Can Fortnite break the gender deadlock in esports?

Whilst esports has traditionally been seen as being a bit of a boy’s club, a string of recent female signings to Fortnite teams could signal that the tide is set to turn. The live streaming exploits of stars like FemSteph and efforts made by Fortnite’s parent company, Epic Games, to make their esports tournaments more female-friendly, have been commended as being positive moves to counter a prevailing attitude of misogyny and negativity in the gaming world.


© FemSteph

Ever since the battle royale version of Fortnite was released in 2017, it has proven to be a surprise global gaming hit. But whilst first-person shooters like Counter Strike Global Offensive have developed communities of male players that have often appeared to be extremely unwilling to include female gamers, it seems that Fortnite could hold the key to opening up esports for all.

Top female gamers signed to Fortnite teams

The appearance of a highly regarded Twitch streamer like FemSteph in this year’s Fortnite Pro-Am and Summer Skirmish Series quickly illustrated that things could be changing in the male-dominated world of esports. With FemSteph and other female gamers having their gaming prowess broadcast to an audience of over five million spectators, it heralded an overwhelmingly positive change in the competitive gaming industry.

But it didn’t stop there, as stars like Kittyplays also put in an epic performance to finish third in the Pro-Am tournament, and was quickly snapped up alongside TINARAES and maddiesuun by the Korean multi-gaming team, Gen.G. The top US esports organisation, 100 Thieves, have also been quick to sign up the most promising female Fortnite players like Valkyrae, whilst the highly ranked Team SoloMid side also signed the female gaming star, ChicaLive.

Gen.G’s signing of TINARAES and maddiesuun as an all-star female duo marks a particularly significant move. The esports organisation’s head, Jordan Sherman, realised that launching their first US team with exclusively female gamers will create a few headlines, but he stated that it was the pair’s teamwork, communication and desire to win that earned them their pro gaming contracts.

Why is Fortnite popular amongst female gamers?

There have been plenty of video games like Overwatch that have proven to be successful in introducing female characters that offered a little more than the likes of Lara Croft. Such moves have been greeted with enthusiasm by the female gaming community, but it seems as though the battle royale version of Fortnite has been received especially well amongst female gamers.

Many have stated that this could be due to the fact that Epic Games made the shrewd move to release the title as a free-to-play game on iOS. This helped to open up the fun of Fortnite to a whole new range of gamers who wouldn’t usually play on PC, Xbox or PlayStation. It’s thought that women account for 63% of the mobile gaming market, and with Fortnite being played by around 45 million people today, it seems that Epic Games’ plan has worked especially well.


© Epic Games

Like many other successful games of the recent era, efforts have been made to make sure that there’s a suitable range of cosmetic skins to cater to the needs of the legions of female games who have helped make Fortnite such a hit. And with a team of influencers like Kittyplays aiming to ensure a new generation of female talent is encouraged to join in the action, it seems that Fortnite could be the game that we’ve been waiting for.

Challenges faced for the female gaming revolution

From the #Gamergate controversy of 2014, to the sheer amount abuse received by female stars such as CSGO’s missharvey and StarCraft II’s Scarlett, it seems that women have routinely been treated appallingly by a small hardcore group of male gamers. It was hoped that games like Fortnite could bring an end to this backwards trend, but news stories like the one where the esports star, Ninja, refused to play against female competitors in Fortnite suggests that the tide could be slow to turn.

Ninja stated that he wouldn’t compete with female Fortnite esports players as out of respect for his wife, but this move has done little to counter the stereotype of female gamers as being little more than Twitch thots. This refers to someone who uses their gender and sexuality just to receive more attention and views, and it’s an accusation that has been unfairly levelled at many members of the female gaming community.

However, with women gamers like Rage Darling accusing Ninja of reinforcing stereotypes, it seems that the backlash has already begun to ensure that women can play esports like Fortnite without receiving the safe volume of abuse that has been suffered by female gamers in the past.

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