Welcoming the USA’s first all-girl esports varsity program
Although esports is often targeted towards young males, an inspiring competitive gaming program has been initiated at an all-girls school in the USA. The Hathaway Brown School at Shaker Heights in Ohio has implemented the first all-female varsity esports program in the nation.
There are now well over 100 colleges in the US that have varsity esports programs, and these have been successfully used as ways to recruit new students. But there have been growing concerns that these programs are overwhelming engineered towards the largely male gaming audience. However, the coach at Hathaway Brown, J Collins, realised that there was a marginalised female gaming community out there who weren’t receiving the same level of attention as their male counterparts.
Collins has a background in gaming-based education, and she set to work in organising a league that spanned 10 schools to ensure gamers of many different backgrounds and genders could take their gaming to the next level. As a result, there are now 10-person teams who play competitively on a range of top esports. These include the Psyonix vehicle football title, Rocket League, Blizzard’s MOBA hit, Heroes of the Storm, and the classic collectible card game, Hearthstone.
The selection of featured esports may vary from some of the world’s most popular competitive gaming titles such as League of Legends and Counter Strike Global Offensive. But Collins’ research found that female gamers in the US tended to shy away from games like LoL that historically have very few women at the highest professional level. As a result, Collins found that most female gaming fans were drawn to less ‘gendered’ titles like Nintendo’s Splatoon and Super Smash Bros, as well as the popular Ubisoft dance game, Just Dance.
This dispels the myth that girls aren’t into gaming, and research published by the Entertainment Software Association in early 2019 illustrated that 45% of US gamers are female. Although there had been reports that varsity esports programs were struggling to find female gamers, it’s evident that the games that interest this community differ from those normally featured in competitive gaming tournaments.
But by developing the first all-female esports varsity program in the US, Collins is hoping that this may prove to be a gateway for girls to further their education. This is especially so as video gaming doesn’t require the obvious physical attributes that are associated with traditional varsity sports such as football and basketball.
Already, the female esports varsity program is proving to be a massive success. Students have repeatedly stated how the competitive gaming tournaments helped to boost their confidence, aid their teamwork skills, and build friendships. In addition to this, many members of the varsity program are now considering further esports college scholarships so as to continue their education at a higher level.
So whilst the competitive gaming realm is normally known for its often-toxic nature, it seems that forward-thinking programs such as the one established at Hathaway Brown School are helping to bring the positivity of esports to a whole new audience.