UPDATE: ‘Men only’ eSports rule overturned after Blizzard & Finnish league step in

Thursday, 3 July 2014 08:17 GMT By Dave Cook

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was set to appear at the Finnish qualifiers for this year’s International E-sports Federation. However, the tournament’s South Korean organisers deemed that females were not eligible to participate, prompting action from Blizzard and the Finland team. The rule has now been overturned.



Speaking with Eurogamer, general manager of international relations at the IeSF Alex Lim discussed the rationale behind segregating gender at the group’s tournaments.

He told the site that the decision was made to help the IeSF’s chances of joining the international sports society and to try and get eSports into the Olympic Games. The group specifically had its eye on the 4th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games. Actively promoting women – it seems – was a pre-requisite for the group securing Sport Accord membership.

Lim explained, “From the tradition sports scene, men were dominating, and international sports society decided to install women division to increase the involvement of women in more easy and efficient way.

“Of course in traditional sports there has been the physiological difference between genders that make it necessary to separate the genders in sports. However, it was hard to apply to eSports since there has not been any evidence that can be applied to eSports. Though some says there is no physiological factor which may affect the performance of men and women, there are others who believe that dynamic visual acuity and precise control may differ by the gender, which may affect the performance.

“It is the third year testing women promotion events, and we truly believe that has grown the women player pool in competitive events. IeSF hopes that both men and women will continue to enjoy and compete in eSports and eSports can be a unique sport that men and women can both compete at an equal level.”

Lim apologised on behalf of the IeSF for its initial decision and admitted that mistakes do happen, and promised that the firm will learn from them moving forward.


Yesterday, we reported on the revelation that the IeSF had segregated entry to the Assembly Summer 2014 qualifier in Finland into the following divisions:

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

This prompted questions surrounding why the IeSF was splitting players by gender, and why Hearthstone, Ultra Street Fighter 4 and Dota 2 didn’t have female equivalents.

At the time, an IeSF statement read, “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.”

However, VentureBeat reports that the Finnish eSports Federation vowed to lobby the IeSF to have the division overturned, and last night, the IeSF posted a new statement that read, “The IESF has listened to the gaming community and has carefully considered their opinions. Upon hearing these concerns, the IESF convoked an emergency session of the IeSF Board to respond.”

As a result of those discussions, all IeSF events will now have ‘open for all’ categories, which are the male-only events listed above, meaning that female gamers can now apply to compete in Hearthstone, Dota 2 and Ultra Street Fighter 4 against male players. The female-only events will remain.

On why the female events will remain as they are, the IeSF added, “The IeSF Board addressed its reason for maintaining events for women, citing the importance of providing female gamers with ample opportunities to compete in e-Sports—currently a male-dominated industry. Female gamers make up half of the world’s gaming population, but only a small percentage of e-Sports competitors are women.

“The IeSF’s female-only competitions aim to bring more diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events. Without efforts to improve representation, e-Sports can’t achieve true gender equality.”

Blizzard also contacted to IeSF to gain clarity on the situation and told VentureBeat, “One of our goals with e-sports is to ensure that there’s a vibrant and also inclusive community around our games

“We do not allow the use of our games in tournaments that do not support this, and are working with our partners to ensure they share the same goal.”

What do you think of the decision?


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  1. The_Red

    This is nice but what about the people BEHIND the original decision? If they are still in place then it means the tournament environment and many other side elements could end up hostile toward female players.

    This is especially ironic after yesterday’s insane controversy about GiantBomb hiring 2 new people who happen to be males. People like Leigh Alexander and Samantha Allen are going after organizers of a good gaming site that also hosts a huge SJW (But also fairly progressive and interesting) journalist in form of Patrick Klepek when organizers of this event were actually being sexist and exclusive.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @The_Red The abuse Allen received was truly horrendous, although I still take issue with her telling her readership to “fuck off,” even those politely challenging her stance without name-calling or sexism. They were just openly asking questions and she told them to fuck off. That’s not right.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Obernox

    Hmm, i didn’t know there was a gender segregation for these things. Pretty ridiculous, really.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @Obernox Very ridiculous.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. Dragon

    Heh, I kinda like this way more than making separate men/women torrnaments for all e-sports.
    Female only for women wanting to compete among themselves, and “open for all” for well, open for all, for the best . Would be amazing to see some female world champions in open for all.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. Ekona

    So there’s still sex-based classification, but because it’s positive discrimination that’s okay?


