Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a game that’s all about using your wits, managing your card deck and executing your tactical game plan to perfection. The strategic nature of its gameplay and the fact that it’s free to play has made Hearthstone one of the fastest rising games in eSports and so it’s quite common for its tournaments to hit the headlines.
Unfortunately, one Hearthstone tournament called the International Women’s Invitational, has gotten tongues wagging for entirely negative reasons. Those who watched the all-women tournament take place (the IWI is believed to be the biggest all-female Hearthstone competition in eSports) were up in arms, saying that it made a mockery of the game, the competitors and of eSports itself.
Based in China, the International Women’s Invitational pit Hearthstone players from the United States, Japan, and Korea against three Chinese players, for a share of $12,000. So with a prize pool like that, the tournament’s many viewers (the average viewership was between 150,000 and 200,000) probably expected to see a serious competition take place.
But what they actually saw was something else entirely. All eight of the competitors wore formal white dresses and were forced to sit on white stools (without backs), at tables that were barely big enough for the monitor, the keyboard and the mouse needed to actually play Hearthstone at all. The dress code is bizarre given that the male presenters were dressed in far more casual attire, with one wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
As for those stools and tables, not only did they look downright uncomfortable but many have also noted that the International Women’s Invitational is sponsored by chair maker DXRacers – which is why the men were able to sit in pink DXRacer chairs. Again, the double standard for the women is totally odd.
It’s also worth noting that the overall set was adorned with the rainbow card back, with flowers projected onto the floor too. And although there’s an argument to be made about that particular card back just looking nice, you could say that about any of Hearthstone‘s card back options.
It’s quite sad that this isn’t the first time that a Hearthstone eSports tournament has been in hot water about its treatment of women, either. Last year, a Finnish Hearthstone tournament excluded women from an IeSF World Championship qualifier in order to promote eSports as a “legitimate sport”, causing (Hearthstone developer) Blizzard to step in and release a statement.
It’s unclear if Blizzard will do the same again here, but hopefully the backlash to the International Women’s Invitational will encourage organisers ImbaTV to do better in future.