eSports Organization Changes Policies After Backlash Over Barring Women from Hearthstone Tournament

[UPDATE] IeSF changes controversial policies, will now offer "open for all" events alongside events only for women.

by

[UPDATE 2] The IeSF has formally reversed its controversial gender-specific policies. The organization released a statement explaining the news on its website.

"On 2nd of July, 2014, the IeSF's policy about gender division, which separates the female division and the male division, has been brought into question. The IeSF has listened to the gaming community and has carefully considered their opinions. Upon hearing these concerns, the IeSF convoked an emergency session of the IeSF Board to respond," the group said.

"As a result, IeSF shall have two event categories: 'Open for All' events and events that are reserved for women. The events which were initially set aside as the male division will now be open to all genders, and the events which were initially set as the female division will remain as they were."

"The IeSF Board addressed its reason for maintaining events for women, citing the importance of providing female gamers with ample opportunities to compete in eSports--currently a male-dominated industry. Female gamers make up half of the world's gaming population, but only a small percentage of eSports competitors are women. The IeSF's female-only competitions aim to bring more diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events. Without efforts to improve representation, e-Sports can't achieve true gender equality."

[UPDATE 1] Blizzard Entertainment has issued a statement on the matter, saying it has spoken with the IeSF and they now expect that all players--regardless of gender--should be able to take part in the tournament.

"One of our goals with eSports is to ensure that there's a vibrant and also inclusive community around our games," a Blizzard representative said. "We do not allow the use of our games in tournaments that do not support this, and are working with our partners to ensure they share the same goal. To that end, we've separately been in contact with IeSF and understand that they've updated their rules to make it clear that their Hearthstone tournament will be open to all players."

The original story is below.

One upcoming competitive gaming tournament is barring women from participating in competition for Blizzard's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, drawing no small amount of controversy over the announcement. The drama originates from a Reddit user, who yesterday posted an email from a Finnish gaming organization called Assembly that puts together qualifiers for the South Korea-based International eSports Federation (IeSF). In this email, Assembly wrote that participation in an upcoming qualifier event is "open only to Finnish male players." This is reiterated on the tournament's official website.

This triggered backlash, and Assembly organizer Markus Koskivirta said in a statement to PC Gamer: "In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation's (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only. This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things."

IeSF has for more than a year now held its competitions by gender. This year, men can play Dota 2, StarCraft II, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and Ultra Street Fighter IV. Meanwhile, the women's roster includes games like StarCraft II and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The group says, "The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports."

"Our top priority is to promote eSports in the best ways we can. We believe that listening is important, and we're now collecting your opinions from the social media, and we will update soon" -- IeSF representative

Since Assembly's tournament is only a qualifier for the larger IeSF championship, it makes sense that Assembly would need to abide by the rules set forth by the IeSF. However, Koskivirta went on to say that the Finnish eSports Federation, which organizes the Assembly qualifier, isn't taking the news sitting down.

"We would also like to point out that the Finnish eSports Federation is currently lobbying for the equal rights of male and female players in the IeSF tournaments," he said. "This is an ongoing process and we of course welcome any support in this matter.".

On IeSF's Facebook page, the group provided a statement of its own, which you can read in full below.

"To all our fans and eSport enthusiasts, in the last hours we have received lots of feedback from you regarding the IeSF 6th e-Sports World Championship, particularly regarding the male/female tournament division. We want to thank you for your interest in eSports and for sharing your opinions. The eSports community opinion is always important to the IeSF. Our top priority is to promote eSports in the best ways we can. We believe that listening is important, and we're now collecting your opinions from the social media, and we will update soon."

Responding directly to a fan on Facebook, the IeSF went on to say that it is "absorbing" feedback about the matter.

"The IeSF believes in a world where there is no discrimination against anyone," the representative said. "We believe that everyone from everywhere can participate in eSports, doesn't matter where they're from, what their gender is or what they believe in. Based on this, we will keep absorbing your feedback and other's. We do strive to create the best e-Sports event we can, and we'll work hard to make sure everyone can enjoy it."

We have reached out to a Blizzard Entertainment representative for comment, but have not heard back.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

337 comments
timmyfallhook
timmyfallhook

Just here to point something out to the people who try to say esports aren't "physical"...


