An upcoming Hearthstone tournament has announced that they will only be allowing male players to compete, according to a statement from the tournament’s webpage. The announcement posted by the Finnish Assembly states in black and what that “The participation is only open to Finnish male players.” Before you ready your pitchforks, know that this Finnish tournament is only a symptom of the larger problem.
In a statement given to PC Gamer, the admin of the Finnish Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) Qualifier explained that the exclusion was in line with the IeSF regulations. Because the Finnish tournament exists for players to qualify into the international tournament, and because that international tournament allows only men to compete, women have been excluded to avoid “possible conflicts.” If a female player were to beat a male player in the later rounds of the tournament, she would be unable to qualify for internationals and thus would make a mess of the whole thing.
The IeSF made a statement on their official Facebook page regarding the decision to separate the sexes in gaming tournaments. After announcing that the World Championship games would be divided into male and female competition, the IeSF commented saying,
“The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports.”
The current line up for the IeSF World Championship lists four games for male competition (DotA 2, StarCraft 2, Hearthstone, and Ultra Street Fighter IV) versus two games listed for females (StarCraft 2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2). The IeSF claims that the decision to both segregate gamers by gender and to offer little overlap in that segregation, both serves the goals of the IeSF and serves to promote female gaming on the larger scale.
“This decision serves two main goals of the IeSF:
“1 – promoting female players. We know that eSports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.
“2 – International standards. IeSF is very close to get eSports recognised as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.”
While the IeSF claims that separation and exclusion are all in an effort to promote female professional gaming, a statement to Polygon by eSports analyst Michael Cohen implies that there is no correlation between these practices and increased female eSports awareness. “The perception that gender-only tournaments can be helpful, especially in favour of female players, has been mixed on both sides. Gender segregation can help promote female players and potentially female interest, but there’s been no proof of correlation to make that an accepted reality.”
The issue at hand remains that women are being barred from certain venues of competition, but the whole ordeal points to a much larger issue in gaming and society as a whole: women must be excluded for eSports to be legitimate.