I was asked “Do you think there should be female only tournaments?”
I tend to avoid discussions like these, the stigmas associated with special treatment for women are pretty unfavorable, but I felt in the mood to have a discussion. It is very clear that there are not professional female teams competing at the top level – which is probably what prompted this question.
So why should women get special consideration for leagues and tournaments? This isn’t a physical sport where size and muscle would make a difference, this is gaming. I think there are several issues to consider here. The most obvious comes down to the numbers. There is an incredibly small percentage of people with the potential to have the skill to perform at the highest of levels in anything. Of those people, not all of them have the temperament to play in a team or handle the pressure. Then of those people, you have to have the time to play and train constantly and be willing to give up everything for the chance of making it. This is the general truth for anything – we are not all equally suited to all career and talent paths, and we don’t all have the same abilities to change our lives to pursue a certain path (I know my mom promised me I could do whatever I wanted to do, but I am confident that my Olympic figure skating career is not going to happen).
This brings me to the second aspect of the numbers. Not only do you have to have the potential for skill and an iron will, you also need time. Olympians are not born overnight, they often start at a very young age. Brilliant scientists don’t suddenly one day stumble upon an amazing discovery, they have spent their lives seeking knowledge and constantly asking questions. People do not download their first game and become a professional player. Just like with school, sports, and life, experience matters. The younger we are, the more capable we are to learn and adapt. While I cannot speak to every single person’s childhood out there, I think it is acceptable to generalize here – young boys in the 90’s and early 2000’s were much more likely to be playing video games than young girls. If I didn’t have older brothers, I wouldn’t have been gaming. My friends and I played with barbies, we dressed up like princesses, we raided our mom’s makeup supply and became beauty queens. The guys had gameboys and pretended to shoot each other in massive intergalactic battles. Boys and girls are usually raised differently, and boys were just more likely to be playing video games.
The last obstacle is actually forming a team and competing. If you are a high level female player you can either choose to form a team with other women, or joining a male team. Finding five high level women that all have the time to play competitively and have personalities that can work together would be pretty hard when you have so few to start with. The current scene has a hard enough time working with each other: imagine that with a significantly smaller pool. Joining a male team is possible, but is it likely to happen very often?This brings us back to the numbers. Not only is it likely that there are more male players, it is more likely that they are going to start off with an advantage. They trained gaming related reflexes and situational awareness in games from a younger age. So no, men don’t have an automatic advantage like they might in basketball, but they have a higher chance to have the capability to play at the highest level. It is likely that this decreases in the future as gaming becomes increasingly prevalent and everyone is playing.
Female only tournaments would alleviate several of these issues and eventually even up the odds. Competitive gaming requires dedication, opportunity, and experience. Players need reasonable goals to aspire to if they are even going to start trying. A high individual skill level is nothing if you don’t learn how to work with teammates in high pressure scenarios. Small tournaments that cater to female players would give women competitive experience and would be the first step for women to have a chance at player at the highest tier. Most importantly, this would actively recruit more female players as they see role models and opportunities.
This is in no way me advocating for female divisions of major tournaments. I do not think we should try to establish a separate female tier 1 scene. If you are capable of playing in a major, then you play in the major against everyone else. We don’t need to hit a quota of female players. But we should consider why there is not a single one.
Not everyone is equal. That is the koolaid your kindergarten teacher made you drink so you would play nice. People come from different backgrounds and they have different opportunities. If we want to see accurate representation of player demographics at the professional level, something needs to be done at the semi-professional level to foster the necessary growth.