should

    #MandatoryHashtagAtEndOfRant

    • BakedBagel

      Bruh comment of the month.

      Yeah its the 1st of the month but fuck it.

    • GooseZA

      “a mentally unstable manchild who still watches WWE”

      Darryn?

  • Frik van der Hewerskink

    Could everyone just calm down with all this gender/sex bullshit, Seriously, Just make tournaments that have no race, gender, sex, or what have you restrictions. This is getting stupid. Like with the LCS in League of Legends, They couldn’t give a rats ass what or who you are, If you have the skills then go prove it.

    • Commander Admiral Chief

      LOL we posted almost the exact same thing (rats ass and annoyance) at the exact same time.

      I salute thee Frik

  • Darren Peach

    E sport….Whats that ? Something that only happens in the overseas ?

  • konfab

    Give everyone a gender-neutral pseudonym and make them talk through a Darth Vader voice changer.

    Problem = Solved

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Good. I’d be interested to see what their research comes up with.

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    When the colour of your skin/gender determines if you qualify for competing in anything, whether it be strip down to your bikini and flaunt your calloused elbows or driving a car at high speeds or being the biggest crybaby in a crowd, then it is no longer a competition with regards to fair competing standards, needless to say, if you cannot perform the required duties of said sport, you’re not supposed to be there… Which brings me to my next point, if you are a person that is assigned to a team simply because of your gender or skin colour, would you feel guilty if you knew you held your team back? I honestly don’t give a dingleberry when it comes to what race or gender you’re from, if you perform, you should be rewarded…

  • BakedBagel

    Kyle please can you elaborate on how male gamers treat female gamers?

    • Girl joins coms – “OMFG ITS A GIRL!!!11!!”
      Girl streams – chat spamming “show us your tits”
      Girl posts on fb – guys go mad, white knights arrive.

      If you want physical evidence I will dig deeper.

      Perhaps “guys” was a bit of generalization, but ask any girl gamer if they’re treated as equals.

      • HouwGobz

        I can’t believe I’m saying this in my lifetime, but I can dig up a few people other than myself who can offer evidence to help Kyle’s point here too 😉

        Of course, many women will come out and say they’ve never had a problem and the women who do complain need to “grow some balls” and just laugh everything off. They’re right to a certain degree, depending on if at any point they get treated like humans amidst the so-called-jokes. Sandwiches – they’re hilarious.

        • Hey look at us building bridges! 😛

      • BakedBagel

        Clearly you know exactly what goes on.

        What a kek answer that was. So because you have seen this, it must ring true.

        I just asked 3 girl gamers if they are treated as equals… guess what. They actually dont care, They just want to play games m8.

        Should lay off that kool-aid.

        • I said it was a generalization, if you have never seen or heard of the female gaming stereotype then I do apologize. I won’t sit here and pretend like it doesn’t exist.

          Anyway, I’m no white night so really I’m not concerned with it either, but reading other comments it’s quite clear that I’m not alone in making that generalization. We’re all just gamers yo.

      • Darren Peach

        In my experience, The times I have played against the fairer sex in COD, They normally kick my ass……

  • HouwGobz

    So here’s the thing, as someone else with experience, who was called sexist because I refused to leave my clan to join an all female team…it’s a bullshit attitude but it’s not going anywhere. The guys have certain attitudes but the main problem is because some women wholeheartedly believe it, because of reasons like not as many women being raised as gamers and they still need to catch up and all that absolute tosh. If it’s because you want to make a team with your friends and that’s it, awesome, go for it, but if you seriously believe you need to be in an all-girls team because you’re not as good or can’t be as good at a video game…A whole bunch of them need to be slapped in the face with the ashes of the bras their grandmothers burned.

    • Your case speaks volumes for a lot of professional female gamers in South Africa. Unfortunately the market just isn’t there for all female teams in SA. Globally you can round up a group of professional female gamers and be “above average” even when competing against male teams. Take Team Karma for example who practiced against Energy prior to ESWC and did considerably well.

      ShazZ grew up among the male CS:GO players, and competed at the highest level in South Africa for both CS:GO and Battlefield. I’m sure she has declined local offers to start an all female team in her time because really there just aren’t enough “good” female gamers.

      Another case would be Julia “BiSH” Robson who played competitive Call of Duty 4 and CS:GO who also declined to join an all female team and continues to compete in South Africa’s rather diverse playing field.

      I think South Africa, particularly, is in a great position at the moment. We’re still growing as a community and this leaves ample room for younger females to be integrated into major teams and tournaments. The above mentioned gamers (and yourself included) are judged on your talent, not your gender.

  • Lephys

    “These questions are slowly becoming a thing of the past as more and more female professional gamers are springing up around the world.”

    There’s your answer right there. Why is it a big deal to a loud 2% of the male gaming populous that girls play games? Because it’s going to be until enough girls just get out there and play games and ignore people who are going to be A-holes no matter what, until it’s not even fun to be an A-hole anymore because no one’s paying attention.

    The perpetuation of the stereotype via media drama is far worse than anything any dude and his bros sitting in their living room and chat-playing on Xbox Live could ever possibly do.

    News flash: the people who rag on girls are generally the same type of people who BS-talk nonstop to anyone else they play with. Just because I’m male and I get into a game with these people and am not muting them for telling me to send them nude pics doesn’t mean I’m not muting those same people for still being dicks. It’s not like they just go “Oh, you’re not female? It’s totally cool. We’re gonna sip tea now, with our pinkie’s extended and everything. ^_^”

    You’re female and you wanna play games? Go play games. I know you shouldn’t have to, but weed through the morons and find the OODLES of people who don’t give a crap that you’re female, and just wanna enjoy games with you, and THAT’S how you stick it to anyone who’s gonna make a big deal about your gender. Ignore ’em, and keep on enjoying your games, in spite of their existence. Pretty soon, they’ll be asking themselves “Why even bother?”

  • Lephys

    Also, I’m sick of people stupidly observing how “male gamers” treat female gamers. As if A) there aren’t annoying/crappy people playing games who happen to be female, and B) a bunch of females are going to be chauvinists. “LOLZ! Look at you, having my gender! I’m gonna make fun of you for being identical to me!” Who the hell ELSE do you think is going to be a potential harasser of females? Geez… That’s like expressly pointing out that the way HUMANS treat other humans is really terrible, but not anteaters. Anteaters don’t try to do spiteful things to humans. Man, there must be something wrong with the group designated as “humans.”

    There’s nothing wrong with male gamers. There’s something wrong with crappy people. It works just like rights do. Doesn’t matter what color their skin is, or where they’re from, or any of that. Any individual COULD be a crappy, crappy human being. And if they are, then they are, because of their own choices and actions, and they should be treated like a 1-year-old until they decide to change.

    • Deceased

      “The majority of individuals ARE crappy, crappy human beings.”

      I fixed it for you, no charge 🙂

    • As stupid as the observation may be, it’s an important observation I feel.

  • Deceased

    Meh, don’t see why race or gender has anything to do with how good you perform ingame – but that’s none of my business

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