Nearly 50% of the female population in younger generations (and developed countries) play video games. Looking at local pro-gaming events, you will have to look for female pro gamers with a magnifying glass. Why are most pro gamers male, or why are there not as many females as male pro gamers?
In general, both genders are now equally interested in video games. However, this interest says nothing about the intensity of the activity and the type of video games. For example, female hardcore gamers’ share in first-person shooter games (Valorant, PUBG, CSGO) is 2%. The exact value applies to sports games (e.g., FIFA, Rocket League).
Hobby gamers who only play once a week will never reach a pro gamer’s level. If you play Tetris on your mobile phone, you may be a video gamer, but you are very far away from Esport. Important games fairs such as E3 or the Gamescom show an equal number of both sexes visitors.
A study from 2017 (link here) breaks down female players’ participation by genre. Of course, the focus here was not on Esport but casual games. Nevertheless, the result is very revealing.
There are, however, more aspects that lead to this massive imbalance. Some are obvious; others are somewhat hidden.
Disclaimer: I leave other genders out of consideration for reasons of complexity without wanting to devalue them. But that would certainly be a good topic for another post, wouldn’t it?
Note: This article was written in English. Translations into other languages may not provide the same linguistic quality. We apologize for grammatical and semantic errors.
Game designers mainly were men until a few years ago. The big publishers also tended to focus more on male players. If a game is made for boys, then, logically, boys play it. But since the audience has become more mixed, there are often massive changes in the design process. This starts with textures and player characters and doesn’t end with Story-Line. Nevertheless, it takes time until the next generation of (female) players can benefit from it.
A good example is the Tomb Raider series. Lara Croft started in the 90s with gigantic chest size. Barbie was so jealous that she almost looked for breast surgery. The game was played almost exclusively by male players.
The sexism debate that this triggered culminated in 2013 in Lara Croft, who is self-confident, strong, and intelligent, looks like an average woman. This has led to the game now being played by 50% female players. With this example, the game industry realized how significant the identification factor with the game character is.
Just five years ago, you couldn’t choose a female character in over a third of all games. So is it surprising that there are less than one-third of female players?
Other manufacturers have already tried to involve the female population more but have failed because of the male community. A prime example is Electronic Arts, which went under in Shitstorm to mention that FIFA is considering adding a mode where the players are women.
The sad thing is that you can change pretty much everything in FIFA (stadium, jersey, player stats) at the push of a button, but whether you are on the field with men or women is not something that can be left to the gamer.
The following chart shows how high the percentage of female players is for the respective game genre. You can immediately see that women are still underrepresented in some genres. Of course, the interests of women and men are sometimes simply different, but that is certainly not the only reason for the sometimes very unbalanced distribution.
Sexism Meets Anonymity
Like on social platforms, where you can use simple accounts almost to anonymize comments, video games have to contend with toxic behavior. Video games are often used to blow off steam. When things don’t go as smoothly as they should, the team members are often used as an excuse.
It gets worse when a beginner plays along and gives away the victory that was plainly in sight.
To a certain extent, “flaming” belongs to every sport. However, if trash talk becomes offensive, limits are crossed. Female gamers often experience this limit being shifted even further into the negative as soon as open sexism is added.
Sadly, we do not have a universal translator yet. Therefore, unfortunately, many people have to communicate in English who do not know the language properly. And badly, the vocabulary is then mostly only enough for curses.
As a result, Esport loses the largest share of female players due to male players’ behavior. If I were to be offended very often in a group, I would also prefer to spend my time more wisely.
Of course, the mostly younger male players’ harsh behavior is due to the normal pubertal phase. Hormones remain hormones. The problem here is simply anonymity. Borders are crossed with impunity.
Proposal for the publishers: Record voice chat and text chat. In improper behavior (insults and sexism), the account can be blocked by a report. And yes, I am for hardware bans. Otherwise, there is no learning effect.
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Boys play with cars, ball or robbers and gendarme – girls with dolls. Hello? This is the 21st century! And yet, almost every child is pushed into these boxes from many different directions. The parents don’t even have to be the biggest culprit.
Remember all the Christmas presents you got when you were a kid. I’d be surprised if you got a doll as a boy. And it would surprise me if Santa Claus put a FIFA-style video game under the tree when you were a girl.
The other way around? No problem…
Wait. Isn’t that what happened to you? Cool parents!
But then there is also kindergarten, school, grandparents, friends, clubs, hotels, amusement parks, television, radio, YouTube, etc.
They all influence your values and views on what makes a man and what makes a woman. Therefore, the social imprinting is primarily externally controlled, and you hardly had a chance to intervene in a corrective way.
Unfortunately, it’s not until you have your own children that you start to think about the educational process, but that’s when the first princess-doll is on the shelf.
Imagine coming into a football stadium with 50,000 fans and standing alone in your block as a fan of the opposing team. How does that make you feel?
Few more extroverted people would visibly enjoy such a situation. On the contrary, the majority would probably leave the stadium immediately and prefer to sit in front of the TV.
Female pro gamers (or even well-known streamers) are relatively extroverted. As a result, they have become accustomed to taking on a unique role among the many male players – even if, in extreme cases, this can lead to unpleasant comments.
The prospect of being a unicorn puts off most players. Usually, you don’t want to be considered a nerd, whether at work, school, family, or other social environments. However, here you can find the result of a series of interviews with female pro gamers by the British BBC (link). The sentence, “As a female gamer, I don’t want to feel like a unicorn.” remained in my memory.
This is one reason why many female gamers shy away from a public career as a pro gamer.
Are there any Good Female Pro Gamers at all?
Did you (i.e., me) really ask the question? Well, there are female stars among the players. If you’re interested in who has already won big, then look at this Top 20 list here (link) or this Top 100 list here (link).
Ultimately, these lists show one thing above all: there is no difference in the performance of women and men in Esport. This is undoubtedly something that distinguishes Esport from regular sports. I even claim that sometime in the next 20 years, teams without female members will hardly have a chance [thesis].
In this post, we showed you that the statement “there are now as many women playing video games as there are men” only applies to the leisure and entertainment sector – and that’s a beautiful advance in the last 20 years.
But if we look at competitive games such as first-person shooters, sports games, or strategy titles, the female share shrinks rapidly.
Esports are still relatively young compared to traditional sports. For example, it lacks a structured talent search or an established amateur sector. However, I suspect that such structures will help to reduce the gender gap significantly. We’ve covered the key differences between Esports and traditional sports in this post:
Further social and psychological hurdles then ultimately ensure that we see very few female pro gamers in Esport.
Apart from social values changes, it is above all the male players who can change this by becoming aware of what their behavior means for others. As in business, Esport cannot afford to do without female skills and spectators. Different views, expertise, and instincts are an enrichment for every team.
We would like to see more female pro gamers at finals and world championships in the coming years. Everybody – that means YOU – can influence that.
When it comes to pro gaming, a few other questions may come to mind, such as:
What are the chances of becoming a pro gamer? The answer is here.
Or, how long does it take to become a pro gamer? We have also prepared something for you – here.
If you have questions about the post or pro gaming in general, write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GL & HF! Flashback out.
Michael "Flashback" Mamerow has been playing video games for over 35 years and has built and led two Esports organizations. As an IT architect and casual gamer, he is dedicated to technical topics.