Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

From the early female football pioneers to the female face of e-sports — Chapter 8

Posted on 12 March 2019 by Yuichiro Hiramitsu

This is the seventh in a multi-part series on women in sport.

Chapter 1 explored the early days of the Olympic movement, Chapter 2 grapples with the struggles of sexual identity, Chapter 3 looks at the influence of the media on gender views and Chapter 4 Part 1 and Part 2 discusses the sexualisation of women’s sport, Chapter 5 unpacks the unique obstacles facing female athletes in India, Chapter 6 examines women in parasport and Chapter 7 looks into women in men’s football.

Chapter 8: Esports — the new world for women

Whether or not you play video games, you’ll see them as often as sports, sooner or later. Esports, a form of competition using video games, is rapidly expanding its own territory right now.

The market is burgeoning as more and more as famous companies, namely Intel, Mercedes Benz and Coca-Cola, have tied sponsorship deals with big esports competitions.

So, when you hear video games, what kind of games pop up in your mind? There are eclectic video games, but the ones popular in the current esports world are as follows.

Counter Strike

League of Legends


Issues in Esports — a gender gap and “a general stigma in esports”

As it’s a relatively new industry, esports encapsulates some traditional issues. First and foremost, there is a huge gender gap. Global Web Index, a market research firm, shows that about 70% of the esports audience is male, and there are much more male players.

Alicia, a former professional female esports player, told the Sports Gazette: “In high school, I remember seeing a lot of guys become crazy when they knew a female player was on the game. I didn’t want to play with those who wanted to play with me only because I am female. So, I started to hide my gender on purpose.”

She still competes in some tournaments every now and then, but sadly admitted that there is a stigma about it.

“My big brother was a huge FIFA player, so my family was very supportive of me being an esports player, but now that I’m an adult, some people treat me like a child when I talk about video games. So, I just keep this for myself. People really don’t think it’s normal for a 27-year-old girl to play video games,” Alicia said.

People think this isn’t normal simply because a gaming career doesn’t have the same reputation as a programmer or footballer, for instance. Some argue that esports shouldn’t even be considered a sport.

An amateur female esports player, a participant in League of Legends competitions, told the Sports Gazette: “I do feel there is a general stigma around esports, probably because many people see gaming as just a hobby and esports as not ‘real sports.’

“If amateur esports players aren’t treated as a player as in other sports such as football or rugby, and considered just ‘a casual gamer,’ they might become naive and shy away from pursuing their career.”

Nonetheless, both of the female esports players haven’t had to confront any harassment or criticism in the competition arenas. “I’ve never been harassed. When a girl is playing, there are 12 guys standing behind her and watching the screen,” Alicia chuckled. “But it never bothered me, and everybody is very nice.”

Esports’ potential — prosper and to be able to revise the structure at an early stage

The esports industry has been increasing in size. Newzoo, a market research firm, shows that the industry’s revenue was $865m last year and predicts that it will get over $1bn this year, given the fact that revenue was $130m in 2012 and $325m even in 2015.

Embed from Getty Images

The industry has seen itself boom over the last five years. Besides, more and more people are watching esports lately — last year, around 400m people watched either amateur or professional esports tournaments at least once. Newzoo estimates that the figure will go up to around 650m by 2022.

Once the structure and history of anything is firmly established, it becomes extremely difficult to change it as our societies prove that we have to make a put in a considerable amount of efforts to achieve gender equality, for instance.

Although booming, the esports industry, however, hasn’t become standardised yet. Therefore, now is the very last chance to revise issues underlying the new world.

Featured photograph/Flickr/BagoGames