Overwatch is one of the most diverse games ever, so how come its league doesn’t have a single woman gamer taking part?
Overwatch is one of the biggest games in history. So big, that as of October 2017, the game had an incredible 35 million players. What attracted all of these players? Its immensely fun gameplay and the fact the characters are amazing. The game has dozens of diverse characters from across the globe, with authentic accents and clothing. There are queer characters, disabled characters and characters of colour all absolutely ready to blow shit up. It’s not just good representation, it’s damn cool. So when Overwatch is so diverse, when its players are in the millions – why are there no women competing in the Overwatch League?
Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon is one of the biggest Overwatch gamers out there and yet she is mysteriously absent from the league. It just doesn’t add up. All of the excuses are rubbish. Scroll through Twitter and it’s easy to find people defending the decision to exclude women by saying that if they were good enough, they’d have been selected. This is sexist.
The absence of women is a deliberate decision. It’s a decision repeated time and again. It’s not just in the final selection process, but from which candidates caught eyes in the first place. It’s about thinking actively about whether teams are representative. A lot of the philosophy behind team selection is about a group that really gels. It’s an ideology that bars women from accessing the gaming world when men generally want to play with other men, and women overwhelmingly are exposed to abuse and misogyny for entering gaming spaces. Picking a team that gels is making a political choice to prioritise the comfort of men at the expense of women’s ambitions and accessibility. Gaming culture is inherently sexist. Men get more views and support. Women are more likely to get trolled for uploading their gaming. Gaming is not a safe space or hobby for women or marginalised people. This has long been documented and established, but even when the gaming world wants to present as professional and diverse, it’s still failing miserably.
“The absence of women is a deliberate decision”
If people are sincerely trying to argue out of 35 million worldwide players, not one woman was good enough then they’re flat-out being disingenuous. Women are good enough. The problem is women have rarely the same access to opportunities in geek spaces as men do. Their careers and profiles are shut down. It’s a battle for women to be accepted, and Overwatch League just reaffirms that.
The League itself has let the game down by not giving a platform to any women. Half of the characters are women – queer women and women of colour – and the game is enjoyed by many because its one of the few games ever with strong representation. The League has diluted all of that, to cash in on its popularity and to try to sell the brand. However, all of the ideals of the game have been compromised in the way the League is being conducted. It’s a shame because the event was such a good idea, and cheering on London Spitfire would have been amazing. This isn’t truly an Overwatch League though. This is watching men show off to each other, with half of the competition being completely shut out. When the League gets serious and starts selecting based on talent, and not just have the main qualifying feature be a man, then, it might be worth paying attention to.