By Lucy Chow
Women do not have a disadvantage in gaming, with no obvious physical attribute that would give one gender an advantage over another
Equality in the boardroom and corporations. Additional funding required for female founders. Indeed an equal world is an enabled world. What about women in esports?
Esports is a sport. Competitive gaming is only a few decades old, but it is growing rapidly. Experts think nearly 5 million people will call themselves esports fans by the end of 2020. In 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would discuss whether esports should be part pf the Paris 2024 Olympics.
What about its relevance to the region? The UAE was ranked the number one market in gaming in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), according to recent figures.
A recent Khaleej Times article reported that, ‘Gaming revenues in the UAE are estimated to have reached AED1.2 billion in 2018.’ Just two weeks ago, the world’s largest girl gaming festival was held in Dubai. The women competed in two games, CounterStrike Go and League of Legends. There were 9 teams comprised of 45 players.
It was exciting to meet the first UAE female team created by Paul Roy, CEO, Galaxy Racer Esports. Team Galaxy Racer was the only team representing the Middle East. The team was comprised of Emiratis Reem Faisal, 20; Fatima Saif, 24; and Amna Raad Alameri, 22; Madiha Naz, 23, a Pakistani national; and Arwa Hameed, 17, an Iraqi national. Fernando Pereira, President, GrowUpEsports is the global organizer of the festival.
His raison d’etre is to push for gender balance in gaming. He stated to the Khaleej Times, “There are a lot of studies showing that if girls start to take an interest in video games from an early age, they are 30 per cent more likely to follow science studies, meaning engineering, mathematics, which are professions that still have more men than women.”
The interesting fact is that women do not have a disadvantage in gaming. There is no obvious physical attribute, such as speed, muscle mass or height that would give one gender an advantage over another. Depending on the source, female viewers of esports range from 33% to 45% and that number keeps rising.
A study released in 2019, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, stated that the median age of a US gamer was 33 and almost evenly split between male and female players (54% compared to 46%, respectively). Unfortunately, female gamers, still make less than their male counterparts.
“That’s why we wanted to bring GirlGamer to the UAE”, states Paul Roy. The argument is that women-only tournaments does help to close the pay divide. The more esports women-only tournaments, the larger the prize opportunities which will help women earn just as much as male gamers. Roy’s aim is to provide a platform for local talent so they can pursue their careers locally, versus moving abroad.
So what can we do to support female gamers? Well, thanks to the Galaxy Racer team, we have regional female role models. You have to see it, to be it. If you are a corporate, or a government entity, you need to sponsor more female gaming competitions. Importantly, this includes contributing to the cash prize. And as an individual, attend events such as GirlGamers. We are so fortunate to have world class competitions held in the UAE.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen more men attending the most recent Girl Gamers competition. Is the audience only women when the Wimbledon Women’s Finals are played? Or when the FIFA Women’s World Cup is held? No. Esports should be no different.
Lastly, research and get to know some of the outstanding female players. Going forward you will be more vested in esports. Maybe one day they will be household names.
Let’s finish with a quote from VKLioon, the first woman to become the “Hearthstone” global champion. “I want to say for all the girls out there who have a dream for esports competition, for glory, if you want to do it and you believe in yourself you should just forget your gender and go for it.”
Additional female esport champions (but is in no way comprehensive):