She Got Game – Where The Hell Are The Female Pro Gamers?

Raise your hand if you have heard of Lisa Lane.

For those of you that raised your hand thinking that I meant to type Lois Lane – you can put your hand down and rest assured that I meant Lisa.

Lisa Lane is now 80 years old and she is better than you at chess.

Lisa Lane was also a mystery to me up until yesterday when I picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated while I was at my local gym trying to fight off the symptoms of my mid-30’s. Ms. Lane was among the top chess players in the world back in the 1960’s. Not only was she among the best in the world, she was the first chess player to make the cover of SI – yes, before Bobby Fischer. While still at the top of her game she quit playing chess competitively in the late 1960’s. Among the reasons she stopped playing and left public life was the fact that women were in a similar position that they are still in today – being paid less for equal work. Read the article on Ms. Lane, here.

The subject of equal opportunity and equal pay for women is still a major issue almost 60 years later. The evidence is damning and it should piss you off when you see it. Another article came out on January 3 talking about the pay for Washington Wizards Assistant Coach, Kristi Toliver who is also a player in the WNBA for the Washington Mystics (WNBA players make next to nothing when compared to NBA players).  Keep in mind that NBA Assistant Coaches make $100k+ annually as you continue reading.

Coach Toliver in action

Ms. Toliver makes $10,000 a year as an assistant with the Wizards. That isn’t a typo either. For more on this situation, check out the article here.

The ugly reality of women being mistreated and cheated out of jobs and equal pay as well as their rightful place among their peers is glaring and this is possibly most true in the gaming community. I am among the many that would fail if challenged to name one non-male professional gamer for any video game or platform. Go one more step if you will and find one that doesn’t use sex appeal to further their brand. That list you were making from a google search just went back down to zero.

Most gamers out there can name a few of the big names (Shroud, Ninja, Fatal1ty, etc.). It has struck me on many levels how dire the situation is when it comes to non-males in every other avenue of career. Take the US military stance on women in combat and ask yourself if you really think it’s a good idea to tell over half of the population that they aren’t qualified to protect their nation in a combat role if needed because of their genitals or assumed ‘lack of strength’. Yes, it is as stupid as I make it sound. The situation itself is infuriating if you actually think about it with a critical mind.

So, the question persists in other realms that don’t require such ‘macho’ tasks as lifting heavy things or throwing a ball far through the air (yes, I am rolling my eyes as I type this). Maybe one answer to why we don’t see non-males in professional gaming can be found by simply logging in and playing in an open lobby of Call of Duty. By the time a woman starts talking on her microphone you can almost guarantee that you will hear some jackass come out of the digital woodwork and say something disgusting or rude to her. Nine times out of ten, the verbal abuse will be unprovoked – it gets downright nasty and will reach a point that the woman simply leaves the game if she hasn’t muted the entire lobby itself. It’s no wonder non-males aren’t more prevalent in pro gaming (let alone casual gaming) when you see the nature of many of the bro-tastic gamers out there – if I were a woman, I’d be hard pressed to use my microphone in a public lobby and just kick some ass anonymously.

What makes this worse? There are some badass gamers out there that happen to be non-male. Why aren’t they more popular or marketed on pro teams or streams? The article about Lisa Lane isn’t just a story from the past – it is a reference point for the exact same issue that is happening with women in gaming (and everywhere else) in the present (just ask Kristi Toliver).

So, how do we fix this? With most other aspects of life and changing the societal structure to be fair for all people we need the efforts to happen from the top down. This doesn’t simply mean making a token change to a minor role – it means making for a level playing field in all aspects of sports, gaming, and workplaces altogether. It is my hope that I can be a voice of reason and start making the change that I’d like to see in the world.

So, if you are non-male and want to kick some ass on a Call of Duty squad (or almost any other game) and you see Outspoknpoet in your lobby send me an invite because when it comes to kicking some digital ass on my PS4 I don’t care who is on my team as long as they kick some ass too!

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Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter? 

It might be one of the biggest questions we use when it comes to arguing against changing something we do.

There always seems to be some sort of outrage accompanying everything these days.  More and more we have seen this with racial and gender depictions of characters in our entertainment – especially movies and video games.  The outrage is always met from the ‘other side’ with ‘Why does it matter?’, ‘Get over it.’, or something similar in that regard.  For most of my life I felt the same way about these issues.  Granted, I am also a straight white male that has been told or has read that I have ‘privilege and power’.  As strangely normal as that seems to a lot of people it is also stranger that I find myself in possession of power that many others don’t have and I didn’t seem to notice until relatively recently.  What has made it worse for me is that it has taken a toll on my life and how my mind has been programmed over the years. 

