A Finnish Hearthstone Tournament Excludes Women and Here’s Why [updated]

Posted by | July 2, 2014

[Update: According to Polygon the IeSF has reversed its decision and promised to retain all-women divisions and change segregation policies, which means, “IeSF shall have two event categories: ‘Open for All’ events and events that are reserved for women.]

Something is rotten in Finland. The Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone tournament will be segregated so that only male players can participate. Sorry, women?

“Your information is indeed correct, the tournament is open to Finnish male players only,” said Markus “Olodyn” Koskivirta, head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifier, in a statement to PC Gamer. “In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only. This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8 [round of eight]) among other things.”

That hardly seems like a reasonable argument as to why women are obligated to stand aside during the Hearthstone tournament. The real problem isn’t fundamental to the Finnish tournament, but IeSF policies themselves, which we address below.

To make matters worse, the gender division for what tournaments either gender can participate in is even weirder.

According to the IeSF Facebook event page, here’s the lineup:

  • Male Competition: Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Ultra Street Fighter IV
  • Female Competition: Starcraft 2, Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Women get only two tournament games. One, Starcraft 2 they get to play as well as the men (but from what we understand they’re segregated); but Tekken Tag Tournament 2 they get to play amongst themselves. No women who play Dota 2 or Ultra Street Fighter IV?

The entire gender division is senseless; as is any sort of segregation at all. Women gamers aren’t specially different than men gamers when it comes to capability. There’s just no practical reason to do it. It’s simply out of character and misrepresents the gaming community—which by-and-large approaches parity with gender demographics (at around 45% cited in 2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry).

So what’s the problem?

It is the case that the IeSF Heartstone finals, taking place in South Korea, prohibits women from playing. As a result, if women were able to play against men in the Finnish tournament and a woman displayed a male player she would not be able to go on to the final round.

It would seem that the tournament is suffering from sexism-by-proxy.

Perhaps this is a good time for the rest of the e-sports industry to step up and show everyone that it’s possible to run a tournament without leaving out half of the human race.

Dissent from other sectors in the industry

Major League Gaming, a competing e-sports venue, told GamesBeat that they have never segregated tournaments based on gender.

“Since our inception 12 years ago, we have provided an equal platform for male and female competitors at our in-person events and via our online platform at MLG.tv,” MLG chief executive officer and cofounder Sundance DiGiovanni told GamesBeat.

Hat’s off to MLG in the face of IeSF’s blunder.

MLG goes on to tell GamesBeat that its not willing to just sit on its heels and allow women to enter tournaments; MLG actively promotes and encourages women to enter e-sports.

Also chiming in, ESL (Electronic Sports League) told GamesBeat it is also actively seeking female participants.

Gaming is already presented as hostile-enough to women–even with the scene having a notable number of women gamers. MLG and ESL will probably find themselves out-competing rivals who show no outreach to female gamers by losing out on talent in general and weakening their potential audience.

We are still waiting for Blizzard’s reaction to the Hearthstone tournament and will update this story with the blue comment when it happens.


Leave a Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)