The Overwatch League is now up and running, as Blizzard hopes to build the esports scene around the game in a big way. But one big question that many fans and critics are asking is: how will Blizzard get more women involved?
In a new interview, the Overwatch League team addresses that question and reveals whether or not a women-only version of the tournament would be possible.
Overwatch League Commissioner Thinking About Women-Only Tournaments
The first season of Overwatch League doesn’t have any female competitors but Blizzard still has some plans to get women involved in the tournament. In an interview with Wired, Kim Phan, Blizzard’s director of esports operations, explains that the company hopes to promote women’s involvement in esports and this includes making a concerted effort to hire more women for on-air shoutcaster jobs.
Phan also acknowledges the importance of female Overwatch players having positive advocates and role models – both male and female. “Having mentors, advisers, who are men is very impactful [as it] gives you the courage to stay because you know that the toxic voice is just one among many other voices. It’s a reminder that not everyone is like that.”
Overwatch League Nate Nanzer also addresses the idea of women-only competitions, such as those hosted for games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. “The idea comes up all the time,” says Nanzer.
The commissioner says that “I think there’s a way to do that where it’s awesome and supportive and grows the sport. I think there is a way to do it where it’s actually detrimental and it makes it seem like, oh, you’re not as good as men. We kind of go back and forth on that.” Nanzer also reveals that he has been looking at data from women-only sports leagues such as the WNBA that confirm that women-only leagues do help to increase women’s participation.
While it doesn’t sound as though Blizzard is creating any specific programs targeted towards women in esports right now, tackling Overwatch‘s problem with toxicity is one way to organically grow women’s involvement. Blizzard has vowed to address the Overwatch abuse problem (in-game notifications about received reports arrive this week) and that it will continue to develop solutions. Another positive sign is that Nanzer also seemed to recognize that a toxic culture is one of the key factors of a lack of female involvement.
It should be noted that there are some all-women Overwatch teams, such as M8 Tempest and Stephens College. If more teams like these are to spring up – or if currently all-male teams are to feel more welcoming to female players – then Blizzard will need to keep working on toxicity, not just a women-only league.
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