Women in eSports Deal With Discrimination

By: James Grottola and Ricky Soberano

With black rimmed glasses and black professional gaming shirt, Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey posed with the rest of her five women team, all smiles at the Fragadelphia Counter-Strike tournament. Out of 14 teams, they were the only all-female one to compete.

Over 16,000 viewers streamed this event.

The male dominated gaming scene is a hard place for women.

In eSports, money is made in one of two ways: Streaming, in which the gamer live broadcasts themselves playing and people tune in online to watch; and tournaments, where players compete against each other for fame, bragging rights and cash.

“In order for a female to be really viewed as attractive to watch her stream, she has to look attractive,” Prapti Vayda, the event coordinator for the League of Legends club at Stony Brook University said. The club is nearly entirely male, Vayda said. With only 10 to 20 percent of the gamers being female.

The club’s Facebook group, League of Legends at Stony Brook University, has 1,069 members. About 160 members are female.

In streaming women need to look good or pander to their audience in order to get donations and subscribers, the main way that players make money.

A streamer who goes by “Kaceytron,” Vayda said, “makes ton of money by letting men call her a hoe or a slut.”. This particular streamer plays on the stereotypes of being an annoying “girl gamer,” where angry men who come to bash her in the live chat actually drive her view count up.

Nearly all of these streams are broadcast over a service called Twitch. It’s channels dedicated to League of Legends have at least 50,000 people watching various players streaming at all hours of the day.

“We’re an open platform for gamers and creatives all over the world. We strive to prevent harassment and actively moderate behavior on our site to prevent any person from feeling powerless,” Chase, the PR Director of Twitch who only goes by his first name, said. “We provide numerous moderation tools to broadcasters and their communities, as well as a 24/7 moderation team to preserve a positive experience.”

Layne Mapes, the League of Legends club’s vice president, has a different way of looking at sexism. She said that it was the factor of being anonymous on the internet that let people be openly sexist to female gamers, and in person, she found the sexism wasn’t a factor. All that matters is skill.

“There are always gonna be those people who abuse the anonymity of the Internet,” Mapes said. “While we’re trying to facilitate a better environment for women to get into, you’re always going to have people who believe these wacky things that may not even be true about us.”

“The most difficult thing that I think for people is when they’re either doing voice chat in multiplayer games or if they identify as a woman playing games on Twitter or social media,” Anne Deger, a Ph.D candidate in Cultural Studies and Video Game History Professor at Stony Brook University said. “The miserable aspects seem to pop up specifically when they play with strangers or in a public space. It’s strangers attacking strangers.”

“A lot people can use anonymity as a cloak I think. Because you’re using avatars, because you’re in a different world, it’s so removed from reality. It’s the anonymity that seems to drive that behavior,” Deger said.

Mapes said she never felt discriminated based on gender within the League of Legends club.

“I think what’s different about the college scene is that you’re able to meet the people you play online,” she said. “They’re not gonna say, ‘you’re great because you’re a guy’ or ‘you’re great because you’re a girl’. You’re great because you’re a great player.”

Alice Quiros, the former President of the Gamers Guild at Stony Brook University, credited the club as an example of nondiscrimination as she was supported during her presidency despite her gender. She also noted that personally she doesn’t get regularly harassed but when she does, others in the community help out.

“Occasionally online you’ll get an idiot or two but either someone tells them to shut up or they just go ignored,” said Quiros.

“We’re girls in a guy’s world right now. Once that equalizes, we won’t have as much of a problem,” Mapes said about the future of eSports.