Pro League of Legends players in North America and Europe were asked about pay, drugs, living in a team house, and the reservations of female teammates in a survey released by ESPN. 27 percent of the 33 players that were surveyed said they would have reservations.
“If a female was to join my team, she would have to prove that she was worth it more than a guy [in the same role],”one anonymously named player said. Comments like these are what women fight against in the corporate world. Comments that prove the inequality of men and women in the workplace by illustrating that a female co-worker must prove that she is better than her male counterpart to be hired.
This survey not only showed the complications of this new technology based workplace with drugs, relationships and teenagers living in mansions, but the underlying problem of female representation not only in eSports, but the gaming culture.
Since the MOBA’s release in 2009 and its Season 1 Champion in 2011, there has been one female, transgendered pro player, Maria “Remi” Creveling, out of the hundreds of male pros. In Korea and China, there are also all female professional teams that play amongst other female pros.
Although this market of all female teams does bring awareness to the female talent in gaming but, it excludes these girls from playing with the regular teams, and their teams being titled “Incredible Miracle Athena,” rather than the regular “Incredible Miracle.”
The lack of representation of women in not only in League of Legends, but most games and even development companies is a bit puzzling. Out of the 67 million people who played League every month in 2014, over 90 percent of those players are male, and less than 10 percent are female.
That means each game you have one out of 10 chance to play with a girl. And there are .02 percent of players in Challenger (the tier to compete for a professional position), so there are .002 percent of female players in Challenger.
The question of female representation in League and other eSports related games still remains. A recent study by the Pew Center shows that men and women are equally likely to say they play video games, but men are twice as likely to consider themselves gamers. Women and men are playing an equal amount, but the stereotype of gamers welcomes men rather than women.
The growing population of female gamers is even apparent in console and PC sales, and even in participation in eSports. In the United States, twice as many adult women play video games as boys, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Games on cellphones, and Facebook have encouraged gaming hobbies in women, but according to the Washington Post, the average female gamer has played video games for over 13 years.
In a study over demographics in technology ownership, 42 percent of women said they owned either an Xbox or PlayStation, while 37 percent of men said to have their own consoles.
Female fans in the eSports industry has boomed as well, showing a discrepancy between the 30 percent of female fans are female vs. 48 percent of all gamers who are fans, according to Newzoo.
Although the number of female gamers is skyrocketing, why is there not more representation for the gender in pro play and even in the gaming culture (characters, advertisements, etc.)? Perhaps it is the fact that more women play console games, and are thus less likely to play competitively on PC’s, or maybe it is how women are treated within the gaming community.
It is already known that in the corporate world women are paid less than men. Unfortunately, it is the same for eSports players. According to BBC, at the Paris eSport World convention, the cash prize for the mixed competition was $75,00, while the women-only competition was $15,000.
The top earning male player, Saahil “UNIVeRsE” Arora, who plays Dota 2, makes over $2,700,000, while the top earning female player, Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, who plays StarCraft II makes less than $200,000. Even the top earning male player for StarCraft II, Jang “MC” Min Chul makes over $500,000.
Let’s look back at League; the top-earning player is Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok who makes around $900,000, while the top earning female League player is Maria “Remi” Creveling who makes $6,000.
We can even compare female pro League players vs. male pros, same position, and same tier team, for example take Wu “Baby Hyuna” Hyeon An, who is the AD carry for Incredible Miracle’s female team who makes $3,000 and Kim “PraY” Jong In, who is the AD carry for Incredible Miracle, which has been renamed into Longzhu Gaming, who makes $250,000.
The discrepancy of pay between genders in the industry may cause the lack of female pro player. Another reason may be the way women are treated by other male players in the gaming community by being outcast and threatened.
Steph “missharvey” Harvey, a pro Counter Strike: Global Offensive player, tells BBC that the population of women in eSports is as low as 5% and the main reason is the stereotype of gamers. She goes onto say, “It’s still a ‘boy’s club’ so as a woman you’re automatically judged for being different.”
Although the demographic for gamers is shifting towards majority female, developers, sponsors and owners still construct the community and industry for males. Harvey says that is because the industry of game development is “dominated by men” and although eSports is not a necessarily physical activity, “they focus on spacial awareness and reflexes, skill often stronger for men.”
Super Smash Bros. Melee player Lilian Chen discussed issues with the stereotype of gamers as exclusively men and told Polygon “It is fairly obvious in American society at least that men are more often encouraged to pursue hobbies in gaming, coding, and other interests that are typically labeled as masculine.”
She went onto discuss the issues with sexism within the industry, “While these problems do exist outside of the gaming industry, the gaming world seems to have a particularly bad reputation regarding sexism and misogyny.”
This sexism is displayed not only through pay, and the excluding gaming stereotype, but also comments and threats made to women within the industry. Harvey went onto to tell BBC about the threats she receives saying “The way I get harassed is about what they would do to my body, about why I don’t deserve to be there because I use my sexuality – it’s all extremely graphic.”
Harvey also told IQ regarding threats within the industry that “A girl must have really thick skin to handle all the hate and not get emotional about it.”
A study, released from Kasumovic and Kuznekoff, concerning sexual and physical threats against women by male gamers shows “that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly,” while higher-skilled players were “more positive towards a female relative to a male teammate.”
The study went onto show that “As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank.”
Despite the discrimination towards women in the industry through pay, threats and lack of representation of women, sponsors like Coke are increasing the stereotype of gamers as only boys and are decreasing the representation of talent in women players.
In “Where are the women in eSports?” Polygon stated, “the low numbers of professional gaming women is in part a result of marketing strategies aimed to encourage a much more specific demographic: ‘men between the ages of 21 and 34,” according to a study from SuperData Research.
Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s head of global gaming, said to Polygon, “when you start to layer on a gender and certain age split that we’re very interested in as a consumer packaged good company” then your viewership becomes more limited in what demographic it can offer to marketing companies.
Many sponsors believe this shift in the focus demographic would be a waste. ESL programming director Michal “Carmac” Blicharz tells Polygon: “We are not focused on expanding our demographic beyond who we currently reach because our core audience is growing every year.”
Although there are factors hindering an increase in the population of female players in the gaming industry and community, they are welcoming male players and sponsors.
An anonymous quote from one of the League players in the survey stated “No, if they’re good enough, they’re good enough. I don’t think there is anything about a girl that I’d be hesitant to include in my team,” and 73 percent of the 33 players asked would have no reservations with a female player.
This survey still showed a small percentage of the gaming community still has problems with female pro players and the inclusion of girls into the industry.
“The competitive gaming industry has already shown such an accelerated growth rate.”
Chen went on, “Just imagine what could happen if more women began participating.” What I am trying to point out is that the gaming industry is missing out on a colossal amount of potential talent and engagement by not taking this issue seriously.”
The ESPN survey showed not only the average pay of players but also the underlying issues of gender discrimination in the gamming industry. For decades women have fought and are still fighting for equal pay in the corporate world. Although eSports is a young industry, it shows that, if even this business suffers from discrimination, we still have a long way to go.