eSports organisation IeSF makes male-only tournaments open to all

It was all about trying to get eSports into the Olympics.

Korean-based eSports organisation the International eSports Federation has made its controversial male-only tournaments open to all.

Yesterday the IeSF hit the headlines after it emerged it planned to segregate players by gender for its upcoming World Championship event.

The plan was to run male-only tournaments for Valve's Dota 2, Blizzard's StarCraft 2 and Hearthstone, and Capcom's Ultra Street Fighter 4, and a separate female-only tournament for StarCraft 2 and Bandai Namco's Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

In a statement published on its website overnight, the IeSF said its board had met in an emergency session to discuss concerns raised by the gaming community, and it had decided to change its policy as a result.

Now, there are two event categories: "Open for All" events and events reserved for women. The tournaments that were set to be male-only are now open to all genders. The tournaments that were planned to be women-only will remain so, but an Open for All Tekken Tag Tournament event has been added to the schedule.

"The IeSF Board addressed its reason for maintaining events for women, citing the importance of providing female gamers with ample opportunities to compete in eSports - currently a male-dominated industry," the IeSF said.

"Female gamers make up half of the world's gaming population, but only a small percentage of eSports competitors are women. The IeSF's female-only competitions aim to bring more diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events. Without efforts to improve representation, eSports can't achieve true gender equality."

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Alex Lim, general manager of international relations at the IeSF, expanded on the decision in an email exchange with Eurogamer.

He said the IeSF had set male-only and female-only tournaments as part of its effort to join the international sports society and in the hope that it might help eSports get into the Olympics, specifically the 4th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games hosted by the Olympic Council of Asia.

The IeSF had been preparing to apply for Sport Accord membership, Lim explained, and during that process found out that one of the requirements is to have active women promotion.

"Applying such women promotion project to the structure of its event, IeSF approached this matter by following traditional sports," Lim said.

"From the tradition sports scene, men were dominating, and international sports society decided to install women division to increase the involvement of women in more easy and efficient way.

"Of course in traditional sports there has been the physiological difference between genders that make it necessary to separate the genders in sports. However, it was hard to apply to eSports since there has not been any evidence that can be applied to eSports. Though some says there is no physiological factor which may affect the performance of men and women, there are others who believe that dynamic visual acuity and precise control may differ by the gender, which may affect the performance.

"It is the third year testing women promotion events, and we truly believe that has grown the women player pool in competitive events. IeSF hopes that both men and women will continue to enjoy and compete in eSports and eSports can be a unique sport that men and women can both compete at an equal level."

Lim ended by apologising for the initial announcement. "As we strive to do the best we can to promote eSports as a true sport beyond any barriers, mistakes might happen along the way, but it is our duty as a community of eSports fans and enthusiasts to learn from those mistakes and to make sure they remain in the past."

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