This is why it is so crucial to not only admit that there is an inherent inequality and bigotry in our society. In fact, inequality seems to drive our society.  It is generally what drives every storyline in nearly every book, movie, and video game. It is a lens through which most of the world likes to see the world because it somehow attempts to blur a lot of the lines we don’t want to see.  It is a very old lens that we have all worn at some point or another and it has only become a hindrance of change the longer we have worn it.

The big strong warrior saves the damsel in distress.  The huge (white) god like character seeks vengeance on those that wronged him and hooks up with all sorts of ladies in the process.  The fat plumber saves the hot princess from the clutches of a dragon and his henchmen.  Meanwhile, we go about all of this as business as usual and it all makes sense because it matches up with what we have and continue to engrain with children from birth until they soak it up and sponge feed it to their own offspring.

Boys love trucks, the color blue, guns, sports, and saving huge breasted, scantily clad women.

Girls love horses, the color pink, cooking, babies, and apparently also love helplessly falling into the clutches of bad men so they can be rescued by a different big strong man.

It also seems that white male characters dominate almost every important role. 

They are the primary protagonist in almost every video game and movie.  Even the bad ones generally have some sort of strange seductive righteousness more often than we’d like to admit.

Meanwhile, characters with darker complexions and different ethnicities are generally shown in ways that either focus on a stereotype or racial bias.  Why is it that so many people will go out and watch these movies or buy these video games without considering what they are seeing is contributing to continued racism, xenophobia, and often – hidden fears that build into normalized distrust and hatred.  Case in point – somehow, through most of the great series ‘Breaking Bad’ we looked at Walter White and Jessie Pinkman as tragic heroes that were only doing what they had to do (making and distributing methamphetamine) as a last resort.  Almost every other drug dealer and ‘bad guy’ in the show was generally assumed to be in a ‘normal’ role that strictly fit the character of non-white character.

I like to think that my generation is the first that will completely flip the script on a lot of these things.  I was raised in a climate supposedly ‘after’ racism was something in the past that we should learn about as a fact rather than a constant danger. Sexism was something that was generally scoffed at or held at an arm’s length because it was a silly accusation by some of the more ‘butch’ girls or ‘sissy’ guys.  Homophobia was still so comfortably normal that most of the slurs for homosexuals weren’t considered offensive language in many schools and universities – even now this is a symptom of a far worse situation.  Sadly, my generation hasn’t and isn’t going to be the one that ends this societal sickness. 

My generation is the first video game/gamer generation.  Since circa 1980 (I was born in 83) we have had video games in almost every home with a TV.  If we didn’t have a console we could hit up an arcade for our digital fix.  The games have become more violent, more racist, and frighteningly more sexist.  Say what you want about whether these things effect the minds of those that play them in any way (they do).  The fact that we watch these movies and buy these games by the millions and companies make money by the billions tells me that much of what we consider as entertainment, hobby, or digital lifestyle is also a manner of continuing these toxic cycles and societal structures.

Yet, I see promise.

Now we find ourselves in what seems to be a surprising situation in the internet age.  I didn’t have the internet until I was 14 or 15… even then, it was dial-up.  We have started to divert from the old paths and break through the boundaries that those in power constructed over centuries of impropriety. It’s difficult to admit a lot of these things to ourselves – no matter on which side we find ourselves or our opinions.  What has been considered ‘normal’ and commonplace is starting to morph into something new.  The new ‘normal’ isn’t about destroying those in power or wrecking their status as fellow humans.  It is about helping them and everyone else change out that old dirty lens through which they have looked at the world and see it through clear eyes and curious minds that want to know about other people and places rather than simply fear and hate them.

I see promise in the parents that let their boys grow long hair and style it as they wish or paint their nails any color they want.  I see promise in the parents that let their daughters buzz their hair, play with trucks, become soldiers, police, or fire fighters and choose not to paint their nails any color.  I see promise in my peers that have come out with pride that they are who they are and love who they love.  I see promise in a world that no matter how much it seems that hate wants to have a voice or cause distress and pain – love and understanding always seems to drown it out with a resounding cheer.  I see promise in the growing change and demanding of equality when it comes to all walks of life.

I see promise in the fact that I can answer the one question that seems to prevent people from changing their views –

 ‘Why does it matter?’.