Female Hearthstone players not allowed to compete against male players


In what seems like a ridiculous decision with no acceptable explanation, female players are not allowed to take part in the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifier.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all as the industry strives for equality, the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifier is not open to female gamers. The news was confirmed by Markus “Olodyn” Koskivirta, head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 who issued a statement to PCGamer confirming the rules.

“In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only. This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things.”

Is it a case that egos are at stake? I see no other reasoning behind the statement above.

The rules forbidding female players to take part are also posted on the Assembly Summer 2014 website.

The participation is open only to Finnish male players. The tournament ticket costs €50, which includes the entrance to the ASSEMBLY event for full four days, access to the dedicated tournament area with a personal computer on tournament days and the player lounge by SEUL ry where you may enjoy snacks for free.

After this rather odd rule was spotted an update popped up which reads:

To clarify the gender restriction rule, it is based on  the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament regulations. Since the IeSF World Championship Hearthstone tournament in Baku is male only, we can only accept male participants in the Finnish qualifier.

The blame is being passed to the IeSF who subsequently posted a response on their Facebook page to clarify their position.

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.

Now read that sentence again then pick your jaw up off the floor. The IeSF added a further comment:

1 – promoting female players. We know that e-Sports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.

2 – International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.But, we want you to know that we listen to you, and appreciate your feedback! Our efforts does not clash with the community opinion – but on the contrary – we are here for the future of e-Sports and will do our best to promote it as best as we can.

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Gender segregation in eSports is completely unwarranted but as eSports is determined to get accepted as “real sport” it’s going to be hampered by any guidelines set by international sports regulatory bodies.

eSports are not physical and gender should have no bearing on who is eligible to compete. Perhaps eSports needs to stop trying so hard to be classed as “real sport”, because let’s face it, playing DOTA 2 or Hearthstone is not the same as running a marathon. While dedication and training is involved, eSports are not physical.

Partners of the IeSF include Blizzard, Valve, Capcom and Namco. All these companies involved need to take a hard look at the IeSF and start pushing for non-segregated tournaments.

Discussions of gender equality in the games industry is always a hot topic and progress is being made. Rules and stipulations such as the ones outlined by the IeSF can only harm the cause for gender equality in gaming.

Update: The IeSF has now removed restrictions


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  • Elly

    There’s a lot of physical considerations that come into play when allowing sports people to play against each other. I remember the controversy that brewed about Victor Pistorius competing in the paralympics because his bouncy feet were considered an unfair advantage. However, he could not compete in the regular Olympics because it’s forbidden.

    The esports bodies would of course not segregate esports and paraesports because there are no physical considerations, that would be ridiculous.

    I know chess suffers under the same set of antiquated rules, females can’t compete in male tournaments. Presumably because we can’t stop thinking about babies and shoes long enough to make a move.

    eSports is not sport. There are different considerations in sport that simply do not come into play in esports so they should not hide behind international sport regulations. Lead the way.

    • Gath

      Agree. In ‘physical’ sports, having separate tournaments is logic.
      In “skill” (right word? I’m tired) games, it doesn’t make sense.

      What about team e-sports? Where there are both male and female players in the same team? Then what?

  • lazerbeak

    jesus fucking christ I am no radical feminist by any measure, but this is fucking insane, I would boycott

  • Jay Karraway

    So to clarify, the argument is this:
    Others are being idiots. To gain their recognition we must be idiots also.
    Well… mission accomplished, idiots.

  • um… Esports are almost entirely physical… Or are fingers just mental apparitions? Even Esports touted as being “strategic” are almost entirely rote-memorization when compared to deterministic perfect-information games (like Chess, Go, Connect6, and many more if you bothered to look into it).

    RTS is pretty much “finger-racing” with a ton of rote-memorization piled on top (oh and rock-paper-scissors of course). Hearthstone may not involve the finger-coordination of other esports, which just means it boils down to the rote-memorization + rock-paper-scissors only.

    And its not as if traditionally physical sports like basketball don’t involve some basic tactics too. Its just that, once again, all those tactics are simple enough to be easily memorized, effectively boiling the game down to athletics + rock-paper-scissors. I think “finger-sports” would be a much more descriptive term than “esports”.

    Seriously, what is it about moving your fingers really quickly and accurately that is not “physical”? If you really think these games are strategically interesting then try typing “Go (game)” into google! Heck, type “Connect6” into google! These are forms of PURELY mental competition!

    Of course serious strategists got tired of all the flaws in chess decades ago (bobby fischer’s “chess960” anyone?). While the game of “Go” has entire television channels devoted to only it!

    Now is there any reason to believe women have worse fingers than men? Of course not.

    • Paul Younger

      Well said Timmy!