    You cannot demand inclusion, but still keep female-only events.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @Ekona It’s obvious why the female only events are staying female only. It casts the IeSF in a better light,

    But I agree with you; discrimination of any kind is open for critique. The whole thing should be open to all.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. Dragon

    Here is a bigger version of this story-

    And for anyone not understanding why the change was done, look at this-

    #8 10 months ago
  9. salarta

    The fuck?

    The ONLY reason there’s male and female segregation in sports is a difference in physicality between the sexes. The absolute best they could potentially say to justify such a split is that there are also cognitive differences between the sexes, but those differences aren’t as pronounced as the physical differences in physical sports.

    This is just idiocy in pure form. That or sexism, but I’ll be nice this time and just assume the organizers are stupid. Their “representation” excuse is closer to making something you can almost imagine making logical sense if you don’t think too hard about it, but it’s still stupid. If anything, touting that “e-sports” are one area where men and women can compete with each other for the top would be a REAL way to encourage women getting more involved.

    #9 10 months ago
  10. salarta

    Before anyone says anything: yes, I did read the article. Yes, I’m aware that the event now, after criticism, is allowing “open for all” for what were male-only events. There’s still a problem here in that a female-only category still exists, and in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 apparently being available only for the women but not both sexes (at least as far as I can tell; not finding anything that says otherwise in a quick search).

    #10 10 months ago
  11. The_Red

    @Dave Cook
    True. Sadly this is a case of escalation where each side posts something more flammable and venomous with each reply until both sides end up looking extremely ugly:
    - Allen with “I hate men” and “go fuck yourself” replies
    - Alexander with calling GB a bro-hole and other insults towards the freaking STAFF (as well as their works)
    - and the internet with the aboslutely terrifying and ugly personal attacks on gender, sexuality and safety of Samantha.

    The problem is that the victims keep doing things that hurt and demonize them. For exmaple, Leigh posted a lot of hateful comments about GB Staff and their articles, deleted them and THEN played victim card. Samantha was a bit more honest and forward but then this leaked and she deleted the original:

    #11 10 months ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @The_Red It’s tricky. Saying nothing will stop the issue, but it also looks like you’re ignoring the matter and your critics. I had it during Doritosgate and never once deleted tweets or blocked people. I openly discussed the matter with them and in the end it actually won me a lot of kudos for being open and available for discussion. It worked out in a weird way and I think people respected me more for it.

    But yes, very tricky. I know what Allen is going through. The abuse I received for winning that PS3 was insane. Never felt so low in my life.

    #12 10 months ago
  13. Dragon

    @Ekona ,
    Idealistically, I would say 3 formats (men/women/open for all) should exist. Only having one format (free for all) will reduce the number of winners and matches ( economy/money matters ).

    I doubt they could add the necessary infrastructure for holding more formats this year (on such short notice), hence men ones where changed to open for all. I think this is the best case scenario considering the options they had.

    #13 10 months ago
  14. The_Red

    @Dave Cook
    Very true.
    Your behavior during that period is one of the reasons that got me interested in your work. Being professional, honest and rational is not only beneficial but also essential. Look at what happened with some of the other people involved in that controversy who DID choose to act badly.

    I can never truly understand what Samantha is going through because the horrible abuse she has suffered to lead to such hateful articles (Even in personal blog forms) could break a person. Hell, maybe I would break if I had to suffer that amount of abuse and her feel this hateful makes me feels sorry and at least explains the reasoning behind deletion or similar tactics… And there is absolute sexism and racism (Especially structural) in every corner of game industry. The problem is that when people are pushed to the extremes on either side, then retaliate by extreme behavior or responses. Doing so in a situation like this is inherently dangerous and troubling.
    It is tricky indeed and the moment she DOES delete them while still playing the victim card, things take a turn for the worse.

