Esports has a representation problem, it is and has been since its inception a male dominated scene. While there isn’t a singular issue causing this and it is far too nuanced a topic for binary declarations, I want to explore the approach taken by one organisation in particular. Vaevictis Esports in the LCL. If you haven’t heard already they recently pieced together an all female side to take part in the LCL. For those of you who remember the fate of Team Siren, notorious for falling flat on its face, I’m sorry to say that Vaevictis looks set to meet the same fate.
Vaevictis has performed a publicity stunt, compromising the integrity of their team and any serious chance of competing. This is not because their players are women. It is about disparity of individual skill. The women that they selected were all Diamond League or below and complete rookies to the competitive scene. The individual, pound for pound strength of this roster just doesn’t match up with that of their opponents. In short they were doomed to fail.
With the sexist views that women are inherently worse ‘gamers’ than men. (Apparently gender effects your ability to press keys now.) This team presents a serious problem. Far from showing that women can compete and providing role models for women who might want to go pro, it reinforces some of the barriers that stand in their way. If you don’t factor in the individual skill difference between diamond and challenger players, and gender is the thing that is latched onto, you consolidate the idea that women are just worse at video games than men. In the long term this will only serve to enforce damaging and hostile stances that already exist in the league of legends community. In short, they perpetuate reductive stereotypes instead of challenging them.
On top of the individual skill difference, that the competitive scene is a different beast to solo queue must be taken into account. Teams are better coordinated, more punishing and play at a different pace. This is an environment that challenger players with some of the best mechanics in the world, have publicly struggled to adapt to. Whilst these struggles exist for every team that enters the space, to throw five complete rookies together with no previous team experience makes the mountain this team will have to climb all the more imposing.
I’m not going to pretend that I have any concrete answers on how to increase representation on professional teams, but setting women up to fail on a public stage has failed before and seems doomed to fail again. Already we are seeing that Riot Russia has had to issue two rulings on their games, one with more merit than the other. Against Vega the ruling was for violating competitive integrity, deliberately elongating a game to pad stats, this one I think was fair. The other was more controversial where they issued a penalty to ROX for banning five support champions on the grounds of Sexism. For me the second one falls into the realms of thought crime as it relies on the assumption that it was motivated by gender with no evidence supported for it being the case. If five supports are banned in any other game, it is a non issue. There is also the issue of proper drafting, if as is rumoured four of the five players on the Vaevictis squad main support, surely target banning comfortable champions is according due respect as it places more pressure on your opposition.
Humiliating and setting a roster up to fail is not the way forwards. Moba is already a hostile environment for women to step into. The player base imbalance is around about 90% Male, 10% female and even though not all men hold the view that female players are bad, enough do to make it unpleasant for women to enjoy the game or reveal their gender whilst playing. This is only compounded at the professional level and with examples like Remilia on Renegades often receiving toxic treatment just for her gender, well it’s no surprise more women don’t want to put themselves in that situation.
To sum up, Vaevictis are counter productive and unhelpful to women that want to succeed in the Esports Arena. It is a cynical publicity stunt that consolidates toxic mindsets and is likely to result in utter failure for the team, because player skill discrepancy, not gender. Any male team would fail just as hard, but the scrutiny would not be pointed at their gender, it would be at their individual skill.
What do you think about this move from Vaevictis? Let me know in the comments below.