Esports are almost entirely physical... Or are fingers just mental apparitions? Even Esports touted as being "strategic" are almost entirely  rote-memorization when compared to deterministic perfect-information games (like Chess, Go, Connect6, and many more if you bothered to look into it). 


RTS is pretty much "finger-racing" with a ton of rote-memorization piled on top (oh and rock-paper-scissors of course). Hearthstone may not involve the finger-coordination of other esports, which just means it boils down to the rote-memorization + rock-paper-scissors only. 


And its not as if traditionally physical sports like basketball don't involve some basic tactics too. Its just that, once again, all those tactics are simple enough to be easily memorized, effectively boiling the game down to athletics + rock-paper-scissors. I think "finger-sports" would be a much more descriptive term than "esports". 


Seriously, what is it about moving your fingers really quickly and accurately that is not "physical"? If you really think these games are strategically interesting then try typing "Go (game)" into google! Heck, type "Connect6" into google! These are forms of PURELY mental competition!


Of course serious strategists got tired of all the flaws in chess decades ago (bobby fischer's "chess960" anyone?). While the game of "Go" has entire television channels devoted to only it! 


Now is there any reason to believe women have worse fingers than men? Of course not.

Stepn2myworld
Stepn2myworld

Negative press on the internet does what robotic application of rules and general lack of common sense fails at.

fede018
fede018

Gamespot readers must have been happy with the segregation between male and female gamers since they always complain when there's an article about the inclusion of women in videogames.

foxrock66
foxrock66

Wait what? How is that any better than the bull they had before?

Heshertonfist
Heshertonfist

Feminism isn't about equality, it's about preferential treatment, at least these days.

IJONOI
IJONOI

Hang on. Why the h3ll is it ok for women to have female only tournaments. But not blokes? That's messed up.

Tabarnaque
Tabarnaque

The special Olympics of video games.


These events should be for fun, not for imaginary equality, but alas politics.

hystavito
hystavito

I think that's the first time I've ever seen the word "convoked".

iskaroth
iskaroth

Absolutely disgusting sexism against men. It was fine before, men and women had their own little playground but now its some sort of PC abomination. Females in western societies are pampered and priviliged most of the time, i suggest all the feminists and white knights fight for women rights where gender injustice is a real issue like the middle east.

metallinatus
metallinatus

That is ridiculous, unfair, and I feel discriminated!

I demand the creation of a males-only tournament or the dissolution of the females-only one!

Dragon240sx
Dragon240sx

This is so stupid, it's esports people. There is no reason why it can't be mixed gender, the playing field is even for both. It's time to be progressive now before esports rules are stuck with separate gender leagues. It's not like they have to have separate locker rooms or something to accommodate female players. What's next are they going to ask you when you start playing a new game if your male or female and only let you play with your own gender, no because that would be ridiculous. When I had a league of legends team we had a female player on it. If we ever got good enough to go pro we would have to drop our teammate and she was one of our best players. That just doesn't seem fair to me.

Guest1001
Guest1001

"Without efforts to improve representation, e-Sports can't achieve true gender equality."

It makes me cringe to think that there are people who believe that barring a gender from taking part in a tournament is actually progressive.

Gender division in eSports is about as moronic as it gets anyway but when you're changing a policy to include both genders ... but you still exclude one gender, you're completely abandoning any pretence of equality and saying, "women, look! No filthy men taking part in your tournaments! Can we have a pat on the head and a treat for doing something good?!"

Martyr77
Martyr77

Let me get this straight. They are worried about sexism but they open a "women's only" tournament???? Hypocritical much? Well here is some gaming I won't support.

Robboninja
Robboninja

This politically correct archaic way of looking at the world is what actually keeps women down. "Lets have a special competition for them because they are special". This is actually way more sexist than having a separate male/female competition. If you truly want more women involved and want to have two competitions. Both should be open for all, one should be for lower level players and one for the best and invest in encouraging women to qualify as high as they can. Advertise for female involvement, put your money where your mouth is. None of this token special competition crap. It's fake and doesn't help anybody. The whole point should be to have females feel just as normal about playing games competitively as guys do. Not to make them feel different. 

Vodoo
Vodoo

Gimme a break!! It's the same thing with the Olympics... Male & female players compete with their own genders. This article is trying to start controversy where there is none. Get a life Mr Magoo and stop going for page views and BE HONEST with what you're reporting.

straightcur
straightcur

Great news.  Main tourney should feature the best of the best, period!!!


