Between July 20-22, the second GIRLGAMER Esports Festival took place in Lisbon, Portugal. The three day event featured a business conference with 19 speakers from the games industry, followed by an invitational tournament with eight all-female professional teams competing in tournaments for League of Legends and CS:GO. This all took place on a spectacular stage at the Casino Estoril – one of the biggest European casinos – with a prize pool of €20,000 (€10,000 for each game). Several international organisations gave presentations, talking mostly about how players can forge a career in the esports industry. Of particular interest was Kalie Moore and Anna Rozwandowicz’s seven communication commandments on why esports comms matters in a fan-driven economy, as well as Amanda Sanyal’s presentation on inclusion in esports. The conference portion of the event also hosted a Q&A session with eight professional female gamers, which did plenty to explain how women can rise to prominence in a traditionally male-dominated industry. There was a particular focus on finding pathways to a career in esports – by competing in a variety of tournaments and ignoring social stereotypes. Now onto the esports. The League of Legends double-elimination tournament was contested by four professional female gamer teams: Zombie Unicorns, Asus Rog Army, Forger Valkyrie and Excel. For the CS:GO event, the format was also double-elimination and it was Team Dignitas, Team Unknown, Beşiktaş Esports, eParadise Angels competing for the top prize. In the League of Legends events, all of the teams played safely, taking few risks and racking up good creep scores. The flipside of this safe playstyle is fewer opportunities to generate decisive advantage – that means fewer tower dives and other risky maneuvers. In the best-of-three grand finals, Zombie Unicorns beat Asus Rog Army with a 2:0 score. Meanwhile, during the CS:GO tournament, the teams demonstrated good coordination, map awareness, and reaction times – in particular, there were some exceptional plays and comebacks from Team Dignitas dropping into the losers bracket and making their way to the grand finals, coming up against Team Unknown (after being beaten by them in the upper bracket), and winning 2:0, defending their title from the winning the GIRLGAMER Esports Festival 2017, and taking the trophy home once again from the GIRLGAMER Esports Festival 2018. Watching an all-female esports competition was captivating, and there was some serious quality on display. Obviously, this does not mean there was no room for improvement. These teams still have some way to go if they want to be anywhere near the quality of the best each of these games has to offer. But they are definitely capable of participating in high-level esports competition and improving as a result. The organisers from Grow uP eSports have mentioned their concern with running GIRLGAMER Esports Festival, especially the attitudes towards female only teams and tournaments. According to the interview with Esports Insider with Fernando Pererira (Co-Founder and President of Grow uP eSports): “The main goal of the festival is to celebrate women’s competitiveness by showcasing the existing high-level professional players competitive skills, while at the same time using them as role models to inspire a younger generation to get engaged in the competition as well. This will help increase the number of female gamers, which in turn we believe will result in more women reaching the top and starting to integrate mixed-gender teams and participating in major global tournaments” Throughout the event, the organisers provided a clear message: esports competitions should be universal and inclusive. However, due to the lack of female participation in esports, there is a purpose for events such as GIRLGAMER Esports Festival to promote awareness and provide a stepping stone for women interested in competitive gaming. The GIRLGAMER Esports festival was a brilliant celebration of the women competing in esports. Role models were created, and connections were forged between education and the esports industry. The event was successfully run and enjoyable for those who attended. The atmosphere was extraordinary, with the cheers from the crowd, great commentary from the casters and professional female teams competing to their best potential. The environment was friendly, and all the organisers, players, managers and speakers were extremely approachable. I look forward to the next GIRLGAMER Esports Festival: my hope is that, next time, we’ll see more teams competing for the prize pool, as well as a wider range of games, including popular titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. Inclusivity in esports isn’t perfect yet. But GIRLGAMER Esports Festival takes us another step closer to that goal. Dr Ying-Ying Law is a lecturer in Games Studies at Staffordshire University.
GIRLGAMER Esports Festival was a triumph for inclusivity
Published on August 13th, 2018