The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) has had a busy couple of days. As initially reported by PC Gamer via a Reddit post, the IeSF Gaming Tournament taking place at Finland’s Assembly Summer 2014 broke its tournaments into men-only and women-only categories, and excluded women entirely from the Hearthstone tournament. It was a baffling bit of gender discrimination made all the worse in a clarifying remark to PC Gamer, where the head admin of the even said “In accordance with the International e-Sports Federation’s (IeSF) tournament regulations, since the main tournament event is open to male players only.”[sic]” This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things.” So women weren’t allowed to compete because if they won they’d have broken the rules against women being allowed to compete. That sentence hurts as much to type as it does to read.
After a day of merciless and much-deserved internet vitriol and mocking, the IeSF has come to its senses and fixed the self-inflicted error. An announcement both on their Facebook page and website has explained that, while they’re keeping the women’s tournament, the formerly-men’s tournament is now open to everyone. The reason given for keeping the women’s tournament is that e-sports are male dominated, and they’d really like more women to join to address the imbalance. From the web page announcement, “Female gamers make up half of the world’s gaming population, but only a small percentage of e-Sports 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, e-Sports can’t achieve true gender equality.” It’s the same reason chess has a general and women’s leagues, and like chess you can bet that the debate over whether this is a good idea or not is going to keep raging on. In the meantime, at least the IeSF had the good sense to un-shoot their foot off, and after only a day’s worth of hullabaloo. That’s actually a pretty speedy result, as turnarounds go.