The Major of Counter-strike, one of the most prestigious competitions on the planet esports, arrives in Paris from Monday, but no woman is among the 24 teams qualified for the event, in theory open to all.
A mixed discipline, esport, a term that designates video game competitions, remains a territory that is often hostile to women.
“It has always been a very masculine environment and some have difficulty with the intrusion of women into their sanctuary”, Clément Coupart, alias “Rasmelthor”, coach on the game Rocket League, recently explained to AFP.
While they represent half of video game players according to the latest barometer of the France Esports association, very few women embark on a career in esports where they represent, according to estimates, only 5 to 10 % competitors.
“Kayane”, specialist in fighting games, “Scarlett”, Canadian player of Starcraft II, or even “Karma”, champion of Rocket League… Facing men, only a handful of players have managed to forge a prize list at the high level.
“Barriers to entry
However, “no natural predisposition prevents a woman from one day being the best player in the world”, assures AFP Fabien Devide, the boss of Vitality, the leading esports club in France.
But women face a number of “barriers to entry”, he explains, citing gender bias, name-calling and cyber-harassment which deters many.
“There is a lot of educational work to be done, whether with the public or the actors,” he continues. “It’s a generation that was built with Twitter, Twitch and all the drifts that go with it. So there are mentalities to change.”
“It’s sad to say, but esports is still a very toxic and misogynistic environment, so it’s very difficult to find your place,” adds Velouria Baty, alias “Viki”. “It’s a brake to be insulted just because you’re a girl. It’s super discouraging.”
At 25, this player from another flagship esports game, League of Legends, was named last April captain of the “French Bees”, Vitality’s first all-female team.
“Education plays a big role in the fact that there are not many girls,” she continues. “If in basic education, we had inculcated that it is normal for a girl to play video games as much as a boy, we would not be here today.”
So to encourage diversity, more and more players in the sector are taking the side of creating teams and competitions reserved for women. A paradoxical but necessary solution, according to many players.
Recognizing that esports could be “difficult” for women, the video game publisher Riot Games created in 2021 an all-female circuit on the Valorant shooter and announced the launch this year of an all-female competition. on League of Legends.
Access to mixed competitions
“We have this desire to give women the opportunity to have dedicated competitions in which they can develop,” says Julie Jeanniot, team leader at Riot Games France.
“The fact that they have access to these women’s competitions allows them to be more confident to level up and then access mixed competitions,” she adds.
Because for all those who participate, the goal of the leagues reserved for women is that they end up becoming useless.
In a few seasons, the Majors of Counter-Strike will perhaps welcome women alongside the stars of the discipline, the French Mathieu Herbaut, alias “Zywoo”, or the Ukrainian Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.
In the meantime, the Major 2023 starts on Monday with the “Challengers stage”, the first qualification stage, before the “Legends stage” from May 13 to 16, then the final phase, the “Champions stage”, which will take place in public at the ‘Accor Arena in Bercy from May 18 to 21.