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Welcome everybody to the matter of opinion podcast, today we're going to be talking about the phenomenon that's been sweeping through both the real world and the gaming world, the now professional sport, overwatch.

Now I'm guessing that some of you don't know what overwatch actually is, so... I'll give you a hint: It's professional sport with almost as much viewership as the NHL. Yes, the national hockey league Haven’t heard of it? That’s probably because it’s a video game.

Now now, hold on, put your pitchforks and torches down. I'm not going to shove this whole “video games are real sports” narrative down your throats, but I do want you to sit back and listen to the raw numbers behind this game for a second.

According to Blizzard, which is the company that runs Overwatch, the Overwatch community is over 40 million players strong. That is more than the entire population of Canada. The overwatch subreddit, which is currently ranked the 13th most active subreddit in the world, is actually very close to beating the soccer and news subreddits.

Now I know what you're thinking, this is just what the kids are into these days, y'know it's the latest fad. Pokemon Go, it'll go away soon. Now I'm going to tell you that that's not true. Why? Because esports have been thriving since 2012, and it is now officially, a billion dollar industry. It's not going anywhere, and now that even major companies like Toyota, Intel, and T-mobile are sponsoring Overwatch events, I think it’s high time that parents, and those who share a life with people who play competitive online games, educate themselves on some of the harsh consequences that are involved with participating in these kinds of communities.

As you are about to see, not preparing your kids for the harsh reality of competitive multiplayers can lead to disastrous consequences. The world of competitive gaming, and more specifically the world of Overwatch, tends to chew up the vulnerable and spits them out, and among the most vulnerable, are female players.

               In-fact, the focus of our podcast today is going the terrible treatment of women in overwatch and how it drastically affects the demographic of the overwatch league. Now I know what you’re thinking, who cares about the overwatch league? It’s for nerds, losers, little kids, it’s boring, don’t bore me with this crap. 

Okay hold on, I don’t think it’s boring. And I think companies like intel, Toyata, and T-mobile, would agree with me. Because they sponsor the Overwatch league and advertise there. In-fact, I think the 50+ million people who watch the league would also agree with me. It’s huge! This thing temporarily exceeded the NFL’s viewership in its first week on the air.

Wanna know more? The Overwatch league started a year and a half after the release of the game in 2016. The league is hosted in Los Angeles, where over 100 different players that play for 12 different teams who are housed in 12 separate team houses compete for ludicrous amounts of prize money. The New York Excelsior, London Spitfire, and coveted Seoul Dynasty are all examples of teams that compete in the OWL.

It’s a league meant to showcase the best of talent in an insanely popular game and it’s gaining a lot of traction and sponsors. So how come out of the 100+ players competing in the league, not a single one of them is female.

That is a question that a blogger named Madeline Ricchiuto tried to find out. And after talking to multiple overwatch watch league officials and team owners, Ricchiuto concluded that the reason why there are no women in the overwatch league is because is because the team owners are sexist, and didn’t even bother to “think about including a female pro”. Her main evidence for this was that Kim Se-yeon, a female player, so good that she was accused of hacking the game by other notable professional players, wasn’t selected by any of the teams to take part in the OWL.

Now that’s a good point by Ricchiuto, the league is meant to showcase the best of talent and Kim Se-yeon is obviously part of that talent. She’s an amazing player, she’s arguably better than a lot of other male players in the league, and it’s hard to make a case against not including her a roaster.

But I’d argue that Ricchiuto’s logic is too simple and doesn’t take into account something very important. Which is that the overwatch league team owners picked up their players from the existing pro-overwatch scene, which was composed of nearly all men. And, as some of you already may know, when male players organize and create teams amongst themselves, it tends to turn into a boy’s club that doesn’t really welcome female players.

 

 

Today we’re going to explore how the Overwatch community treats women, and to do this we’re going to be interviewing 21 year old MaggiieXD, she is a very highly rated player on the overwatch competitive ladder. We’re going to be asking her about her experience as a female overwatch player and also what she thinks about girls making their way onto Overwatch teams

 

ME: Do you think it’s any different being a high level female gamer as opposed to being a high level male gamer, and if so, how?

 

MAGGIE: Yeah I think there is a difference between being a high level female gamer and a high level male gamer. Male gamers always get the credit, they apparently are talent, and we are just there by a mistake. We are mercy’s and everything we do were judged harshly and when they make a mistake it’s normal, it’s no biggie.

 

ME: Are you saying that the mistakes you make in-game are put on blast?

 

MAGGIE: Yeah but it’s just but it’s not only that, it’s that we’re scrutinized more. All the moves that we make, any play that we make is scrutinized more than a male’s play will be scrutinized. And if there is something they perceive that they didn’t like they did or I did they it’s like oh, it’s in her it’s part of her identity she’s a women she can’t play to our level.

 

ME: Do you think the mentality of “she can’t play to our level” affects a girl’s chances of getting onto a team?

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly enough this “she can’t play to our level” mentality is not something exclusively faced by Maggie. According to BBC article, “100 Women 2016: The women challenging sexism in e-sports”, the amount of women involved in esports is a low as 5%. And in that same article, in an interview with Steph Harvey who is arguably the most successful female gamer on the planet, Harvey states that the gaming community hates her and that “"The way I get harassed is about what they would do to my body, about why I don't deserve to be there because I use my sexuality”.