The all female tourney has a different goal.  The goal to boost female involvement.  This distinction is reason enough for an all female tourney to exist side by side with the main event. 


tekno0193
tekno0193

Ah the internet... we did it guys n_n

jayjay444
jayjay444

I have no problem with this and I have no problem with Woman still having a girls only tournament.

zophiewinters
zophiewinters

I think you guys are missing the point that the all-female division is their attempt at enticing additional female players to compete.  They're not doing this to discriminate, their intention is to help boost female representation across the board.  Ideally there shouldn't be any divisions at all, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Ridiculous. By having female only competitions, they are not only saying women need female-only competitions to have a chance of winning, they are ALSO saying that men shouldn't get the same rights as women, and only women should be allowed gender exclusive comps. It was actually LESS sexist before their change of policies, lol.

Ovirew
Ovirew

Ha, so essentially they're saying, "Okay, we'll let the female gamers have their fun and join in on the 'male' tournament...  But we all know that the female-only competition is the real competition for the female entrants, am I right?  Bro-Five!!!"

frozenuxx
frozenuxx

It should have been only  "open for all". "Women only events?" Fck that! enough with this bullsht.

JURGMANDR
JURGMANDR

Uh... so why did they keep the female only league AND open the other to everyone. It'd probably just be easier to have only the all-open tournament..

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

A women only event and an Open event where women can play is fair?  Ummm okay.

NeverMore0
NeverMore0

"The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports."

Really, that's just not gonna happen.

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

The thing is that women got their equal rights a long time ago and now what they're lobbying for is preferential treatment.  They'll always get it to, because it's not socially acceptable for any patriarchal entity to fight back no matter how inane and petty a female lobbyists demands might be. 


So, the women get to participate in the men's tournament while still keeping their little girls only club.  People will come out and say that's kind of silly, but no one is going to lobby for the men.  In fact, if someone did try to make a serious issue out of this on behalf of the men they'd likely just be laughed at, or labeled sexist and promptly fired from whatever it is they do.

altnamejag
altnamejag

@foxrock66 Well, the number of gender restricted tournaments has gone down, so thats a thing.


Besides, out of the 16 players in the Hearthstone tournament, I'd be shocked if there were more than 3 female competitors.  eSports are heavily dominated by men right now.  No reason not to hold a couple side tourneys, played alongside the Open ones, to get some extra ladies tournament experience.  One or two of the women-only events and they might feel comfortable enough to take a shot at the Open Leagues.

altnamejag
altnamejag

@Tabarnaque These events pay out money and prestige.  Fun for competitors is a secondary concern.

altnamejag
altnamejag

@iskaroth Odd, I didn't see a Hearthstone tournament that was women only.  Must be my old eyes.

ggregd
ggregd

@Vodoo In real sports men's higher level of pure physical strength and greater mass gives them an unfair advantage over women.  In sitting on your ass clicking a mouse sports, it's irrelevant.  Duh.

shingui5
shingui5

@tekno0193

Internet outrage actually did something positive for once.

This is a surprising, and disturbing, turn of events. 

Prometheus
Prometheus

@altnamejag So it's sexist AND it doesn't work. Your point? Also, the original plan would have been perfect to allow women equal participation. But there just had to be a shitstorm because they did not only have female-only events, but also(!) male-only events.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@zophiewinters The women I know would be MORE enticed to compete against both men and women. You enter these things to be the best, not to be the best woman or the best man.

simsumre
simsumre

@NeverMore0 Which was a stupid reason to begin with. There's a reason you have an all male FOOTBALL team. It makes no sense to have an all male (or female) video game competition. These people aren't involved in physical competition... nor are they required to share a locker room.


But the solution to this is ever dumber. This basically says it's only sexist when the female is excluded, so we'll keep the all female competition.

kill3rdank
kill3rdank

@joejoe1639 Wow. Still haven't grasped reading comprehension, have you? There are only divisions (for very silly reasons) because they want to promote eSports as a real sport. What they failed to realize is that the gender divisions only exist in real sports because of physical differences in men and women. So naturally there was a backlash because there shouldn't be any gender divisions at all! 


