Women’s college Stephens College announces plans for an Overwatch esports team. The Columbia, Missouri college becomes the first women’s college to sponsor a varsity esports team.
The announcement follows heavy debate about how to get more women playing video games professionally, with companies like Riot Games and EA voicing their support for professional female gamers.
Stephens College Overwatch Esports Team is the First of Its Kind
As reported by ESPN, the Stephens College varsity esports program begins late this year. In fall 2017, the college’s Overwatch team will take part in the Tespa series.
Six women will be in its starting line-up, with the college also aiming to put together a six-player “bench.” Players will receive partial scholarships as well as the same benefits and resources afforded to the other eight athletics programs at the college.
Stephens College president Diane Lynch hopes that “as it grows over time, [the program] will have an impact on the culture and the level of tolerance for incivility and sexism in the universe of gamers.” Lynch also says that the college wants to create a campus culture with a “dynamic that eliminates that other, sort of negative culture out of their immediate space.”
The school’s president also revealed by Overwatch was chosen, specifically, to lead the charge in its varsity esports program. The diversity of Overwatch, including female characters like professional gamer D.Va, and its new status as an esport were reportedly the biggest factors.
There has been plenty of discussion about how to get more women into esports, recently, with some divided about whether women’s only leagues and teams are the right way to go. Many also say that cultural issues – including sexism and the abuse that female gamers face – need to be tackled before women can truly feel included.
Those aren’t insignificant but the fact that Stephens College chose Overwatch because it’s inclusive provides another talking point. If a game has an inclusive roster of playable characters then women may just gravitate to the game naturally, and the developer may not have to make such a concerted effort to get women playing as they’ll be there, playing and enthusing about it already.