Recent data from the analytics platform Playgroundz shows that 78 percent of esports teams have no female players among their ranks, yet women comprise half of all video game players. Despite the dominance of male players in the field, Arcadia Esports stands out among its competitors as a quarter of players within the first year of the program are women. Tim Belloff, director of Academic Technology and Esports, notes that the team actively works to promote inclusion within the field to create a welcoming environment for all.
“We first created team norms that were driven by everybody and what they wanted to espouse on the teams,” said Belloff on the team’s code of conduct. “The first was that we agreed to all have respect for each other, especially in regards to gender identity and expression. And also to have a culture of fun, non-anger, respect for shared space, and have an environment for open feedback. It’s important to me to create a space that is open and encouraging for everybody to participate in esports.”
In addition to the team’s code of conduct, students have also watched presentations and held group discussions about the importance of gender equity to promote inclusivity within esports.
“No one really brings up the fact that they're male or female, we all just do as we do and play our games,” said Emmie O’Rourke ’23, a player on the Rocket League team. “We hope and pray for each other's successes, and we boost each other up constantly. These guys have looked at me no differently based on my gender—we're all like family and we treat each other as so.”
Within Arcadia’s Esports program, each of the teams for the games League of Legends, Hearthstone, Rocket League, and Overwatch have at least one female member. Comparatively, of the 20 teams and 203 players within the Overwatch League (OWL), the global professional league for competitive Overwatch esports, there is only one female player (Kim Se-yeon, known as “Geguri”) within the entire league.
“I admire these two female Rocket League players, Karmaah and Neato,” said O’Rourke. “Karmaah was the first female Rocket League player to go fully pro. Both of these girls are killing it in the esports industry, so I figured, why can't I?”
The Arcadia Esports program launched in the Fall 2019 semester, opening with a brand new 1,500-square-foot arena space equipped with 46 high-end gaming computers. The team continued their 2019-20 season despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as esports competitions are held online.
This fall, the program will add Rainbow 6 Siege, a 5v5 team-based game, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, a 1v1 fighting game, to its roster of competitive games. The program also plans to begin streaming its competitive matches on Twitch during the 2020-21 academic year.