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eSports: The women in this space are walking through a minefield

Blizzard and competitive gamers tackle role models and toxicity at GDC

"The women you know who are interacting in this space are walking through a minefield and you're skipping through a daisy patch," said Rachel 'Seltzer' Quirico at the Growing the Participation of Women in eSports panel at GDC today.

That statement, and the panel, was a reminder that for all the success of eSports it's still not a place for women who aren't willing to face suspicion, unwanted attention and abuse.

"I would like to see a woman on screen in a YouTube video, or on a Reddit thread, or in a livestream and not see the word tits next to her in chat. I would love to see people talking about who she is, what her thoughts might be, her competitive strategies, all sorts of things, but just not so much about the female body guys."

Kim Phan, senior manager of eSports at Blizzard Entertainment suggested it was the responsibility of everyone in the gaming community, male and female to make eSports a healthy environment.

"That's a responsibility for everyone in the ecosystem, not just the game developers, but the community, the organisers - it's everyone's responsibility here so I think if we really want to see eSports grow, and it will grow, then we all need to take part in developing the culture that we want to see coming out of eSports."

There was some disagreement on the panel on the best way that women in the scene should be behaving, as just any other competitive gamer or as a role model?

"I think if you're in the position to be representing women in the first place that is a rare opportunity for you to represent women in a positive way," said Phan.

"It's about being a role model, it's about representing them in the best possible light, so when that pressure is on you I think it's also an opportunity for you to be in a position to promote positivity."

Quirico, a competitive gamer and eSports host, said her experiences as a female player meant being a role model gave her a disadvantage when facing male players.

"This is what I always experience as a female player - not only do I have to play amazingly, I have to care about how I look, I have to make sure I'm friendly enough but not too friendly, all these little factors weigh in and they stop me from the best competitive player I can be."

Heather 'SapphiRe' Mumm, a journalist and competitive gamer, added that everytime she writes about female competitive gamers she pauses, worried about the reaction from the audience.

"It's a hard one to tackle but we need to tackle it, I think that's the first step, we know that it's an issue but how do we address it? It's not just the females, we need the community to come together," she said.

As a depressing end to the session, as the panel answered one last question on one side of the hall a man from the audience walked over to a mic on the other side. When they tried to wrap up he spoke over them, when they explained they were simply out of time and suggested he talk to them afterwards he complained bitterly as he walked away, ready to skip back through the daisy patch.

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