Why are there no female esports players?

ESWC Malaysia via Business Insider

Here’s the first article in this series: why is there a lack of female players in Dota 2? More specifically, where on earth are all the female pros? Are there even any? Let’s start!

First of all, let’s take a look at the general Dota 2 population, both male and female.

There are countless steps to be taken in the development of a pro player, and here are some of the many requirements. Simply put, the odds that one person will suit all the requirements below is very, very unlikely.

In fact, it’s so unlikely, that statistically, if you had a crowd of all the current Dota players in the world and you picked out one person, there’s a 0.03097% chance of that player becoming a professional.

Of course, in individual situations, this may vary. There are more people who may, in theory, with great luck, fit those requirements, but be unwilling to make these sacrifices.
And by great luck, we really do mean great luck– there are players who have dominated the leaderboards for years and never got their chance.

These are the basic stats behind the lack of male pro players, in general. Now think about your own personal games. How often do you come across a female player? Probably slightly more often than you think, considering there’s a huge portion of the female population who feel they cannot use voice comms in game, but still not enough to be a significant population in Dota 2. They’re outnumbered, more than ten to one.

So, as it happened, there simply hasn’t a player who is female and also meets all of the above requirements and circumstances.


But I thought there was a much higher population of women in gaming?

There is quite a bit of misinformation floating around the internet regarding gender demographics in gaming. There will be an article written about this in the future (Why Women Aren’t The 52%) for further reference. Here’s the baseline: the survey from 2014 stating the women make up 52% of the population, as many have guessed, is bull. That survey took into consideration smartphone games, such as Angry Birds, puzzle games, trivia games, quizzes, word games, and Facebook apps like Farmville and Words With Friends. So unfortunately, the female population doesn’t even come close to being half of the gaming population.


So are there any female players who currently have the potential to play in a pro team, if they work hard enough?

Yes, in Dota 2, there are several women at 6k MMR– even a few at 7k. In fact, some 6k women (and a 7k) have even streamed over at Twitch. Why don’t we see them anymore? Well, unfortunately, as we all know, Twitch streaming comes with a heaping side dish of harassment. It’s the Internet, after all! No matter what you do, or your gender, you’re going to get sassed by strangers for any possible reason they can think of. Not everyone has a skin thick enough to deal with this, and as it turned out, we simply didn’t have any female leaderboard players who could put up with streaming long enough to get noticed. For the sake of their privacy, we won’t be linking any Steam pages without anyone’s immediate permission, but a quick google search should land you some abandoned Twitch profiles, Dotabuff accounts and highlights.

While we don’t want to list everyone in this particular article, we can look at three of the more well-known individuals who have briefly stood in on pro teams: such as PC Cold.

In 2014, the caster PC Cold played on a short-lived lineup called team Big God. The lineup consisted of her, LaNm, BurNIng, Xiao8 and r0tk. The team disbanded not too long afterwards. She holds 6k MMR and casts at The International.

Scarlett, the former SCII pro player, also holds a 6.5k MMR ranking, which was widely reported upon when she switched to Dota.

At the time of writing of this article, pandatv streamer Axx holds a 6878 solo– a sole 122 points/5 games away from 7k MMR.


Are there any biological disadvantages to woman at the pro level?

If there are any differences (such as field of view or spacial awareness) it’s a known fact that gaming frequently will increase your speed of processing and reaction times anyway. With enough practice, any female gamer will be more than capable of keeping up with their male counterparts.

What about spatial awareness? There have been studies on spatial visualization ability where there are clear sex differences in cognition. Spatial ability was found to correlate with verbal ability in women, but not in men. Interestingly enough, the difference in spatial skills are “largely eliminated after both groups play a video game for only a few hours”.

In short, there is no major biological disadvantage that cannot be removed by practice.

What do you think of female-only leagues? A community where women can be encouraged to compete with each other, or something that reinforces an unnecessary gender division?

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