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Hearthstone Tournament Won’t Allow Women to Play

by Kyle Hanson

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A Finnish eSports tournament called Assembly Summer 2014 is causing a lot of controversy over an image uploaded by Reddit user Karuta. The image is a screenshot of an announcement for an upcoming Hearthstone tournament that states “participation is open only to Finnish male players.” Why a tournament for an online card game would be limited to males only has caused many to lash out at the organizers and ask a whole lot of questions.

The participation is open only to Finnish male players

PC Gamer was able to get some answers, though they have only raised more questions. Apparently the Finnish organization limited the tournament to male players because it serves as a qualifier for the Internation eSports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament, which also limits its Hearthstone tournament to males. The head admin of the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifer spoke with PC Gamer and said they had to remain “in accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s 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.”

So IeSF is the organization causing the true controversy here. They have hosted multiple international tournaments for various video games, with their sixth World Championship taking place this November in Baku, Azerbaijan. IeSF is a global eSports organization based out of South Korea whose stated goal is “to promote e-Sport as a true sport beyond language, race and culture barriers.” But looking at their tournament listing shows that sex is a barrier they are not crossing.

The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities

During the IeSF Sixth e-Sports World Championship there will be six main tournaments, four for males and two for females. The male games are Dota 2, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and Hearthstone, while women will compete in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Why these specific games were chosen for the individual sexes is unclear. What physiological differences are there between males and females that makes one better than the other at Ultra Street Fighter IV and Tekken Tag Tournament 2?

The only justification given by the IeSF is that “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.” So apparently because Football and Basketball are separated by sex, eSports need to be as well? It seems like the organization either fell into a trap of repeating the past without considering the fundamental differences of the eSport medium, or they are trying to justify a sexist rule through poor logic. Either way, hopefully shining a light on this policy will force it to be changed soon.

Update: The policy has been changed.

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