As much of the nerdy world knows, Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch League launched this past week and as a fan of the game, it has not disappointed. In just the first week we’ve seen the supposed underdogs shine (here’s looking at you, Philadelphia Fusion – well played!), heavyweight teams get shut down, big stars absolutely dominate matches, high-quality production value entertainment, and of course, it wouldn’t be an Overwatch professional setup without teams of Koreans just decimating opponents. There’s not much else the OWLs can do better at this point.
…or is there?
Look at all the staff, all the players, all the commentators, and all the analysts; what do you see? Hard workers, amazing talent, professional analysis? You see all those things in spades without question. I guess the question is what do you not see? If you don’t have the answer I’m looking for, don’t worry. We’re pretty used to seeing this in many worlds and it is something of a problem. Here is what I’m getting at:
Where is the female representation?
You can count the number of female Blizzard employees and affiliates presented on a single hand, for the most part (though to be fair, we don’t see any of the behind the scenes workers). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve noticed a single referee (is that what they call it in OWL?) and a single analyst who is not of the male persuasion. Consider the amount of gender diversity you see in the crowd, and there is a huge misrepresentation there!
Now, let’s dedicate our time to celebrating female representation in Overwatch, shall we?
I alluded to that female analyst earlier: Salome “Soe” Gschwind-Penski. I can tell you, she is one of the highlights of that analyst team. Her knowledge is spot on, I’ve seen fewer mistakes in general from her, and she has one of the greatest accents ever. Before coming to the Overwatch League, she’s been hosting and commentating at tons of eSports events since 2007, shoutcasting all sorts of games including World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Dota 2, and even hosting an eSports TV show in Germany.
You may be wondering right now: “but Jason, maybe there just aren’t any ladies good enough to compete in the league?” Stop right there and let me point you to Korea and a certain Overwatch player called Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon. She is a boss of a player. Her play was so good, she was accused of cheating and was challenged by two pro players who said they would quit the game if she could prove otherwise. She streamed her gameplay – along with hand movements and a full view of her entire setup – where she couldn’t install any questionable software and the results were clear. Once Blizzard confirmed she wasn’t cheating, those two pros quit. If you haven’t checked out her gameplay, you really should. I’m not saying I know whether she has been approached or not approached or if she specifically is or is not being snubbed for her gender; heck, maybe she doesn’t even have an interest in playing in the Overwatch League! But the point is made, dominant female Overwatch players are out there.
Look, I’m not saying that these types of things should be mandated; just be fair in your hiring practices. When your entire on-air and professional talent combined has a single female, performing for a crowd of people who appear to be roughly 50/50 on the gender spectrum there just might be a problem there. Steps should be taken to improve female representation. Do the due diligence and find those amazing female pros and contenders, give them legit consideration, and move beyond the status quo. Our eSport will be so much better for it.
What can we do to help? Support female gamers on their Twitch streams and YouTube accounts, make comments and raise awareness on your social media platforms, and encourage Blizzard and the teams of the OWL to seek out and consider female talent. Treat female gamers with the respect that you show other gamers; they can be good, they can be serious, and they can be just as entertaining as men in the same role.
After publishing, an edit was made to clarify the point being made about women existing that are good enough to play professionally.