    Now I don’t want to play “victim blaming” because NO ONE deserves the kind of abuse and threats she is getting unless they are a Hitler or Bin Laden. Sadly, she did fail to properly address a tricky situation and by doing so, made things worse for EVERYONE involved and then some anonymous assholes on the net took it from worse to beyond disgusting. Does it justify the threats and additional abuse? Hell no but it also doesn’t mean we have to change the whole discussion and dilute the pool even more.

    #14 10 months ago
  15. Reddpayn

    Go Finlaaaaannd!! :D

    #15 10 months ago
  16. Dave Cook

    @The_Red Thanks dude, that was a trying time :)

    #16 10 months ago
  17. silkvg247

    Why are there still female only events? They are still fucking missing the point! ARGH! Let’s create segregation in the ONE place where there’s absolutely no need for it! Jesus, my head hurts.

    #17 10 months ago
  18. eTitan

    I do think everyone should compete on the same level in esports. But I think its silly that this gets so much attention when there are tons of female only tournaments.

    As long as we segregate one way, there will always be hostility from at least one if the sides.

    #18 10 months ago
  19. silkvg247

    @eTitan please educate me – in which of those tournaments can you argue that there is no need for segregation? With gaming there’s no difference between our genders, so segregation is sickening in every way. With every *physical* sport there is a need for segregation (otherwise women wouldn’t get to play anything, which would suck).

    #19 10 months ago
  20. eTitan

    @silkvg247 Wait, we just made the same point. Why are you questioning me when we posted the exact same opinion. All tournaments SHOULD be open to everyone. There shouldn’t be any female only tournaments either.

    Did I misunderstand you?

    #20 10 months ago
  21. salarta

    @The_Red I’d add “a devout member of Boko Haram” to the list that includes Hitler and Bin Laden.

    I think a lot of people pushing for empathy and fair treatment on these things are just getting really sick of fighting a fight that shouldn’t need to be fought, and it’s making many bitter and jaded with the general populace. It takes a lot of conscious effort to keep arguments from leading you down to very dark places. I’m going to make a controversial connection here and say that it can push some people into extremism if they don’t feel they’re actually being heard and if they can’t keep their composure and stay level-headed.

    This is the perspective from which Samantha’s deleted post comes into play. The scary part is that I can see things getting much, much worse if the perfectly reasonable complaints keep meeting ignorant resistance from guys that want to keep things as restrictive and male-privilege-oriented as it’s been in the past. Right now, the situation is agitated but reversible. But the more things like the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian happen, the more those harassers encourage the rise of a very strong, very vocal and potentially very extreme movement that has a massive backing to it. When I say extreme, I’m talking the possibility of feminists going out to ruin the lives of people they believe are misogynists in order to make an example of them. I’m talking revenge porn style tactics, wrapped up in the idea and excuse of vigilante justice. “If they can use it for a bad cause, we should use it for a good one.”

    This does NOT mean I advocate that behavior. I do not, in any way. I’m only highlighting the risk. While I’d like to believe all women would look back on their history and see they can get the progress they need by peaceful means even in the face of severe violence (many women that pushed for suffrage in the U.S. were essentially tortured for it, by police no less), I know we can’t rely on that to hold true. Extreme viewpoints are all the talk these days, whether we’re talking about Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda, or the Cliven Bundy matter of armed men rushing to help a man break the law and putting women up front as “human shields” if they get in a shootout, or something like the Tea Party. And sadly, the message getting out there through the media is that extremism, though potentially deadly, works. Despite how bad it is for society and everyone in it.

    I think if I took the time to think about what I just said in this comment, I’d never post it, but I think this is the one time where I may need to pass the idea along just once for some people to keep it in mind whenever they see big controversies about things like representation of women in video games. Even if the anti-progress logic of “women should be complaining about more important things than a female protagonist” were true (it’s not), it’s at least a sign that something most definitely is wrong with the way society treats women, and it needs to be fixed. Any “crazy” complaints (whether they actually are crazy or not is up for debate) have their origins in legitimate problems, if there’s a massive groundswell of support behind them.

