As the biggest tournament of the year for competitive female Counter-Strike, Intel Challenge Katowice has once again sparked the timeless debate over gender equality in eSports.
No-one should be aiming for a world in which female eSports teams are being acquired by organizations simply for the purpose of novelty and marketing. Of course, no single team would respond to accusations of the sort, and it’s unlikely that any substantial accusation of this nature will ever be leveled. The never-ending gender-equality or gender-equity debates have fallen into the hands of the community once again and in some certain cases it can be very polarizing.
Philadelphia 76ers-owned eSports organization Team Dignitas recently announced their acquisition of an all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team amid much fanfare. The squad was originally known as Team Karma before rebranding as Selfless Gaming in 2016.
“We are extremely happy to have signed a team who desires, as we do, to compete and win at the highest levels of play.
“We look forward to working alongside them in their journey and continued development as professional gamers. This is a team of talented competitors who has shown a drive to succeed and dedication to their sport and fans.
“We are ecstatic to announce the first all-female team in Team Dignitas’ proud 13-year history.”
Michael “ODEE” O’Dell, Team Dignitas President
The Team Dignitas Female squad reached the finals of Intel Challenge Katowice, losing out to the dominant Team Secret roster to secure a 2nd place finish. Their progress through the tournament wasn’t without its eyebrow raising moments:
On one side of the fence one can see the proponents of female eSports (and in this case female Counter-Strike), striving for equal opportunity within a space that is primarily dominated by all-male teams. By contrast, there are those that believe females have always had the opportunity to compete against and alongside the gentlemen of Counter-Strike’s best teams… but simply are not skilled enough to do so.
This debate certainly extends outside the realm of eSports; but it is evident that both sides have some consideration of the other to do. There isn’t really a single solution here – because there isn’t really one single problem.
There is a wage gap between men and women in esports:
women earn on average much more than men at their level of ability.
— Thorin (@Thooorin) November 22, 2016
Men have historically been more interested in video games than women, and while the space has certainly opened up and become more inclusive in recent years, thing still aren’t and probably will never be 50/50. With more male players, and more male players that have been learning and studying CS for a longer period of time, there is naturally a skill gap between men and women – regardless of whether there should be one or not, it would be ignorant to argue against its obvious existence. By that same token, it can’t be said that gender roles of days past are entirely to blame for the evident existence of a gap in skill between male and female CS today.
There are currently two women in the professional female CS scene that have long been thought to have the skills necessary to compete within the male scene: Team Secret’s Zainab “zAAz” Turkie and Julia “juliano” Kiran. It is no surprise that their lineup is currently untouchable within the female scene, regardless of the inspirational interview content that is promulgated by their rivals. Either way, it is unlikely that either of these talented women will jump ship to play in predominantly male teams anytime soon.
So long as female Counter-Strike is seen in terms of marketing and not in terms of competition and skill, women are not going to be as inclined to compete. Female CS needs be treated as a two way street: more opportunities for women leads to more women competing, which leads to a higher skill ceiling and the gap between them and the men will be reduced. By that same token, more opportunities and more competitive salaries will come for female CS when their skill is at a level to warrant it; these solutions will only co-exist with assistance from the other.