On top of that, they want to keep the women's division to promote eSports to female players (although I find it unnecessary). It isn't a club, it's not about lobbyists, there shouldn't be any divisions to begin with. it's really that simple. To make it into some anti-male notion is childish.

iskaroth
iskaroth

@altnamejag @iskaroth I didnt say anything about Hearthstone, there are Starcraft 2 and Tekken Tag 2 female only tournaments though.

altnamejag
altnamejag

@Prometheus I thought the shitstorm was because they had 5 male-only events and only 2 female only events.


But hey, keep trying.

delcidanddarth
delcidanddarth

@simsumre I think a more honest reason they did it was to increase exposure of competitive e-sports to women. Hardcore women gamers are few and far between, but not because of some lack of talent. It's just the lack of numbers. There's no reason to think that men are "better" at games than women, so it just comes down to sheer numbers. If 100 men and 100 women all play the same game for a few years, I think you'll find an equal number of men and women are good at it.


However, in the real world, you don't have 100 men and 100 women... it's more like 100 and 10. So if 10 men are good, you expect 1 woman to be good, and that makes for a disproportionate competition. The goal should be to get men and women to play games equally, and the rest will take care of itself.

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

@kill3rdank I understood the article fine; they nixed the male only tournaments to appease feminist apologists and kept the female only tournaments to promote women in esports.  

Is there a reason that women have to be in the men's tournament?  If there is then that same reason should apply to men being able to compete in the women's tournament.  This little rule change isn't anti-male, it's just incredibly dismissive of the male players, and what's frustrating about it is that no one is allowed to care.  Men couldn't throw their weight around on this issue like women could even if they wanted to.  That's not equality. 

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

@AtheistPreacher It was done in response to a "backlash" and pressure from affiliates to change their policies, so it isn't just something they "decided to do."  This kind of kind of decision is always either a preemptive or reactive way to address bad PR from lobbyists. 

Also, if you're talking about random comments on the internet, everyone is abusive to everyone else, but I don't think these tournaments are hostile environments for women. I don't see why they need preferential treatment here.



altnamejag
altnamejag

@iskaroth @altnamejag Thats my point.  Out of the 6 competitions, 4 were for men and 2 were for women.  If a woman wanted to play Hearthstone, DotA 2, or Ultra Street Fighter 4, too bad. (Conversely, if men wanted to play Tekken Tag 2, they were out of luck)  So, 3 exclusive male-only games vs 1 exclusive female-only game?  And the only shared game, Starcraft 2, not being a mixed tournament?


If the prize pool for the women's tournament was going to be equal to the men's tournament, I'll eat my socks.


So now they're doing the chess style thing.  Open tournaments for the big prizes, ladies-only for promotion of the sport.  I mean, Chess isn't exactly a bastion of the feminist movement, so I don't think its about keeping the men down. :P


Heck, if the total number of male competitors in the 4 mixed tournaments don't outnumber the female competitors of the 4 mixed and 2 exclusive tournaments 8-1, I'll eat another pair of socks.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@joejoe1639

When I think of "lobbyists," I think of organizations.  From what I can see, the change here was because the internet blew up.  It was many thousands of individuals rather than organizations.  If you want to call them "lobbyists," then whatever, it's a semantic distinction.

As for tournaments being hostile toward women, you don't have to search very hard to find examples.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/us/sexual-harassment-in-online-gaming-stirs-anger.html?_r=2&

http://www.psmag.com/culture/halo-3-gamers-are-often-sexist-too-61564/

This stuff is real and shouldn't be written off.

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

@AtheistPreacher The tournament anecdote is bad but seems isolated.  I don't think these tournaments are innately hostile, but that doesn't mean female competitors won't occasionally run into jerks.  I'm sure some male competitors are occasionally treated less than professionally as well.  Unless it's a pervasive theme at these tournaments, s**t happens. 

As for the lobbyists, something blowing up on the internet is generally the first step before a topic receives dangerous attention.  Thinking the IeSF did this because they just sporadically felt like it is naive. 

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@joejoe1639 @AtheistPreacher

It is rather more naive to write off sexism as isolated and whine that men are being treated unfairly, as if they don't already have the advantage.  If you can't admit that, you're part of the problem.

More to the point, show me an NBA player who wants to play in the WNBA, or a NASCAR driver who wants to race in a women's race, or a pro tennis player who wants to play in a women's tourney, or any male pro athlete who feels excluded for not being able to play in a women's league.  Oh, wait... there aren't any.  So I can't see why women's leagues are a problem.

