In that case, maybe later… Next time… Y’know in the future when things are more established. Now, sit down and make me a sammich.
“We build games for everybody. We want everyone to come and play.” Chris Metzen uttered those exact words during a Blizzcon press conference in 2014. Turns out that was just a cute line. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the current Overwatch league roster shall we? Notice anything missing from those names? Yeah me too, there is not one woman on any team in the biggest eSports league in the history of gaming. Now if your first thought on this is along the lines of “Well if women players were better they would have been signed” you are part of the problem, and you are wrong.
Turns out you can be one of the biggest names in the Overwatch scene and it doesn’t matter. During the Overwatch League media day one of the biggest questions was “Where is Geguri?” If you don’t know who Geguri is, allow me to enlighten you. Geguri is a teenage Overwatch Zarya player that is so good she was accused of cheating by other pros after destroying them in the Nexus Cup qualifiers. But naturally it didn’t end there, one player known as Strobe (part of the pro team Dizziness) went on to say “If this problem is confirmed as a hack, it would have caused a problem to our career and reputation. How will you take responsibility for that?’ Strobe is also quoted as saying, “If there is a problem with our sponsors and such, I may visit Geguri’s house with a knife in hand. I am not joking.”
Ah the wonderful death threat, where would gaming be without it? Even when Blizzard came out and confirmed that Geguri was not in fact a cheating cheater, some players still needed more proof. To counter these claims and further clear her name Geguri went on a live stream with a camera focused on her hands. This caused two “pro” players to quit. Can you imagine being so upset that you got beaten by a girl you quit your so called career? The good news in all of this is majority of those who accused her also apologized publicly. (You can read Strobe’s apology here.)
Now that you’re up to speed we can talk about the real problem here and that is the responses to “Where are the women?” If you are already getting side-eye for not signing any female players the last thing you want to do is give a “Errrr well… We see there’s a problem buuuuut…” answer, right? Apparently not when you are the manager of an Overwatch league team.
The Houston Outlaws spent a solid chunk of time explaining that they couldn’t hire Geguri due to language barriers and co-ed player housing (Oh noes, cooties!) and Matt Rodriguez was quoted saying “You have to go through all these hurdles, like if you pick up a player, is the press gonna call it a PR stunt, or is it because she was the best?” That’s it then, obviously if you choose a woman it can’t be because she’s good it’s just that you want attention because we all know womenz can’t game! In a follow up interview he explained that he views Overwatch league as “really professional,” but lower tier scenes are “more wild west.” And absolutely nothing says “I’m a professional” like deliberately throwing games because you’re upset something didn’t go your way.
Even if I give them the language barrier benefit of the doubt the same cannot be said for the New York Excelsior and the London Spitfire whose teams are comprised entirely of Korean players (Don’t worry they said something stupid about not embracing girls too). Both teams made the “we were looking for a team that had experience playing together as a core” excuse which falls right on it’s face when you look into and realize the teams are a mash up of top tier players from varying teams. Don’t worry though, Scott Tester (he played a large role in assembling the Excelsior team) went on to say that that at some point he’d love to have a team that’s not all-men.
As if this weren’t enough of a slap in the face Dan Fiden (president of Cloud9) stated that in order to make eSports less toxic they need to start “at the beginning”. Please keep in mind that this league JUST STARTED! “We’ve been pretty vocal about our plans to build out a youth esports ecosystem for Overwatch and other games,” Fiden said in an interview. “That’s why we’re building out a facility that actually has a place where you can go and play on a team—play on the junior Cloud 9s. We think that infrastructure like that will foster an environment where people will feel like they can go and play competitive video games in a safer place.”
That’s it! That’s what we need, a safe space! Why fix the problem when you can pretend it doesn’t exist and infantilize women at the same time! “Oh no sweetie, this league is for big girls, you can play in the youth league! It’s safer!”
So my question is, what now Blizzard? You created a game with the premise of inclusivity and diversity, tried to feature characters from all walks of life, but when Overwatch makes it to the big stage all that goes out the window. Everyone seems to be aware that there is an issue, several people acknowledge how much harder these players will have to work to even be noticed, let alone signed. And yet… All we are left with are hollow echoes of “now isn’t the time to give women players a shot, but someday they’ll totally be part of the Overwatch League, just not now… at the beginning… like we said it needed to be.”
If not now, then when?