IeSF Ends Male-Only Restriction in Tournaments Following Hearthstone Controversy
A controversial week in the world of eSports turned out to have a happy ending. After a Finnish Hearthstone tournament was outed as being male-only and that restriction as having come as a result of the event being a qualifier for the International e-Sports Federation World Championship, IeSF has done a complete rethink on its tournament policies and are eliminating its male-only tournaments and opening them to all genders.
Let’s do a quick recap of the controversy before we get too far into analysis. Earlier this week, a Reddit user on /r/Hearthstone posted the info for the Hearthstone tournament taking place during Finland’s Assembly Summer 2014 eSports event. Assembly’s tournament info indicated that it was an IeSF qualifier and would be a male-only tournament as a result. The tournament’s head admin told PC Gamer that the tournament was setup to comply with IeSF rules to ensure the winner was eligible for the IeSF World Championship.
At the time this controversy cropped up, IeSF broke its tournaments down into two formats. There are male-only tournaments which include Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone and Ultra Street Fighter IV. IeSF also has two female-only tournaments, Starcraft 2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
Considering that no other major eSports tournaments seem to have this gender divide, this quickly became very controversial. IeSF’s position, though, was, “The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports.”
If anyone has looked at the rule books for “legitimate sports” lately, I don’t think very many have rules that prohibit women from playing in men’s leagues. Now, there are rules prohibiting men from playing in women’s leagues but that’s because most men would have an unfair physical advantage over women in a sport. Keeping women’s leagues women-only makes sense as a result. Banning women from men’s leagues doesn’t make any sense if they are able to compete at a level high enough to get into those leagues.
Possibly with that in mind and certainly with the idea of trying to quell a controversy in mind, IeSF quickly made a change to its tournament structures. Effective immediately, they are ending male-only competitions. Instead, IeSF tournaments will be Open For All or Female-Only. The idea behind keeping female-only competitions is to improve female representation in eSports which makes sense given that we currently see a low proportion of female participation in eSports relative to the general gamer population.
For the 2014 IeSF World Championship, the formerly male-only tournaments for Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone and Ultra Street Fighter IV have been made Open For All. An Open For All tournament for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has been added to the lineup as well. Female-only competitions for SC2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 remain in place with no alterations.
We can look at whether this should have existed in the first place but this is part of the growing pains for a new sport. Hindsight being 20/20, of course eSports organizations shouldn’t have had this gender divide in the first place. The benefit of this controversy is that it will chart the course for eSports in the future. Going through this controversy now is a good thing because the eSports community has had its chance to work through some gender segregation issues and hopefully we don’t run into this issue in the future.