Hearthstone Tournament: ‘No Girls Allowed’

The qualification requirements for players to participate in the Finnish Hearthstone International e-Sports Federation Qualifier tournament include a certain level of skill in Blizzard’s digital collectible card game, and the ability to play while also being male.

A Reddit user recently shared a photo of an announcement page that disclosed the requirements for the qualifier. This wouldn’t normally be news, but with female gamers making up 48 percent of the video game community, the exclusion seems strange at best, and certainly rings of a sexist vibe.

“Your information is indeed correct, the tournament is open to Finnish male players only,” said Markus “Olodyn” Koskivirta, head administrator of the Assembly Summer 2014 Hearthstone IeSF Qualifier, in a statement to PC Gamer. “In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) 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.”

The IeSF is a global organization based out of South Korea that helps promote e-sport gaming around the world. It’s a noble idea, but the unnecessary segregation of male and female players seems to be contrary to how progressive they’re advertising themselves to be. According to the rules from their Facebook page, female players are not allowed to compete in Dota 2, Hearthstone or Ultra Street Fighter IV. Women have no problem playing Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and both genders can play Starcraft 2, just not in competition against one other.

So what’s the reason for taking such a backward position? Here’s the official response posted on the IeSF Facebook page:

“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 instead of actually responding with a real answer, we get a “canned” response instead. Given that the physical disparity between men and women isn’t relevant in e-sports the way it could be argued as being in physical professional sporting events, I cannot fathom as to the reason why the IeSF are so adamant about keeping the genders separate, other than assuming male players are too insecure handle being defeated by a woman.

To the credit of the Finnish eSports Federation, they are trying to remove the segregation issue;

As for Assembly Summer 2014, Koskivirta told us that all other tournaments were “open to all genders”. “We would also like to point out that the Finnish eSports Federation is currently lobbying for the equal rights of male and female players in the IeSF tournaments,” he said. “This is an ongoing process and we of course welcome any support in this matter.”

For an international organization that’s striving to make e-sports taken as seriously as other professional sport events, this rule certainly inhibits IeSF and e-sports from being recognized as a major player in the sports industry.

Source: PCGamer

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9 Comments on Hearthstone Tournament: ‘No Girls Allowed’


On July 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm

For the females who want to compete and are not allowed to they should SUE…


On July 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Hell yeah, I can’t wait to see male and female soccer players in the world cup playing against eachother.


On July 3, 2014 at 12:55 am

Female gamers make up 48 percent of the video game community? Hahahahaha, when did that happen?
Oh right, I forgot that people who play Candy Crush on their smartphones count as gamers now.

For the record, I don’t agree with the idea of separating male and female players, but stop throwing around meaningless data like that. It doesn’t even relate to the subject, which is Hearthstone. If you really want some statistics backing you up, give me the percentage of female gamers in Dota 2, Hearthstone and Ultra Street Fighter IV. I bet it will be much, much lower.


On July 3, 2014 at 2:04 am

Good to see the gaming journalist community doing their homework again, the number of interviews with females on the IeSF circuit has been huge…. oh wait, actually, not one article I’ve seen has actually reached out for comment from people that this actually impacts. Indeed the supposition that near natural gender split is prevalent within the IeSF gaming community is a presumptive fallacy, instead what we have here is journalism being propelled, yet again, by social media indignancy.

Did you know that the WSOP, a competition, or tournament, if you will, that has no entry or league restriction based on gender, had female entrants accounting for just 4.7% of it’s total participation and the last woman to be knocked out of the competition was placed 31st, and that’s also a card game, favouring skill and mental prowess which is available to all irrespective of gender.

Simply making these competitions open to all is no guarantee of equal gender participation, and may in fact make the opposite happen. The better solution would be to have two competitions male and female of equal numbers and then all participants of those competitions be put together into a mixed competition, ensuring you have equal gender split in mixed competitions.

But no, let’s leave logic at the door as long as we can stop those 140 character indignant barbs coming at us, and we can put a tick in the equality box. Let’s leave the articles about ‘Why eSports is still dominated by men.’ and ‘Where are the female winners?’ still in draft form as we’ll be able to publish them in a few months


On July 3, 2014 at 2:06 am

SweetPea has some good points, you can not pull statistics out of your rear just to enforce a point.