    #21 10 months ago
  22. eTitan

    Just because someone has a complaint doesn’t mean the complaint has any logic or truth to it. Some things are of course wrong and some are actually being discriminated. However, these people drown in a sea of people like Anita Sarkeesian who doesn’t actually have any real problems so they invent some where none exist only to fight for a cause so they can feel that their life has more meaning than someone else’s.

    When these people then face any form of critique, even if it disproves their point in the most polite way possible, they instantly feel like they’re not good enough and acts the victim. Telling everyone how they were harassed by the masses, when in truth everyone just explained why the person in question is wrong (and those two guys out of hundreds being assholes about it).

    Everyone can get away with pretty much anything today, just by playing the victim, this is a real issue.

    #22 10 months ago
  23. salarta

    @eTitan My point was that regardless of if a specific complaint has truth to it, if there’s a huge backing in support of the complaint, there must be some kind of deeper issue not getting fixed. Nazi Germany targeted Jews, but the real impetus of that kind of major change wasn’t anything the Jews themselves did, it was the economic situation caused by World War I sanctions and a desire by many Germans to find an out.

    Now, I think the many blogs and videos targeting issues of female character representation in video games are perfectly justified. I think it’s absurd to think that a bigger problem existing somewhere in the world must mean these problems aren’t problems. That line of logic implies that anything you ever experience in your whole life is something you’re not allowed to complain about because someone, somewhere is getting murdered, or raped, or abducted. Someone smashed up your car? It happens. Your dad died? It happens. Wife cheated on you? It happens. Those sound like extreme examples, but they’re really not. In reality, they’re the end game of that kind of logic. It’s where the rabbit hole leads. And frankly, the people trying to downplay complaints about treatment of women in video games set the standard of using those examples because many have said women shouldn’t complain about video games because of situations like the abductions by Boko Haram.

    Now that I think of it, the “you can’t complain because there are more serious problems” argument is undone by its own premise. It says that a person shouldn’t waste precious time arguing over something “trivial” next to major situations like abductions, which in effect means complaining about people complaining about video games is just as bad or worse.

    Got a little sidetracked. What I’m trying to say is, even if we give the benefit of doubt and assume everything up to and including Sarkeesian’s videos is completely false, there’s still a problem in there somewhere that needs to be fixed. The popularity of her videos, from funding to backlash, proves this. She would not have an audience, nor would she have swarms of vitriol targeted at her to the level she does, if she was not speaking to something out there that has merit. Maybe it’s not anything she’s presenting. Maybe it’s an entirely different undercurrent of discrimination toward women and how they’re seen and treated by society through the video game industry. But if everything she said had no merit on any possible level, she would be completely unknown. Her work would be as niche and obscure as any other random person on the internet talking about his or her personal interests.

    So, let’s say all criticisms of the videos are perfectly accurate and true. For argument’s sake, let’s say none of the videos have even a single shred of validity. They still came from somewhere that is valid. Such videos don’t come into being out of nowhere and then become popular just because they exist. A legitimate complaint of some kind lies at the heart of the issue, whatever that complaint might be.

    #23 10 months ago
  24. The_Red

    Chalk me up to the list of ignorants who had to google Boko Haram… and this is coming from someone who’s living in a Muslim country (Though I’m not of that particular faith).

    Thank you for this post. If you I’m not mistaken, you are talking about her being PUSHED to such extremes by misogynists, asshole males in her life and internet trolls. While I disagree with some of the things she and Leigh have done over the last 24 hours, at least now I have better context and understanding. I’m actually DO NOT believe that “women should be complaining about more important things than a female protagonist”. Yes, they should be complaining about bigger things (The horrible situation in Muslim countries for example) ALONGSIDE things like this because the gaming environment really IS sexist and toxic.

    There really is something terribly wrong with the way society treats women BUT even with the crazy complaints having origins in legitimate problems, they do nothing but make the situation worse. Being pushed to the extremes is what turned many Palestinians into suicide bombers (Goddamit I brought a super tricky middle east situation into the equation but please stay with me).

