Neosurf: Assessing the bid for gender re-balance in esports

Disclaimer: This is a guest feature piece from Neosurf

Last November, Xiaomeng “Liooon” Li became the first woman to win a major BlizzCon and major Hearthstone championship. In her acceptance speech, she defiantly said: “I want to say for all the girls out there who have a dream for esports competition, for glory. If you want to do it and you believe in yourself, you should just forget your gender and go for it.”

Liooon believes there’s no reason women can’t compete at the highest tiers of esports competition against men and she’s right.

Xiaomeng Liooon Li Hearthstone
Photo credit: Blizzard

In the United States, there are nearly as many female gamers as there are male (Statista, 2019) with 41 percent of all gamers being female, and research shows that female players are just as skilled at MMOs as their male counterparts.

Despite this, in the most competitive, online gaming spaces, such as top-flight esports, there is a large disparity in representation between men and women. Researchers from Michigan State University argue that this is likely due to “a vicious stereotype-driven cycle,” where women’s self-confidence is degraded by malicious, sexist harassment from some male players, who perceive women to be low-skilled and research has shown close links between confidence and performance.

“This is the best way to strike back at those people who doubted me only because I am a girl. It proves that girls can be strong pro players, just as guys do.” – Xiaomeng “Liooon” Li

The internet in general can be a pretty frightening and toxic place for women, according to a recent survey by Amnesty International. Alarmingly, 37 percent of women who had experienced online abuse or harassment said that on at least one occasion, these online experiences made them feel that their physical safety was threatened. However, stand-out female performers such as Liooon are breaking down stereotypes about women gamers and proving to fans at home that these stereotypes have no place in esports. 

Liooon is joined by a number of organisations seeking to redress the balance, with one such group being Supa-Stellar. This all-female gaming group, based in Australia, has a simple and important mission: to support and elevate women in gaming by campaigning for greater equality.

The mission of Supa-Stellar closely coincides with the core values of Neosurf, which prompted Neosurf to approach the organisation to join forces. They offer a simple, secure way to pay and play online and they stand strong in promoting equality and safety online. Supa-Stellar recently held the first in a series of events at the Esports High Performance Centre (EHPC) located in the Sydney Cricket Ground. These events were created to bring women within the industry together and share their inspiring stories of overcoming challenges.

Supa-Stellar’s mission is being wholeheartedly supported by Neosurf; an organisation who are strong advocates of equality and are major partners with the EHPC in Australia, as well as the UK based esports team, Excel Esports. Vicky “Vicksy” Doman, who has been partnered with Excel for over two years, is a highly-regarded female League of Legends midlaner.

Similarly in Australia, Liz “N8 Liz” Varley of N8 Esports is another fantastic woman competing as a professional esports athlete. Liz became the first female player to be signed with an E-League team in Australia and was soon after battling for a spot in the FIFA19 Global Series, from her home in the EHPC.

With a new decade upon us, one can only hope that there will be many new success stories to share of women in the esports industry.