The Normalisation of Racism, Sexism and Homophobia in the Starcraft 2 esports Scene
When I was first approached by some of the members of Team Legion to write an article about my thoughts on sexism, racism and homophobia in Starcraft 2 eSports I was nervous. Such a heavy topic can not possibly be fully explored or ‘solved’ in one book, let alone in one article. Still, I knew that it was something that I really wanted to do as it is important to the members of Team Legion, many of the people I know, the community as a whole, and myself.
After some thought on how I wanted to go about this I decided that I didn’t want to tell people what was wrong or right, rather, I wanted to present to readers exactly what the issue is so that they could think it through for themselves. This article is my exploration into exactly what the problem is when it comes to racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of hate in the Starcraft 2 eSports scene. I hope it provokes some thought and discussion that leads towards improvement.
Alysa ‘AuRora’ Goose [LgN Gaming]
To begin with I’d like to introduce you to Alysa ‘AuRora’ Goose from Team Legion. I recently had the chance to chat with her about her experiences in the SC2 community. What she had to tell me, sadly, didn’t surprise me – her experiences are pretty typical from what I have seen for females in the Starcraft 2 scene and within gaming in general.
“I can personally say I’ve had to deal with a lot of mean spirited people on the NA bnet server for sure … whether it just be the random player who acts BM or people who are just very hateful.. I try to tune it out ETC and just say gl hf or GG regardless of what people say to me.. but yeah its definitely an issue and hard to ignore.”
I considered blacking out the name of the person in this instance but I decided against it. There is this assumption that what you do on the ladders is not in the public eye – this assumption is wrong. When you ladder actual people are there to see the way you act. It’s foolish to assume that the things you do in public will stay private. Before saying or doing anything on the ladder consider this: would you do the same thing at a LAN event?
“but we have a pretty good community overall in my opinion .. so I dont think its a rampant problem.. but hard to ignore”
I think Alysa has a great point, the Starcraft 2 community is friendly, kind and accepting overall – in comparison to the gaming community as a whole. But I think this highlights it’s own problem; a certain level of hate and harrassment is considered normal when it comes to gaming. This level is way beyond what would be considered normal in the outside world. This normality of hate makes people on the receiving end feel like it’s just a part of gaming and that it is up to them to defend themselves, ignore it or stop playing.
What About the ‘Bad Guys’ of eSports? The Entertainers?
CombatEX, Destiny and Idra (and many others) are the different shades of the ‘bad guys’ in eSports. Their behaviour isn’t wrong on it’s own, eSports needs to have it’s bad guys just like WWE (entertainment wrestling) needs it’s bad guys. I actually watch all three of the afforementioned players streams and I even find them entertaining for the most part. But these players, like many others, have been known to cross the line from entertainment into hate. But they are only partly to blame for this behaviour.
“I had the chance to play him once.. of course he BM’ed me at the end of the game.. but I think thats just part of his internet ‘persona’.”
– Alysa ‘AuRora’ Goose on CombatEX
BM style entertainment is something the community wants but I don’t think people actually want to see racism, homophobia and sexism when they watch Starcraft 2 – they just tolerate it. This is the problem as it creates a culture of acceptance, it normalises the behaviour. No-one complains and the streamers doing it think it’s not a problem – they may even think that it’s a part of the attraction of their stream. Since it makes them money they keep on with it. In the end the viewers accept the behaviour because the most successful people within Starcraft are not just getting away with it, they are successful from it.
Orb actually said himself on State of the Game that he didn’t really confront his behaviour until he was called out on it. He just felt like he could “get away with it”. For those of you who have not been following along, Orb was called out for racist language on his stream and on the ladders. The community responded quite quickly contacting Evil Geniuses’ sponsors and Orb was removed from the team.
On that note the Orb situation has wrapped up nicely, a punishment comparable to any other entertainment industry was levelled, the player has apologized and made a statement about his behaviour being wrong and the community has been made aware that in the future this sort of behaviour is not acceptable. The entire spectacle has resulted in progress within the community and many other figures are likely to take notice of how events played out and modify their own behaviour. Hopefully, this all has lasting implications for the improvement of the Starcraft 2 eSports community.
What Can You Do?
Community Leaders: The Agents of Change
Just like Orb the community leaders need to be held accountable for their actions. This requires a good deal of self-control in some cases. Starcraft 2 is a frustrating game and people won’t blame you for getting angry, but you do have to draw your own line as to what is acceptable behaviour whilst in the public eye. This may mean keeping a piece of paper next to your computer with a reminder that says: “I influence what people think” or “I am not anonymous”.
The Viewers: The Force for Change
If the recent events with Orb have show anything it’s that the viewers and general community can be the strongest force for change. If you don’t like something let your voice be heard.
You can call people out for using racist/sexist/homophobic jokes or language on their streams. If they ignore you or ban you simply turn off the stream. One or two people doing this will go unnoticed but if a streamer loses a couple hundred viewers and the chat box is filled with complaints about the language every time they do this, then they will take notice.
If you’re about to turn a stream off for something you don’t like take a second to leave a complaint before you do. Something like “I’m turning this stream off, BM is fine but calling someone ‘x’ is not. I recommend to anyone else who isn’t okay with this to do the same.”
Changing Our Culture
Changing the culture as a whole is a big ask, especially when it’s so easy and profitable to to rely on the practices of the past. But the only way to grow beyond the stereotype of sexist, racist, hate-filled gamers is to rethink the practices of the past. Many different cultures have had to question whether what they considered normal was actually right. It’s time for us to do the same.
A Special Thanks to:
Stijn ‘Doji‘ Dejongh for approaching me with the idea for this article.
Alysa ‘AuRora‘ Goose for allowing me to interview her and for the image.
Amelia ‘Gilbertamie‘ Gilbert for putting up with me stressing about this article for days, for helping me with another perspective, and for being a great editor.
And, Team Legion.
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