eSports has been engaged in a constant struggle for legitimacy over the past few years, and one of its governing bodies, the International eSports Federation, has taken an interesting route in earning respect for their competitions.
Here's the deal: the IeSF has regularly separated their eSports tournaments by gender for years. Their reasoning boils down to two points: the promotion of female players, and the desire to follow the standards of international competition across all sports.
On their first point, the company is essentially stating that they want to put a spotlight on female players in what is typically a male-dominated competition. An all-female league offers a less intimidating and seemingly exclusionary league for prospective female players.
The second point is the most troubling. The IeSF is making a distinction based on the rules of other sports leagues around the world. However, the distinctions of these sports leagues are typically based on physical differences and limitations between the sexes. With gaming, the obvious question is on everyone's mind: What could possibly distinguish a male player from a female player in a video or card game?
These issues came to a head recently when the organization was criticized for their oversight of a male-only Hearthstone tournament in Finland. When a female gamer tried to enroll in the male-only tournament, she was soundly rejected. There was no female-only counterpart for women to play in.
Speaking on the issue, the tournament's organizer Markus Koskivirta said that these boundaries were instituted "to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things." His statement implies that it is unacceptable for a female player to defeat a male player in competition. Understandably, more than a few gamers were pissed off about his assessment of the situation.
The IeSF has posted various responses to the outcry detailing their reasoning for the separate leagues. Their latest statement said, "Our top priority is to promote e-Sports in the best ways we can. We believe that listening is important, are we're now collecting your opinions from the social media, and we will update soon."
This conflict has a simple solution: allow female gamers to play with men. Will the Federation respond accordingly?
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