Last week was the annual Games Developer Conference. GDC consists of various talks from all walks of life in game development including programming and art, and for the first time, it included a track on eSports. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard there would be an eSports track and made sure to clear my GDC schedule to spend most of the day at the Summit. I was extremely pleased to see that, amidst the talks about League of Legends design and game balancing, the Summit also included a talk titled “Growing the Participation of Women in eSports,” moderated by Lil Chen, a semi-retired Super Smash Bros. Melee player. The rest of the panel included Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico, an eSports host and Frag Doll; Heather “SapphiRe” Mumm, a competitive CSGO player and Managing Editor and journalist at ESEA; and Kim Phan, Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard.
The panelists touched on many issues facing the lack of women in eSports, issues that are present in all aspects of gaming, but seem to be hyper displayed in the traditionally masculine world of sports. All the panelists touched on being the “token” female player in games, and that there’s a lot of pressure to live up to expectations; that, if you lose, you’re not only letting down your team, but you’re letting down women, too.
“This is what I always experience as a female player—not only do I have to play amazingly, I have to care about how I look, I have to make sure I’m friendly enough but not too friendly, all these little factors weigh in and they stop me from the best competitive player I can be,” said Rachel Quirico. Heather Mumm brought up the depressing reality that if her team lost in a competition, the loss was blamed on her for being a woman, but if her team won, it was only because the rest of her team carried her.