    Just because either side was ignored for a long time or felt that normal fight doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean they have to go crazy on the other one. The whole thing about GiantBomb story has turned into a “escalation” crisis (Albeit on twitter and forums rather than streets). The original criticism of GiantBomb by Samantha was well mannered and appropriate (If a bit misguided and ill-informed considering the situation with GB and how it was formed as a community of OLD FRIENDS / Critics from GameSpot). Some people on the net answered the criticisms with proper words, logical points and explanations about how different GB works. Sadly some people didn’t do it calmly and instead resorted to flammable / asshole-ish tactics.

    That was the breaking point. The moment when Samantha could show strength and not fall for the trap. She didn’t. She did worse and turned this into a sex war by seemingly recruiting Leigh Alexander. Now I know this is a rather gross sort of wording on my part and I apologize but even if she was indeed trying to use Leigh’s help for a just fight against sexism (a real problem), her carelessness and terrible moves alongside Leigh’s mistakes (That she hastily deleted / hid) derailed the whole topic and made things worse by inviting even bigger and crazier internet assholes who resorted to the worst possible replies like attacking Samantha’s gender and sexuality.

    When Leigh’s attacks reached the GB staff and their WORK (articles), things had obviously gone out of control and that is exactly what could have happened with Dave during Doritos-gate. Now I absolutely agree that her situation is harder and more troubling (Fighting a deep rooted and structural sexism in every facet of industry) but the trickiness is the same. What did we gain from all of this?

    GB’s editor posted an open letter, Samantha quit video games as a whole and Leigh made tweets that she had to delete without anything of value being done (Where as in the eSport / tournament situation, there were positive results even though I still think there should be more investigation into the environment and management of these events).
    Sorry about the long comment and thanks again for your reply.

    #24 10 months ago
  25. salarta

    @The_Red I don’t know Samantha’s personal life, so I can’t promise that the circumstances that can push a person toward extremism apply to her. What I can say is that based on her deleted blog post, I strongly believe they do. I also think the deleted blog post speaks volumes to what she’s been through, and why, at the very least from her perspective, everything she’s said is valid. I’ve been writing a lot of text today, so I’ll leave it at that.

    I agree with you that situations like Boko Haram should be cause for complaint alongside the video game industry stuff. If I had to guess, I’d assume the video game industry stuff gets more rant time because it’s something that seems like it can actually be fixed. You can’t fix the Boko Haram issue from your home, but you can try to fix game companies.

    You’re also right that a person getting pushed to extremes doesn’t mean they have to go out and do crazy things. I completely agree with you on that, I hoped my prior post got that across. The thing is, not everyone pushed to extremes can be aware and cognizant enough of what’s happening to them that they can keep themselves from doing really bad things and believing them to be justified by their cause. Anders Behring Breivik might end up being a good example of this problem. People saw him as a very nice guy, but whatever set of circumstances led to him thinking his “culture” was disappearing, he ultimately got himself to a place where he convinced himself he needed to train himself to not care about killing kids “for the greater cause.” Somewhere along the way, he went from “I need to stand up for what I care about” to “I need to murder children to make my statement, and I must train myself to be willing to do that.”

    It goes all ways, too. With some of the hatred I get for some things I say, I honestly think I’m at risk of someone taking things a step too far toward me out of their hatred, and I don’t even have a blog.

    So yes, judging by what I can see (I haven’t dug very deep), Samantha and Leigh fell into a trap and it led to making things worse when they didn’t need to go that way. But, it happened because in that critical moment, the pressure and hatred placed on them alongside the potentially fair criticism went too far, and they weren’t able to resist its effects.

    And you’re also right that we didn’t really gain much from the situation. While I know nobody’s rushing to look at the comments sections of VG247, hopefully this discussion and ones like it salvage some value out of the mess.

    No need to apologize about the long reply, I’m terrible at keeping things short myself. :)

    #25 10 months ago
  26. salarta

    @The_Red Oh, and when I said “you can’t fix the Boko Haram situation from your home,” I mean you can’t really do anything to rescue the girls that isn’t already being done. Everyone knows it’s a problem, other nations are getting involved. The BringBackOurGirls hashtag has done what it was needed to do. Video games, on the other hand, seem like something you can help solve by putting more pressure on companies.

    #26 10 months ago
  27. silkvg247

    @eTitan I think I misunderstood you – thought you were talking about non gaming tournies. Sorry. :)

    #27 10 months ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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