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In May 2019, gaming competition company DreamHack surprised many by announcing an all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament. The women-only event will be held at DreamHack Valencia, according to Esports Insiders, and is being hosted in partnership with Esport-Management and ZOWIE.
The inaugural event will offer a prize fund of $100,000, and participating teams will get player support, professional facilities and promotion too. DreamHack said that it is hosting the event because it supports inclusivity and wants to make all people feel welcome in its community. With a move like this towards inclusivity, could we see more women-only tournaments?
How Esports are Becoming More Popular
DreamHack is one of the biggest names in competitive PC gaming, which is why the announcement got so many people talking. The tournament not only reflects the company’s admirable stance; it also allows DreamHack to reach the growing number of female esports fans. An estimated 30% of esports fans are women, and as the esports industry reaches revenues of $1 billion and more, female fans will begin to make up a sizeable chunk of that.
The number of female esports fans is also set to grow rapidly, as esports becomes much more accessible. Anyone with an internet connection can tune into esports competitions on Twitch, with DreamHack’s CS:GO Twitch channel having over 1.5 million followers. There are also online esports betting platforms like Betway, which allow anyone, male or female, to quickly see what esports tournaments are going on. This naturally adds an extra element of excitement as fans can bet on an outcome for a specific match or for the tournament as a whole and follow that team as they navigate their way through their respective competitions.
Can Events Like These Help More Women Take Part?
DreamHack’s events will appeal to female esports fans who want to feel seen and represented at the highest levels of the game. However, it could also lead many female gamers to think about pursuing a professional esports career. Speaking to TIME about her unique role, Geguri, who is the only female player in the professional Overwatch competition, Overwatch League, says that she knows that there are many who see her as a role model.
We don’t have soundbites like that from professional female CS:GO players, but players know what sort of impression they can have on their fans, and if seeing the DreamHack competition could lead some female gamers to go pro, it could also help to challenge some of the barriers that female esports players face.
Professional women gamers face issues not typically faced by men, such as higher levels of toxicity and abuse in the games that they play and on social media. While women gamers have struggled to get on professional teams, DreamHack is a huge stage for showing female talent, and it could help to change some minds.
Could We See Other Women-Only Esports Tournaments?
DreamHack maybe one of the biggest brands hosting a women-only tournament, but it isn’t the only one. Smaller and larger brands have also hosted events like this. At Paris Games Week in 2015, a women-only League of Legends tournament was held, and in 2017, SimBin Studios announced Women and Wheels, which was the first women-only racing esports tournament, says Green Man Gaming. Many other esports brands and universities have also put together women-only esports teams, such as the Russian League of Legends team Vaevictis Esports or the team at Stephens College.
There is uncertainty whether women-only esports tournaments and leagues help to get more women playing at a professional level and if it helps to appeal to female fans. Some believe that that the real goal is for male and female players to play together and against each other and to be shown on the same stage. Unfortunately, there are still many things to do before that happens, such as challenging perceptions about female gamers’ ability to play and dealing with the toxicity and abuse. The DreamHack event is an important step to getting there, though.