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Published: October 25, 2021

Written by: Silvia Pavlof

Gaming has long been regarded as something reserved for nerdy boys. As times change women join in on the fun too and conquer esports on their own.

Gaming’s Backstory and Why It’s Important

Video games and esports in particular satisfy an important human need – the need for competition, for playing against others and for besting one’s peers, or bragging rights as it were.

Since the dawn of time, people have devised all kinds of games to pass the time and test their capabilities against one another, without meaning harm. We all know of the famous Ancient Greek Olympic Games, of the Roman gladiators, of the tournaments of European Knights, and the traditional sports that followed. Many people tend to think that ancient games were solely based on physical prowess. However, this couldn’t be further than the truth.

Games of wits have always fascinated people. Such competitions allow people of different physical strengths to stand on equal ground as they try to outsmart one another. The earliest finding of a board game, the Mesopotamian Royal game of Ur, dates as far as four millennia ago. Egyptians and Greeks devised various kinds of board games on their own in the period around 1000 BC There are likely many other such games, perhaps some even older than these, that have been forever lost to history.

As society has progressed, so have games. We now have elite sporting leagues with athletes who dedicate their whole lives to pursuing physical and athletic perfection. We also have more diverse board games than ever with some games’ tournaments attracting thousands of players from around the world. And, last but not the least, as our technology progressed, a new type of game emerged – video games.

Video games have quickly established themselves as a miraculous solution to the competitive wants of people across the globe.

How Gaming’s Reception Undermined Women’s Presence

Sadly, history hasn’t always been kind to women. Although Egyptians had a surprising degree of equality between the two sexes and women likely played Senet and Hounds and Jackals alongside men and Romans had some women participate in gladiatorial fights as gladiatrixes, this wasn’t the case for most civilizations.

Throughout history competition of any kind has been widely regarded as something reserved for men. This includes both tactical and athletic challenges. There have been some exceptions for sure but they are just that – exceptions.

With this cultural approach in mind, it is hardly surprising that when video games entered the fray, they weren’t exactly considered as something to be played by women.

In fact, video gaming had quite a negative connotation for a while. In the last few decades of the 20th century, gaming was still underdeveloped. Technology didn’t permit people to make all the crazy things that are possible now. Yet, the more gaming took form, the more people disliked it. This is because a large majority of games depict some kind of violence. Parents were often outraged and some even wrongly believed that gaming by itself is enough to cause their kid to become a murderous psychopath.

On the other hand, there is also the matter of how video gaming was viewed by young people. For a long time, there was a dissonance between the more athletic kids and the nerdy ones. Gaming, by many, was regarded as something for lone loser boys, ones that aren’t a part of the norm. The more one grew, the stronger the pressure got.

Needless to say, this hardly was fertile soil for nurturing female gamers. Quite the contrary, many girls saw gaming as something they didn’t want to get associated with, something reserved for weirdos and creeps. Gamer girls were a rare exception and girls in competitive gaming were even rarer. 

Things Began to Change Once Gaming Entered the Pop Culture

Although video games were denounced by many and are still besmirched by some, their reception has dramatically improved over the years. Gaming is now an integral part of pop culture, with esports events offering millions of dollars to the best teams in the world.

This tendency has led to a lot of people warming up towards video games and games and esports events becoming much more welcoming to all people. Women aren’t an exception to that. Statistics site estimates that currently, a whopping 45% of the gamers in the United States are women.

This figure largely varies across regions. Despite that, this shows an important tendency of video gaming being normalized. Thanks to that, many female gamers are now taking their passion for gaming a step further and entering the exciting and ever-changing esports landscape.

Women Become a Part of Esports

Of course, considering how negatively our culture has regarded competition and video games for quite a while, women aren’t as present in esports yet. But change is being made as more and more female gamers seek to experience competitive gaming.

These endeavors are being aided by numerous initiatives whose goal is to elevate women in esports, provide them with training and mentorship and basically bring them on the same level as their male counterparts. One of the most popular such endeavors is Riot Games’ Game Changers program for VALORANT and League of Legends.

Such initiatives have provided many women with the motivation to test their skills competitively. There have been numerous female-only tournaments by various organizations that aim to further incentivize more women to give esports competitions a try.

As a fairly recent thing, female-only tournaments aren’t on the same level of popularity yet and there isn’t a clear consensus on whether women should remain on the sidelines and only compete in female-exclusive leagues, or if those events should be a stepping stone for girls before they join the wider world of esports.

Some Traps Along The Way

I, personally, believe that esports offers a great opportunity for a globally recognized mixed sport. The entry-level is higher as men have competed there for a while, but that’s where female-focused initiatives come in.

I think that the latter should focus on bringing women to a competitive level. However, that cannot happen if their only opponents are only other grassroots-level girls. Instead, female gamers should listen to Cloud 9 White’s advice – the all-girl team under C9’s banner dominated its peers during the first two Game Changers VALORANT tournaments. When speaking about their success, Cloud 9 White’s members revealed that they not only play in girls’ leagues but actually test their skills in other non-female-exclusive events.

Female-focused initiatives should focus on providing female gamers with fair competitors but also incentivize them to play against people who are on a higher level so that they can better themselves. For, if women play only against other women, they will be forever barred from the wider esports scene. And this will only echo the last few millennia of girls being excluded from the competition.

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