Women in eSports: ‘Some female teams still don’t play against men because they don’t want sexist abuse’

Female pro gamers and eSports teams still have to deal with sexist and misogynistic remarks, but the situation is improving, claims Swedish pro gaming outfit Team Property.

Speaking to PCR at eSports event DreamHack London on the weekend, members of the Counter-Strike team – sponsored by Intel – said that while women are becoming more accepted in the pro gaming community, some female teams still choose to avoid playing against men or speaking to them online.

Some women resort to using alias nicknames so that their male opponents don’t realise they are playing against women, in a bid to avoid verbal abuse.

"Some female teams choose to never play or practice against male teams," said Angel “Mouse” Malihiolzakerni of Team Property. "We never practiced against female teams before Foxglove joined. We did it maybe once.

"I never talk into the microphone [when playing against men online]. I hold my hand on the microphone so my voice is dark and I mumble. I don’t want them to know [I’m female] – I don’t want to ruin the situation, pretty much. 

"Some girls always talk into the microphone and will be rude back to them. But it is what you make out of it, really."

However, teammate Nina ‘Foxglove’ Flatnes, added: "I think it’s getting a lot better – it’s not as bad as it was. You are getting more girls into the community. Before, it was horrible and the comments were like: ‘Oh my God – a girl who’s playing…’

"In my team who used to play before, we used a fake nickname when we would go to practice, because if we had a real nickname and our opponents knew we were girls, they would not practice seriously against us.

"We would only get a good practice if we pretended to be guys online. Or else there’s just a lot of spam like: ‘Show your boobs. Go back to the kitchen.’ And they’re just trolling."

Team Property (from left to right): Johanna “R’o’vardotter” Virtanen, Angel “Mouse” Malihiolzakerni, Therese “Szanto” Szanto, Nina “Foxglove” Flatnes and Sandra “Steelya” Stålnacke

With more female-only eSports teams like Team Property, CLG Red, LGB and Epsilon eSports, as well as more female-only and mixed tournaments emerging, the situation is improving.

"I think it’s a good thing with all these teams – we are still in the minority, but more girls will be encouraged to play," added Flatnes.

"It’s good because that they are pushing on with the female tournaments and stuff, because it’s really going to win more girls into eSports and we need that. It’s a really male-dominated scene."

Teammate Therese ‘Szanto’ Szanto commented: "I would say 80 per cent of all Counter-Strike players are male.

"When I started ten years ago, it was so hard to find any female gamers. And I wanted to play with them – I was looking for years back then. Now they are popping out from nowhere, there are so many of them now."

Flatnes admitted that men are generally more skillful than women in eSports, but added that by having more mixed tournaments, that skill gap will close.

"As soon as they host more tournaments where we’re able to play against the guys, I think we’re going to improve a lot," she said. "Because right now we’re just playing competitive against the female scene and we don’t really get that challenge – you need to play against better players to get better yourself.

"I think as soon as it’s more normal to play against them, then we can practice against them and we’ll also end up on that level. But right now it’s a bit hard because we only practice against each other and not the good male teams."

Malihiolzakerni also believes that journalists and publications have a role to play in making women more accepted in eSports.

"People are always saying: ‘Girls are not good enough so they cannot compete.’ But as soon as we try, we’re playing in leagues where we’re the only female team. And if we lose, it doesn’t matter, you either get flamed or no one pays attention. And that’s why no one cares [about female eSports compared to male teams], pretty much," she explained. 

"If you check Dreamhack Tours – BYOC – how many female teams were there? Us and LGB. How many teams got top five? One female team. How many teams were in the main BYOC that got top five? It’s not normal to see a full-female team in the top five in any tournament which isn’t female-only, to be honest, so why was this not highlighted? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

"Publications are still highlighting stuff like: ‘Look at this girl streaming.’ And I’m like: ‘Please, I just got fourth place in a LAN. Can you just tell everyone?’

"People do care, when they see it they’re like: ‘Wow, okay.’ So the awareness needs to improve."

PCR is hosting the PCR Woman of the Year awards and networking event which takes place on October 16th in London, aiming to celebrate some of the most inspirational and influential female execs in the UK PC tech industry. Buy your ticket here.

PCR’s Sector Spotlight on Gaming is running throughout September – click here for more articles

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