Miia Siutila’s and Ellinoora Havaste’s article A pure meritocracy blind to identity: Exploring the Online Responses to All-Female Esports Teams in Reddit shines a light on the online gaming community’s perception of the relation of gender and esports. The article was published in July 2018 in Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association.
The authors studied comments on two Reddit posts, which were links to news concerning the announcements of all-female teams in League of Legends (LoL) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Each was posted on their respective subreddits: r/leagueoflegends and r/GlobalOffensive. Both teams were founded by Team YP, the esports branch of the pornography site YouPorn, in November 2015 and June 2016.
Both comment sections indicated that esports is and should be purely meritocratic, meaning that the only relevant thing should be the player’s skill. This was contrasted with the lack of female players in major tournaments, even though the number of casual female players was on the rise. Inherent differences in biology or other traits between genders weren’t agreed upon as the reason for the skill-gap. The comments also pondered on the idea that professional female players and female players, in general, get special treatment because of their gender. In conclusion, all-female teams were seen to cheat or ever danger the supposed meritocratic esports because of this special treatment.
The solutions proposed for professional female players were quite uniform. Hiding one’s gender was seen as a way to combat the special treatment and harassment, even if it hindered the use of aspects of the game such as voice communication. Some comments suggested that if women revealed their gender while playing, they had some kind of ulterior motives such as publicity. Because all-female teams weren’t seen as viable options, female esports players were encouraged to play in mixed teams or solo.
The article found that jokes, and especially sexual ones made up a large proportion of the comment sections. Blatant sexism was shunned with downvotes, but casual sexism was much more tolerated. Commenters also poked fun at previous failed attempts to establish all-female esports teams. A few self-proclaimed women talked about their own experiences with gaming and gender. Their stories were largely those of resentment towards “gamer girls” who used their gender for personal gain.
A discussion of the motives of the sponsor was limited but present. Some were worried about the reputation of female gaming being harmed. Others pointed out that YouPorn was likely sponsoring the teams only for quick publicity. Neither teams could compete in the more prominent leagues because of the indecent nature of their sponsor, even though they weren’t aiming to do so.
The authors conclude on remarks that negative stereotypes concerning female players can affect the participation of women in gaming.
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