Women In Games Esports Awards gives ‘best presenter’ award to...a man
The Women in Games association or WIGJ sees its primary mission as supporting women in esports and making the strongly male-dominated field more gender-equal. At the moment, only about 1 in 20 esports employees in general are female. With only 5% of the esports workforce female, it’s an understandable mission to seek equality and reward the excellent work many women do (or want to do) in the field.The annual WIGJ conference focuses on this exact issue – it offers workshops, hosts talks and an award ceremony all with the intent to recognise and honour women in the games industry. In general, the point of the conference is to offer a platform for women in games.
Despite this, the best presenter award was given to a man – James Banks to be precise. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue at all, however given the organisation that hosts this event as well as its mission, it’s certainly a questionable decision.
What really upset people though wasn’t the fact that so many great female presenters were ignored in favour of one male one, it’s the specific choice that was made as well. According to a Tweet from one of the organisers, James got the award because of the support he gives to female esports – for what it’s worth, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, were it not for two things:
Firstly, there is a separate award for this exact purpose, the Advocacy Award, but James Banks himself has made some very concerning comments before that suggest he isn’t a great choice for any award at this event, much less this one.
This is a now deleted tweet from Banks an it is only one of many questionable comments from him. Also deleted, a 2017 tweet saw him say that he wanted popular shooter game CS:GO ‘made great again’ and he also asked players to ‘stop arguing/pratting about with mix (sic) teams and acting like girls’.
Every single one of these comments alone would be reason enough to pass him over for an award that’s essentially earmarked for women anyway, but coupled all together, they paint a very unpleasant picture. Now while it may be easy to assume that these comments are from a man who has changed his ways, even August this year Banks made a questionable comment: In reference to popular streamer Ninja refusing to stream with women, Banks said: ‘He gave a very valid reason why he doesn’t stream with women and the feminists went mental lol.’ Opinions on Ninja’s decision aside, Banks comment was rather tactless.
When questioned about these issues, Banks said ‘I can do better.’ He probably could have, but there is more: “The language I used was childish, and never intended to be anti-feminist, though I can understand the impression that they have created. I sincerely apologise for any offence I may have caused. Having worked alongside incredible women in the space, I have always been a champion of women in esports both in-game and in-business, which shall continue. Esports as a whole is better off being more inclusive.”
While that all sounds pretty enough, it doesn’t exactly excuse the comments either. Attendants of the conference as well as other interested parties felt there were women that deserved the award more based on merit alone, if not also because they did not make such disparaging comments next to their efforts to promote women in esports.