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

@AtheistPreacher  The incident of sexism you brought up was isolated.  Sometimes things just happen and they aren't indicative of the overall atmosphere of professional tournaments.  Men are being treated unfairly in this instance, and if you think that's alright just because you perceive women as deserving preferential treatment then you're part of the problem. You promote inequality.  

Women having their own leagues isn't a problem if men are also allowed to have their own leagues.  This tournament is taking away the men only league at the behest of women's rights apologists while allowing a women only league.  Is that fair?  

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@joejoe1639

This conversation isn't going anywhere.  Clearly you don't believe sexism actually exists.  Those poor, poor men.  They're so discriminated against.  Nevermind that there's never been a female U.S. president, that they make up only 20% of congress, that only 5% are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.  And these incidents of sexism at tourneys, well, they're just isolated incidents, nothing to worry about.  If we all bury our heads in the sand, I'm sure it will all right itself!

And the fact remains that because the male leagues are more prestigious, women want to be in them.  As soon as you can show me that the reverse is true, that there are men who want to play in the female leagues, that's when I'll start to see your whining as anything less than ridiculous.

I don't promote inequality.  You promote inequality by pretending that inequality doesn't already exist, that men don't already have the best of everything.

OuroborosChoked
OuroborosChoked

@AtheistPreacher @joejoe1639 Clearly, the reason there aren't more female CEOs or congress members is sexism.


Clearly. (You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes and groaning)


Oh, and the reason men don't want to play in the WNBA? There would be no challenge. Men would wipe the floor with the women. THAT is why all professional (physical) sports are divided by sex. On base average, men are stronger, faster, and have more endurance. Now realize that we're talking about the best of the best when it comes to professional athletes... people well above the average. The only professional sport that women could compete on a level playing field with men would be one that doesn't rely on physicality (for example, racing... in fact, Danica Patrick already competes with the men).


But please... don't let me interrupt your delusions.

joejoe1639
joejoe1639

@AtheistPreacher Men are being discriminated against in this specific instance.  If you want to debate unrelated circumstances like the reasons why there aren't many female CEOs, I'll just say this: equality means earning your way up, not being hoisted.   No one's stopping women from starting/owning their own companies. 


Now back to the tournaments; in any competition men's competition tends to be more prestigious because men tend to compete on a higher level.  If women trained as hard and were as involved in these competitions the women's tournaments could be just as prestigious.  I don't know why they'd prefer to just piggy-back on what the men have built for themselves. 

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@OuroborosChoked @AtheistPreacher @joejoe1639

Oh, and the reason men don't want to play in the WNBA? There would be no challenge. Men would wipe the floor with the women. THAT is why all professional (physical) sports are divided by sex.

Um, yeah, that's exactly what I said.  I quote myself:

More to the point, show me an NBA player who wants to play in the WNBA, or a NASCAR driver who wants to race in a women's race, or a pro tennis player who wants to play in a women's tourney, or any male pro athlete who feels excluded for not being able to play in a women's league.  Oh, wait... there aren't any.  So I can't see why women's leagues are a problem.

Clearly the reason the men don't want to play with women is because men are generally better at sports.  I never said otherwise.  But if a woman is good enough to play with the men (as is the case with videogames, where physical size and strength don't matter -- also Congress and Fortune 500 companies, BTW), then why should they not play with the men?

Edit: D'oh, duplicate post (mostly).  For some reason it didn't display the first time.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

@OuroborosChoked @AtheistPreacher @joejoe1639

Oh, and the reason men don't want to play in the WNBA? There would be no challenge. Men would wipe the floor with the women. THAT is why all professional (physical) sports are divided by sex.

Why yes, that's exactly what I said.  I quote myself from just above:

More to the point, show me an NBA player who wants to play in the WNBA, or a NASCAR driver who wants to race in a women's race, or a pro tennis player who wants to play in a women's tourney, or any male pro athlete who feels excluded for not being able to play in a women's league.  Oh, wait... there aren't any.  So I can't see why women's leagues are a problem.

And I repeated the same point again:

And the fact remains that because the male leagues are more prestigious, women want to be in them.  As soon as you can show me that the reverse is true, that there are men who want to play in the female leagues, that's when I'll start to see your whining as anything less than ridiculous.

So what exactly was your point again?  Try responding to what I actually said, rather than what you wish I said.