Interest in gaming has grown during the pandemic, but women are still facing challenges getting the same opportunities as men.
One example of this is what is happening in varsity college esports.
About 41% of U.S. gamers are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association. However, men held 90% of the roster spots and received 88% of the scholarship funds during this school year, according to data collected by The Associated Press in a sample of 27 public schools across the country.
“Unfortunately, not surprised, I think from my perspective, it starts from actually the spaces that are around games, you know, and so, think about your sort of local sports, maybe even as like your local communities for games and a lot of those cases, they are pretty toxic when it comes to accepting and embracing women participating in those things,” said Joe Tirado, cofounder of Latinx in Gaming.
The organization serves as a platform to connect the Latinx community with gaming opportunities and break down the culture issues at home that can prevent some of them from considering this as a career.
“I would say that becoming an esports player at the college level means you are now prepared for multiple different careers, not just gaming really hard and clicking on, you know, clicking correctly. And I think that more people understanding that thing and more on people understanding that there's so many careers in games is a huge part of it,” said Tirado.
Rebecca Dixon is one of the cofounders of the*gameHERs, an organization working to amplify women's voices in the gaming industry.
“We thought that if we were able to sort of highlight those, put them on a bigger platform for younger girls to see and have a clear path to whether it's any sports scholarship or a career in gaming, that it would be easier for them to envision doing it themselves,” said Dixon.
She says women also need to know there are careers in the industry outside of being an esports player. You don't need a scholarship to make it happen. But she's also not surprised by the trend we're seeing in college esports.
“We're really feeling positive about the fact that there's a lot more talk about the fact that it needs to change, and a lot more initiatives that are, you know, that are being put into place to hopefully help the number swing a little bit,” said Dixon.
Two colleges she sees doing a particularly good job having women involved in esports are the University of California Berkeley and UC Irvine.