Riot Games co-head of eSports Whalen Rozelle says that eSports is a “fantastic place” for equality and opportunity. Rozelle also explains why the developer has no plans to make womens-only competitions for its hugely popular MOBA, League of Legends.
Rozelle’s comments on diversity in eSports follow several other company’s initiatives on that front. EA will do its ‘best’ to support female eSports players, while Intel and ESL’s AnyKey also aims to promote diversity in professional gaming.
Riot Games on Diversity in eSports
Asked by PCGamesN on how Riot aims to make the “overwhelmingly white and male” professional League of Legends scene more diverse, Rozelle says that “everyone is equal on [the] Rift” (where battles take place in League of Legends) and that “if you look at whether diversity can work well in eSports, the answer is ‘absolutely!’”
“We don’t need to create a women’s league because on the Rift people are equal. The opportunity is there, how to actually get there is super challenging. We would love to lead the charge in getting there but a lot of times when people cite diversity they’re just like ‘create other leagues for other groups…”
Rozelle also explains that “[the] reason we’re not creating segregated leagues because our dream is that the leagues become more diverse” and “for that to happen change needs to occur internally within the team environment.” The eSports head says that it’s “hard” for teams to ensure that the “dynamic for a competitor on a team is open and accepting and welcoming,” while gaming and fan culture is another factor.
While Rozelle notes that Riot Games has tried to “celebrate the difference of the community” since season three of the professional League of Legends scene, not everyone will agree with the developer’s stance on diversity in eSports. Women-only tournaments for games like League of Legends and other eSports heavyweights such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are supported by many within the industry.
The argument in favour of these ‘segregated’ tournaments, as Rozelle describes them, is that women should not have to wait for gaming and fan culture to catch up in order to test their gaming skills at a professional level. Moreover, with it being more common than not that women playing in the big leagues face masses of abuse, some say that these tournaments allow female eSports players to compete without that threat.