Extra Lives: What the Garena scandal means for e-sports

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The recent scandal over Garena’s female-only “League of Legends” tournament has been talked about to death, but it seems to me a lot of people are overlooking the real issue.

For those who don’t know, the Iron Solari tournament, a “League of Legends” tournament hosted by Garena eSports, caught a lot of flack the other week for its policy on gay and transgender competitors, which basically stated that each team could only have one lesbian or transgender member. This was, they claimed, due to the “unfair advantage” lesbians and transgender people would give their team.

This, of course, sparked public outcry and Garena quickly reversed the decision.  It’s fairly obvious that your sexual orientation or identity shouldn’t have any semblance on your ability to play a video game. This does, however, bring up a point that it feels like nobody’s discussing.

What’s the point of having a female-only tournament? It just doesn’t make sense; there’s no rhyme or reason to it. In traditional sports, separating males and females makes some degree sense because there’s generally a physical difference between the sexes. But that difference doesn’t really exist when it comes to video games. Women don’t have an inherent disadvantage to men. The Garena scandal in particular helps expose this because it highlights the fact that gender truly doesn’t give gamers a competitive advantage and that for the most part, people know that.

So why, then, should these tournaments exist? the most common argument I hear is that it fosters inclusiveness and brings more women into the exciting realm of gaming and esports. But this scandal proves otherwise. Once these kind of tournaments were created, lines had to be drawn in order to decide who should or shouldn’t be allowed to participate in them.  Segregation doesn’t foster inclusiveness; it does just the opposite.

The way to get more women involved in esports is to reform coed tournaments to make them more inclusive to everybody. There’s a need for more omen in games, but this just isn’t the way to do it.

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