Overwatch League: Where are the Women?

Blizzard's popular six-versus-six video game, Overwatch, has been praised for its diverse cast of characters. There are muscular, intelligent, cunning, and handy female characters to play as. However, its new esports league has begun and none of the announced teams have a single female player.

One could argue that there were simply no willing, skilled female participants. Unfortunately, there is one highly skilled player: Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon of South Korea. She competed last year in one of the world's most prestigious Overwatch tournaments as the first woman to do so. In 2016, she was wrongly accused of hacking because her skills were exceptional. Kim even received violent threats because of the disbelief. She then proved that she was not hacking by live streaming her keyboard as well as her performance on screen.

Despite her accomplishments, League teams came up with various answers for not featuring any women on their rosters. The Houston Outlaws, who have ten players on their team, argued that the language barrier would have been too difficult to deal with as well as co-ed player housing. They did mention that women will have a harder time getting into esports. Outlaws general manager Matt Rodriguez worried that if a League team chose a female player, the press may consider it to be a PR stunt rather than a decision based on the woman's skills.

Even Outlaws players realized that women faced more obstacles and seemed to have sympathy for Kim and other women. Player Jacob "JAKE" Lyon stated, "People will always be doubting, always be judging. So it has to be the right person, the right player, and those things have to come together at the right moment—which makes it especially hard for women in the scene right now."

Other teams who feature South Koreans, like London Spitfire and New York Excelsior, still managed to avoid adding someone like Kim to their team. These teams would not have come across the language barrier issue as the Outlaws imagined, but they claim Kim would not have helped them accomplish certain goals.

Based on the arguments of those who attended the Overwatch League media day, it seems that one conclusion is certain: female players will simply have to work much harder than male players. When Overwatch League teams finally decide to add a woman to their team, more and more teams will follow suit. At least, that is what they claim so far. Basically, no team wants to be the first to feature a woman and has some excuse for doing so. Whether the assemblers of these esports teams continue to question the talents of female players, worry about spending more money on housing, worry about what media outlets and Redditors will say, or they refuse to train members of their team to communicate despite language barriers, it is clear that they perhaps value the idea of diversity, but do not want to handle the stress of being a diverse team.

Photo credits: Overwatch LeagueOverbuff, Blizzard