Hundreds of teams competed in Overwatch Flash Ops: Echo Showdown earlier this week, hoping for a piece of a $25,000 prize pool.
The rules of the tournament were simple: each team must have one teammate playing Echo at all times. Each team also had up to two players from the Overwatch League and Contenders, bringing in fan favorites like Danteh “Danteh” Cruz. His star-studded team won the $10,000 North American grand prize, thanks to other talented players and streamers from the Overwatch community. But Danteh wasn’t the one getting all the attention for the win.
Why? One of their players was a woman.
Francine “Fran” Vo is a streamer for the Atlanta Reign. She’s been a high-ranked support player in Overwatch for a while, but the community was still skeptical of her performance during the Echo tournament. In fact, threads about the tournament on Reddit seemed solely focused on how Fran was being carried throughout the competition and how she should have been benched.
— FRAN (@FRANA_OW) April 20, 2020
One person on YouTube even accused her Fran of cheating.
“Franyatta was ACTUALLY CHEATING, she had aim assist. You can see importing replay 24SFD7,” they comented on a highlight video on Overwatch League’s official channel.
This unfortunately is not uncommon in competitive gaming. Overwatch League’s only female pro, Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim, first caught people’s attentions when she was accused of cheating for good at Zarya. With an impressive 6.31 K/D and 80% win rate, she not only impressed at the Nexus Cup in 2016, she was called a cheater. Even though Blizzard later came forward and declared there had been no wrongdoing on her end, Geguri still felt the need to prove herself. She took to the stage to show everyone her raw talent on Zarya, making her haters eat their words.
WIN.gg spoke with Counter Logic Gaming’s director of esports outreach, Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey, about the sexism she has faced in the esports industry as a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player. She spoke to male competitors’ sudden aggressiveness and chaotic gameplay when facing female opponents.
“There’s this primal behavior that’s being shown in chess. I do believe it’s the same in video games, especially CSGO. A desire to prove that they’re the superior gender. They just want to show they’re better, that they’re the best,” missharvey said.
But becoming more aggressive isn’t the only affect women in gaming have on their male counterparts. There’s also been the need to humiliate. One esports organization claimed they created a team of all female League of Legends players as an “experiment” of sorts, to see how they would do in a tournament. But it seemed that they were set up to fail. Not only were they all support mains, they were all well below the ranks appropriate for pro play.
There are more examples. Competitive CSGO player Kaitlin “Katie” Boop started to gain a lot of popularity in the fall of 2019. But it wasn’t because she qualified for the FACEIT Pro League. It was because she might be trans, which led the CSGO community to continuously scrutinize her appearance and voice. They also used Katie to fuel discussions about men’s superior reflexes and other fallacies about men being naturally beter at video games.
While there’s still a long way to go for women in the esports industry, leaders like missharvey are continuously trying to bring attention to the women that chase their esports dreams. There are many women behind the scenes in esports, as well as strong female competitors. missharvey and others like her believe that integrating more women into traditional esports tournaments and events, without feeling the need to single them out, is what will start to make women in esports the norm.
Meanwhile, many in the esports and gaming community have rallied behind Fran.
Streamer Connor “Avast” Prince, who played on her team, also spoke up about the sexism he saw.
“That feel when I hadn’t played OW in two months, after taking a year break before that get asked to play in a tourney and get carried. And people go out of their way to say Fran is weighing down their team. I had to ban an absurd amount of people yesterday being absolute weirdos,” Avast said.
The support I’ve been receiving has been unreal. Thank you for supporting girls who game 😀
— FRAN (@FRANA_OW) April 21, 2020
While definitely an unfortunate situation, the sexism Fran faced has brought to light what women go through when simply trying to play a video game.