Where are all the women in competitive gaming?

(Brooks Harvey)

Group photo of the League of Legends orientation night on October 5. (Brooks Harvey)

When Christie Chung arrived at Ryerson’s League of Legends (LoL) orientation night on Oct. 5, she wasn’t surprised to find that the crowd was mostly male.

Chung, a fourth-year Ryerson nursing student and organizer of the LoL club, believes women are not as involved as men in competitive eSports because the games played are geared towards men.

“There’s a smaller ratio of men to women because the games we have are all combat oriented; LoL, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: GO and Hearthstone,” said Chung.

“In our society in general, a lot of people grow up having these gender roles, which is also a factor.”

The fact that women are sometimes seen as sexual objects in video games also plays a part in the stigma surrounding women in gaming, said Chung, 22. For years, Chung said, female video game characters have been depicted in an overly sexual manner.

Chung said she’s felt intimidated going to eSports events in the past. “But I do feel like, if it was a 50/50 ratio, I would feel much more comfortable going into a tournament,” she said.

According to Ramona Pringle, an assistant professor at the RTA School of Media and a columnist at CBC, a lack of women in competitive gaming is a trend that dates back to the 1980s. Pringle is a World of Warcraft gamer and found the community very supportive. She went on to create an interactive documentary called Avatar Secrets to share her experience.

“There is a narrative around tech culture that can be traced back to the rise of the PC as a consumer device for the home  … they were seen mostly as toys and came with games on them,” said Pringle. “They were marketed primarily to men and boys, which in turn established a narrative that is common to this day, around who the users of those devices are.”

Pringle said this narrative is exclusionary and feeds some of the toxic elements of tech and gaming culture; however, she said it should be noted that this narrative isn’t representative of women’s gaming skills or interests.

Chung agrees.

“At the end of the day, I’m playing video games because I enjoy it,” said Chung. “I’m not here at a local tournament to prove myself or anything like that because I don’t need to. Why should you let someone stop you from having fun because of your gender?”

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