In e-sport, sexism pushes players to take refuge in 100% female spaces

It is a parade to twist the arm against cyberstalking that rots the lives of many esports players during online games, or during exchanges on streaming platforms like Twitch. For several months, movements have appeared to offer gamers 100% feminine spaces. The group “Women of Warcraft” was started by streamers of the famous game World of Warcraft “to connect and protect each other”, according to the description of the Twitter account of this collective.

In Marseille, the MCES esport team decided to invest in a 100% female team on Valuing, a very popular free-to-play first-person shooter video game since its release in June 2020. “There is also this movement to create chats between women on Discord. (instant chat software), says Servane Fischer, esports manager of the Women in Games France association, which fights against discrimination against women in virtual worlds where misogynistic insults are too often very real.

These initiatives are a reminder that esport and more generally the world of video games suffer from a certain ambient misogyny. For years, players have complained of male chauvinism for the better and cyberstalking for the worse.

“It’s still an industry made up of 85% men and with people who play games with visions of men”, analyzes Nicolas Besombes, researcher specializing in esports at the University of Paris-Descartes. “Misogyny is a societal problem, but it’s very acute in the gaming bubble. In the 80’s and 90’s, gamers were a bit on the fringes of society and video games were really aimed at men. contributed to creating communities of gamers even more closed off than society on these questions “, abounds Gabriel Ratano, vice-president of the Swiss Esport Federation.

It is also a reflection of our society with the video games which were marketed in the 1990s in the blue pages of toy catalogs.

Nicolas Besombes

researcher specializing in esports at Paris-Descartes University

Servane Fischer, of Women in Games France, observes sexist behavior on a daily basis. “I am organizing an esports tournament in March and on our Discord chat, I saw two players with really bad sexist and racist nicknames. As often, they were kids who were unaware of their behavior and who act as a group. We threatened them with disqualification and that calmed them down straight away “, says this former high-level player on Counter Strike.

Discrimination against female gamers is also found within teams. One of the great advantages of esport is that it is a mixed discipline. The best players can participate in the same tournaments as the men, with the same bonuses in the event of victory. But the very masculine climate hinders the constitution of mixed teams for cooperative games.

“In esport, the women with the best mixed results can be found in individual games. They perform less in team games. Why? There are sociological factors that explain this phenomenon. Many gamers do not. enough confidence in the girls and some coaches are afraid of creating love problems between players and players by composing mixed teams “, notes researcher Nicolas Besombes. The best teams therefore too often close the door to gamers.

This is what pushed the Marseille team MCES, one of the dominant teams of the French scene on Fortnite, to compose a 100% female team on Valuing. The new game from publisher Riot Games is played five-on-five and is enjoying increasing popularity among the gamers ranks. “It was a desire to develop women’s esport with a 100% girls team. The observation that we made is that it is rare to see mixed teams”, explains Thibault Leflot, communications manager at MCES.

I was able to meet by videoconference with DiAmOnd, 33, player of the Valorant team of MCES, and Laura “Nasty” Dejou, manager of the team. Before joining the Marseille structure, these two thirty-something had already scoured the esport scene playing at a high level. DiAmOnd has a female world champion title to her record Counter strike. As for Laura “Nasty” Dejou, she also shone for a decade on the famous shooter before becoming the coach of the Fortnite team of MCES, then of the team. Valuing. The two gamers were won over by publisher Riot’s efforts to showcase women in this game.

“Riot put a lot of things in place for the women’s competition. What had run out of steam on Counter Strike. They really thought about the female community.”, likes DiAmOnd. “Riot has taken the issue of gender equality head-on. Their biggest expenditure in research and development is devoted to the fight against the toxicity of the behaviors online “, says researcher Nicolas Besombes. A women’s circuit has been created to promote young players and severe sanctions are taken to fight against toxic behavior on the discussion channels of Valuing. “When a person is poisonous on Valuing, she may be deprived of her microphone for 15 days “, notes DiAmOnd.

“In a mixed team, we will always have to show that we are the equal of a guy”


player of the “Valorant” team at MCES

Even with these measures, the five players of the MCES team appreciate forming a female collective to be free from macho behavior. “Between girls, there is less pressure to prove yourself. We have nothing to prove to others, while in a mixed team we will always have to show that we are the equal of a guy”, continues DiAmOnd. Even on Valuing, sexism is hidden in the nooks and crannies. In open-ended games, an algorithm places unknown players together to form a team of five. When gamers discover that a girl has slipped in with them, they often do not forgive her for any mistakes. “I saw a lot of reactions from female players on Twitter. They testify to the fact that they took a flood of insults from the moment their female voice was heard by other players during an action. matches where games count for your ranking on Valuing, there are quickly remarks about your gender if you are a girl “, reports Laura “Nasty” Dejou.

This is where 100% women’s tournaments take on their full meaning on Valorant or elsewhere. “It allows players who are just starting out to find a place in a world where guys take up a lot of space”, says DiAmOnd. But some gamers consider that gender diversity is a tremendous asset in esport and that female bubbles should not divide the scene. “I’m always afraid that 100% women’s teams and competitions will end up creating a long-term split between women and men. I would prefer women to feel good everywhere, but it’s still utopian.”, says Servane Fischer of Women in Games France.

Laura “Nasty” Dejou has in mind the example of Counter Strike where a women’s circuit had been created with the aim, one day, of merging the men’s and women’s rankings. But sexism hasn’t receded enough in multiplayer games to get there. “They never succeeded in bringing the two communities together”, remark “Nasty”.

Sure Valuing, a brand new virtual world, the members of the MCES team hope for another horizon. While waiting for the creation of a real professional circuit on this game, they are aiming for a good performance next July during the Lyon e-Sport, a major tournament in the French calendar which puts for the first time Valuing on its program in 2021.

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