“Lets Get Em Boys” How the Exclusion of Women Is bad for eSports, gaming, and women

Its time to nerf sexism and balance the playing field.

Image courtesy of Thomas Flores (Marked for reuse)

Women face sexist stereotypes, exclusionary language, and harassment in eSport and gaming communities. It’s time to form eSports and gaming into a more inclusive space, not just because it’s better for the industry’s bottom line, but also because all gamers deserve to enjoy their favorite games, regardless of their gender.

eSports demographics are changing

As the eSports industry expands, it continues inviting new audiences to witness the greatest gamers in the world face off. Yet, despite the industry’s desire to grow, the eSports community has consistently ignored an important demographic of gamers: Women.

The gaming industry has always targeted men between the ages of 18–30, since its inception in the 1970’s. According to a 2015 report I wrote for the eSports marketing agency XP Interactive, the majority of eSports brands continues to target the male demographic today. There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing a target demographic, however there is a difference between targeting a demographic and engaging in exclusionary practices.

Women continue to join the community, only to be faced with unjustified backlash over their presence, simply because an entire industry decided that games are for boys, not girls (Coincidentally, something that is taught to children at a young age too… hmmm).

Women are a large portion of the eSports community

The fact is, there are many women in the eSports community who are consistently excluded through male specific pronouns and harassed through sexist speech used by both other fans in Twitch chat and by influencers who assume their entire community are men. The practice of excluding women silences their presence, and encourages a male centric community in which women are asked to remain on the fringes of the audience, or worse, to just leave.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Emarketer, women make up as much as 25% of eSports viewership, depending on the channel and eSport. A more recent study from Interpret indicates that women make up as high as 30% of viewers, as of 2018.

Image courtesy of Interpret

So this begs the question: why do major streamers and eSports organizations use statements like “let’s get ’em boys!” and “what’s up fellas?” when addressing their audiences on stream? Whether it be Muselk streaming fortnite, Hutch playing Call of Duty, or any number of other streamers who I could mention, the community as a whole seems to refuse to use gender inclusive language.

Its not just the streamers themselves that are excluding women, nor is this exclusion an isolated occurrence. According to a study that examined social media chats on Twitch, “Twitch is a conversational hotbed for gender stereotyping.” The creators themselves often utilize male specific pronouns, such as boys, fellas, and guys when addressing their audience, reinforcing the gendered expectations of the space. Even when playing with women, streamers and content creators often fail to acknowledge them (Take for instance, how Click will use the term “lets get em boys” even when Loserfruit, a female streamer, is in their squad!). This attitude exists throughout gaming cultures.

It’s time to stop.

The problem extends beyond stereotypes and gendered pronouns. Women are also subjected to higher levels of harassment than men. Anyone who has played Overwatch recently probably has stories when rape threats and sexist insults were dropped in the chat. The pervasive nature of gender hatred throughout the eSports community is not only obviously wrong, but is also excluding a large audience for no reason.

Women who play professionally also face extra backlash. Women who play at the top echelons of eSports are often accused of cheating, or have their skills and personality derided by male gamers. For example, in the early days of Overwatch, Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim boasted an impressive 80% win rate. But rather than gamers celebrating her accomplishments, she was subjected to a barrage of accusations of cheating.

She proved her legitimacy, but the assumption that she was cheating demonstrates the backlash that successful female gamers often face. According to an article published by the Guardian in 2017, which highlights interviews with female professional gamers, women face a variety of obstacles which they must overcome to gain credibility in eSports.

The article states that women in eSports face cyberbullying as a normative part of their career, alongside the daily objectification and sexism from the Twitch study. Many women who compete in eSports face a pay gap between their male counterparts as well, which makes it difficult to feel welcomes or included.

In a world where women make up nearly a third of the audience, there is no financial or logical reason why the industry should target only men. Not only is it bad business practice, it’s also bad people practice.

Conclusion

It’s time to reexamine our assumptions about games and eSports demographics, and recognize that women are legitimate competitors and audience members. Being a more inclusive community is better for the game, better for eSports, and better for female gamers.

For the eSports marketers, include women in your marketing materials and your language. For the teams, consider hiring more women players and pay them equally to the men. For the Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators, use gender inclusive language and provide a welcoming environment for all of the folks in your chat.

Women belong in eSports just as much as any man, and its time to nerf sexism and balance the playing field.

Interested in argumentation, critical theory, and resisting biopolitical organizations of power. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication They/He

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