You’ve probably already read headlines about a pro-player named Gegury. In case you haven’t, Gegury is the alias of a 17-year old Korean girl who happens to be really good at Overwatch. Rather than celebrate her prowess in tournament play, many instead accused her of cheating. Two pro players were so certain that they swore to leave the Overwatch scene altogether if they were proven wrong. Overwatch developer Blizzard looked into the issue, and now two less players compete in the tournament.
Some of you might give these skeptics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just thought a win-loss ratio of 4:1 was too good to be true. The problem with that thinking is that win-loss ratios like that aren’t unusual. No force in the universe dictates that a gamer should have a win-loss ratio closer to 50:50. There’s also the fact that the constantly-evolving meta will always favor certain characters and styles of play more than others. My point is that we have no reason to question this level of play, and in fact most people probably wouldn’t have thought twice had a male gamer achieved such a high win rate. That’s the problem: a lot of people still question the idea that a girl gamer can be this good.
The Girl Gamer Meta
This doubt remains one of the great paradoxes of our geek culture. We constantly insist that anyone can be a geek, that anyone can be gamer, yet at the same time reinforce a status quo. We have no problem with girls picking up the controller and playing some games; in fact we celebrate it. Yet we find it unthinkable that they can reach or even surpass the skill level of the tried-and-true guy gamer, as if there is a skill ceiling that girl gamers cannot surpass.
The truth of the matter is that if we allow girls to play a video game, they will eventually get good at it. There is nothing mystical about this. Skill in a video game requires brainpower and commitment, things that are not tied to gender. The more of both you commit, the better you’ll be at the game, simple.
The reason why guys have dominated the competitive scene for so long is because most competitive games target guys, and it’s mostly the guys who are willing to commit to the game to raise their skill level. This is slowly starting to change, however. Girls are starting to take interest in competitive games like LoL or DotA. There’s enough of them committing that there are now women’s leagues for these games. This is a welcome change from a few years back, but notice that we are still separating the girl gamers from the boys. Having two separate leagues for each gender reinforces the assumption that there is a difference in skill level between genders, an assumption that is shattered by girl gamers such as Gegury.
A Competition of Brains Rather Than Brawns
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that girl gamers can compete with the best of their male counterparts. Since video games are more about mental skill, they are more similar to spelling bees or debates than sports. Notice that both genders compete in the same spelling bee or debate competition, and nobody raises an eyebrow when a girl wins. With these competitions we’ve learned to accept that male and female brains are equally competitive. The problem is gaming culture hasn’t caught up to this idea. That is why it’s so much of a culture shock when you get examples like Gegury.
What we have to realize as a gaming community is that gamers like Gegury aren’t the exception. They are inevitable. There is an incoming wave of girl gamers with mad gaming skills, and they will go toe-to-toe with the establishment. When that happens we shouldn’t be skeptical of them. Video game tournaments are becoming the spelling bees of the 21st century, so expect female presence there to become normal with time.
I do hope that we eventually come to a point when competitive games drop the idea of women’s leagues altogether. It reinforces a culture of difference and dominance, and that just isn’t the case anymore.