E3, and Nintendo in particular, provided an uplifting experience this year when I started to see how many games were utilizing female protagonists. Lady gamers make up half the gaming audience, after all, so it was encouraging to see devs start adding that representation into their titles. Then I heard about Finland's Assembly Summer 2014 and promptly headdesked so hard I may have suffered mild dain bramage. You see, Assembly hosts International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) tournaments, the winners of which will move on to this year's international finals in Baku, Azerbaijan. IeSF, for whatever reason, has decided that there will be no women's division for the Hearthstone competition, so therefore women can't compete. Like, at all.
Of course there are totally legit and not at all mind-numbingly regressive reasons for this. When asked about the omission by PC Gamer, IeSF replied:
The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports[...]International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.
Oh, well then, that makes it ok. As long as excluding and segregating women makes it legitimate and is backed up by existing precedent.
For their part, Assembly released a statement on their website addressing the controversy, stating:
Even though we partially understand IeSF's stance behind separate series for men and women, we think that separating the genders is not the right way to advance electronic sports. The other tournaments held at Assembly are not separated by gender, and they are open for all (both gaming tournaments and computer art competitions). We have worked with FeSF and other Nordic electronic sports federations, trying to induce change in this IeSF rule.
Look, only flimsy arguments can be made for segregating even physical sports along gender lines, generally centered around the minor physical build differences between men and women (not including secondary sex characteristics, obviously). Segregation between the sexes for what amounts to a primarily mental task just reeks of atavistic misogyny.
IeSF said that they were trying to promote female gaming on a global scale. ProTip for IeSF: you promote with inclusion, not segregation. By dividing various aspects of the tournaments into male/female, you are creating a classification of separate-but-equal, something that we in the States can prove is a terrible idea with historical evidence...or even current culture evidence (see: NBA v. WNBA). By cutting women out altogether, you're not even affording them that much. Instead you are dismissing half the population out of hand as not good enough, not worthy enough, not equal enough to compete in your tournament. There is literally no valid reason to do this, at all, ever.
If segregating and excluding women is the only way you can feel like you're including them, then you need to hand the reins over to someone who knows what they're doing; and if it's the only way to prove your legitimacy as a sport, then perhaps you're trying to prove yourselves to the wrong people.