The announcement last Tuesday (23 March) of a women-only esports event for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games taking place in Hanoi has certainly raised some eyebrows, in a good way.
Riot Games’ Wild Rift is the only esports title to feature a women-only event, even though it’s the newest title in the SEA Games.
That’s likely partly due to Riot’s lobbying — the game developer has already worked with the Female Esports League and Lenovo’s Legion of Valkyries for Valorant, which is not on the list of esports titles for the SEA Games 2021.
“We’re heartened that organisations have created the same opportunities with League of Legends: Wild Rift esports. VNG, our publishing partner for League of Legends: Wild Rift in Vietnam, helped to spearhead this opportunity and we're pleased that the game will feature events for both men and women at the SEA Games 2021,” said Chris Tran, Riot Games’ Head of Esports for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Tran also added that he hopes to see mixed esport division in other future “Olympic-calibre events” and was glad that the 2021 SEA Games had set a precedent.
The move has certainly caught the attention of female esports insiders, who were positive about the upcoming event. Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia spoke to Tammy Tang, the Lead for the Female Esports League, and Kelly Ong, Chief Strategy Officer and co-owner of Alliance, to hear what they have to say on this.
What are your thoughts on the inclusion of a Wild Rift women-only esports medal event for the 2021 SEA Games?
Tammy Tang: I’m really happy to see that Wild Rift is making an effort to secure women participation, but at the same time I think it shows that left to their own devices, teams do not organically recruit women competitors.
Kelly Ong: I am super excited and looking forward to seeing the best female players in my home region competing for the medal. I wish I was still competing, though!
Are you disappointed that it’s only for Wild Rift and not extended to the other games?
Tammy: Not having a women’s division doesn’t preclude women from joining the tournament, so I’m not disappointed.
Kelly: I hope that they will include more titles in future, but I believe it's a great start regardless.
What do you think of the separation of genders given that esports does not rely on the difference in physical abilities between genders?
Tammy: To an extent, I believe there isn’t a barrier based on gender, however, the statistics show otherwise. Even as the gap closes in the number of men and women casual gamers, the gap between the number of men and women professional gamers continues to be disproportionately great.
Kelly: If you adjust your mindset to think of women's league as youth leagues, then its core purpose is aiding entry and being a runway for future endeavours.
Both the youth and women have had less opportunities compared to male adult competitors simply due to the amount of competitive exposure.
This includes everything surrounding it such as media training, enough tournaments to compete in, opportunities to play with the best of the best, and more — then perhaps there can be more understanding on why I am very supportive of female leagues. It's not the destination but the start for many budding aspiring pros.
As leaders in both your respective fields, what are your thoughts on the first female esports event that’s officially recognised by regional governments?
Tammy: I think that it isn’t an especially foreign concept to them, because in sports, medal events are separated into men and women categories.
As a gamer, it does seem quite daring to endorse and recognise this division, as I think in general there is a lot of backlash from the gaming community when tournaments separate genders.
Kelly: I’m very positive and am looking forward to contributing and supporting these initiatives.
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com
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