 

Why people think that girls don’t deserve to be in esports is a very interesting topic and depending on who you ask, you will get different answers. Some people share the opinion of Maggie, and think that the gaming community simpily thinks that girls can’t play to a male standard, and that there is a perceived fault in the female identity.

And others, including myself, take the more historic approach, and think that the sexist phenomena we are seeing in the gaming community is the same phenomena described by Richard H. Robbins in his almost 2 decade old book, Global problems and the culture of capitalism. In that book Robbins describes how jobs that are predominately done by women are historically seen as easier. Be that factory workers, nurses, or in overwatch, healers, healers are seen as an EASY role that a women is meant to play, while their male counterparts play the more difficult “damage” and “tank” roles. Perhaps that is why, when a women makes it into the esports world playing a “easy role” like a healer, men lash out and say that anyone could have made it into esports playing that “easy” role, which in my opinion isn’t actually not that easy.

Maybe that toxic and belittling attitude towards women discourages them from trying to make it into esports. Maybe THAT’S why there aren’t any girls in the Overwatch league. Or maybe I’m wrong, let’s hear from Maggie again.

ME: Do you think the mentality of “she can’t play to our level” affects a girls chances of getting onto a team.

MAGGIE: For sure, I think that’s the way it’s always been, offline and online. And.... for sure I think so, I think if I was a guy I would have no problem getting on a team but I think girls are gonna have a lot harder of a time just cause the mentality and how girls are treated all the time, it’s very sad.

ME: How you do you feel about there being no girls in the Overwatch league?

MAGGIE: I think that it’s pretty sad that there are no girls in the Overwatch league, in real life in terms of like sports teams the excuse was girls and guys aren’t the same, guys are stronger, girls don’t have the physical stamina. Now online is supposed to be an equalizer and it’s still not, now it’s looked at girls don’t have the mental stamina, we’re still less than.

 

 

The online world of esports, as Maggie already said, IS supposed to be an equalizer. There are no physical advantages, it’s all about mental prowess. So why are girls seen as less in esports, because it’s not just Maggie’s observation. In-fact, get this, there are women’s tournaments in esports. Yes companies like intel have felt the need to host female only tournaments. FEMALE ONLY VIDEO GAME TOURNAMENTS. It’s sad, and the reason as to why female only tournaments have been necessary is because of the toxic esports “rivalry that exists between the genders. Rivalry being a very light term for what has been one gender abusing the other.

 

Now obviously, this podcast has focused on just a couple of articles and one individual interview. This podcast is by no means exhaustive, but it does suggest that, as mentioned many times before, there is an issue with women in esports that is causing them to be much less prevalent than males when it comes to participation on esports teams.

 

On a final note, in light of the sexist events occurring in the esports world, I conducted a poll on the Overwatch subreddit titled “To what degree is sexism in the OW community a problem? Now with all the articles and information out there, you would think there would be a sizeable amount of people who do think that sexism is a problem in an esports game. However, that was not the case. Out of 368 votes, 69% of people thought that sexism was either non-existent or not a big problem, and only 31% of people thought that sexism was a serious problem in the Overwatch landscape.

That just goes to show you, in this war against sexism in esports, it’s the job of the parents, relatives, and friends of female gamers to make sure that said gamers are okay mentally and not being abused, because the vast majority of the community just doesn’t give a damn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citations

 

Ahmed, K. (2018). To what degree is sexism in the OW community a problem? [Data set]. Ahmed, K [Producer]. Retrieved from https://www.strawpoll.me/15023524

Chalk, A. (2017, December 11). Esports was worth $1.5 billion in 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://www.pcgamer.com/esports-was-worth-15-billion-in-2017/

Christou, L. (2018, June 20). Overwatch League viewership: How does it compare to major sports leagues? Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.verdict.co.uk/overwatch-league-viewership/

Crecente, B. (2018, May 24). 'Overwatch' Tops 40 Million Players as Game Hits Two-Year Anniversary. Retrieved February 20, 2018, from https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/overwatch-two-year-anniversary-1202820958/

Dator, J. (2018, January 18). The Overwatch League claims higher ratings than 'Thursday Night Football' ... but it's complicated. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from https://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2018/1/18/16905420/overwatch-league-ratings-nfl-thursday-night-football

Juliano: "I don't think we should separate genders, but the way things are now you have to". (2015, February 05). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://esport.aftonbladet.se/csgo/juliano-on-intel-challenge-katowice/

McCarthy, M. (2018, March 26). New esports Overwatch league attracting more traditional sponsors. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://www.sportingnews.com/ca/other-sports/news/overwatch-league-esports-news-sponsors-daniel-cherry-activision-blizzard/11x57ycb633s01e57vif516hl4

 

Redditmetrics. (n.d.). Top Subreddits. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://redditmetrics.com/top

Robbins, R. H. (1999). Global problems and the culture of capitalism. Boston,

MA: Allyn and Bacon.

 

Ricchiuto, M. (2018, January 11). The Overwatch League is Missing Something Obvious: Women. Retrieved February 17, 1998, from https://www.bleedingcool.com/2018/01/11/overwatch-league-no-female-players/

 

100 Women 2016: The women challenging sexism in e-sports. (2016, November 21). Retrieved February 04, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37992322

 

Zacny, R. (2016, March 20). Women's Counter-Strike Is Ready For A Breakthrough. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://kotaku.com/womens-counter-strike-is-ready-for-a-breakthrough-1766047107

Walsh, A. (2012). Made in Madagascar: Sapphires, ecotourism, and the global

bazaar. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.