E-sports: Female professional gamers battle for recognition in China

The 2018 World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) recently took place in Hainan, China. The event continues to see increased female participation; however, BBC Future report that gaining recognition from their male e-gaming peers remains a tough battle. We look at how Chinese women players are fighting for gender equality within the online gaming industry.

Clash of the sexes

While traditionally a male-dominated event, the 2018 WESG tournament was noteworthy, due to the increase in female player participation. However, according to the South China Morning Post, women players are struggling for acceptance from their male peers. Hostility, pay inequality and sexism are daily battles facing female gamers. Furthermore, prize money for events is slanted in favour of male players. At the WESG, the total prize fund in the online card game Hearthstone was US$51,000 in the women’s category, comparable to US$150,000 for the open category, where both men and women compete against each other.

Fighting for a level playing field

Fang is a 22-year-old professional e-gamer; she decided to move to Shanghai to sign for Love Laughing Girls (LLG), an all-female e-sports team. However, she only earns under $800 per month, while her male professional competitors earn nearer $1,500 per month. This, in a franchise industry that drew in $27.5 billion in 2017. While men-only leagues provide players with a regular income, LLG are hopeful that the introduction of an all-female league will redress the earnings balance.

Female gamers learn the hard way; between 2000 and 2015 console games were banned in China. Girls honing their skills can be refused entry into internet cafes and gender bias is common. Professional gamer Li Wei was the first woman to ever participate at in a professional championship. She recalls the organiser’s response that her appearance would ‘turn the tournament into a joke.’

Fang and Li Wei are guardians of gaming galaxys. However, their fight for recognition goes on.

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