Casual smart phone/tablet users do not count as actual gamers, I bet even if you ask the majority of them if they are the answer would be a no. No doubt if you asked them what Hearthstone was most would give you a blank clueless look. The only stats that matter is how many men/women play hearthstone and other e-sport games, find that figure and I will take your statistics seriously.

Unlike what we presently have for sports, gaming does not need a sex divide and the decision to exclude women is wrong and should be changed. Perhaps it will as they are lobbying for change.

Ron Whitaker

On July 3, 2014 at 5:36 am

@Blarty – No one’s saying that we have to have equal representation in these tournaments. All they’re saying is that excluding players based on gender is ridiculous, and they’re right. So what if only 4.7% of people that play in the WSOP are women? At least they had the option to enter and compete, and there’s no good reason to exclude them.

Let’s apply your reasoning to another field, say politics. Only a tiny percentage of people who run for President have been women. With that being the case, we should probably just exclude them from it, right?


On July 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

@Ron Whitaker

You’re missing a rather salient point – according to this article here, 48% of the gaming community is female, however they have not said the percentage of females that are currently, or considering, taking part in eSports.

If, by their own admission, IeSF wants to promote and cultivate more women competitors it stands to reason that they will promote women-only competitions (and even after they’ve opened up all the men’s tournaments, they still have two women only tournaments for just that reason). My point regarding the WSOP is that here we have an open to all tournament which is great and right to have, but what if by having mixed tournaments the dissonance between male players and female players in eSports is not reduced but amplified?

Surely the best scenario is to have three competitions, a mens, a womens (both with the same number of players) and then put both of those sections together in an open tournament.

You seem to have an opinion of me which is both pretentious and indeed wrong – I have no wish to exclude anyone from partaking in any event, but the idea that this will suddenly make a) everything a-ok and b) implicitly increase the allure of eSports to women is a fallacy.

Whilst there is a mens and womens tournament you are assured of both a male and female victor and all the positives that that provides, if, in a mixed tournament, only 10% of your entrants are women, meaning roughly that 9 times out of ten (for the sake of debate, all other things – relative skill, etc – being equal) a man will win the tournament, how does that allow women to come to the eSports table and feel that they can achieve, and that they are being catered for and looked on as equals? How does any of this really fundamentally change the perception of eSports and gaming in general?

Should women be allowed to participate in eSports on equal footing? Without a doubt.
Was IeSFs gender segregation for particular games stupid? Contemptibly so.
Does it mean that there will be equal representation any time soon? Unlikely.

Because for equal representation to happen, eSports needs to either be marketed successfully at segments that are lacking in representation or have it’s rules changed to force teams to introduce participants from those segments.

And you’re right you don’t need equal representation, but you need to have a critical mass otherwise people will look at the low numbers of female eSports competitors (and tournament winners) and think it won’t get better anyway – if the numbers of women are low for entering a tournament, if by the semi-finals through virtue of sheer proportions have far more men progressing than women, how does this stop the general public perception of gaming an eSports being a men-only pastime?

Ron Whitaker

On July 3, 2014 at 8:27 am

@Blarty – It’s possible that I took what you wrote earlier in a manner in which it was not intended, and if so, I apologize.

My point is simply this: You can’t increase the allure of esports to women by keeping them segregated. I don’t know if we’ll ever see equal representation in esports. It would be nice if we did, and I’m sure we’re going to see the percentage of women participating grow steadily. But it’s time for esports to grow up and realize that there is no good reason to keep women from participating in any of these events. The people behind these tournaments also need to make sure that we don’t see incidents like the ones that happened in the Street Fighter tournament in 2012.

We may not even get that critical mass you mention right away, but it will happen. The public perception will change eventually, but let’s not forget that the public perception of gamers is still by and large that we all live in mom’s basement. Public perception is kind of a joke.

EDIT: That 48% number is from the Entertainment Software Association.


On July 3, 2014 at 9:00 am

@Ron Whitaker
Agree on all counts, I think I wanted to highlight that this is certainly a victory for getting rid of segregation, which is, I think we’d all agree, essential to, as you say, eSports growing up. But I just think there is a very real risk of a potential side effect of perception of gaming and eSports, and general preconceived notions of gamers, being worse off because of this, simply because currently women are a much smaller proportion of eSports competitors than men are, which ultimately has an affect on the probability of a particular segment being represented by the eventual winner.

And if the general perception does degrade then we’re potentially looking at a worse battle than we were previously, although it’s certainly one were we’re on a better foot ethically and morally.

It’s a fine high wire that has to be delicately walked along.