In this panel discussion, which took place during the SiGMA Eurasia Conference in Dubai, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities for women in gaming and esports in the UAE and MENA region.
Opening the discussion, panel moderator Megan Easey, Marketing Director, SunContract reiterates the relevance of “discussing the very real and authentic topic of how there are various ways in which women have opportunity but also survive big challenges” in gaming and esports arena.
Perceptions towards women
Asked to weigh in on the perceptions around women in the esports and gaming environment, Arshiya “xArshyy” Faraghat, Streamer & CM at Four04 esports, argues that there is a stigma against women. She says that women often face social discrimination once they attempt to do something in a more male dominated environment. Such a move “will be frowned upon” by the women’s families and women might not pursue their aspirations and reach their full potential.
Faraghat uses herself as an example of the impact that family support can have – “because of the support and endless encouragement that I received from my family I was able to be where I am today otherwise it just wouldn’t happen”. She sees her role as facilitating opportunities for other women in the MENA region and in the UAE and use her presence as reassurance that “it’s okay to be involved in esports it’s okay to follow your dream in gaming whether it’s male dominated or not.” Pavel Dergachev, analyst at 4H Agency agrees that there are cultural and social norms that may hinder when and how women engage in the field.
The right platform
The share of female gamers globally is equal to that of male gamers. This changes when players reach professional levels for a plethora of reasons. Arshiya Faraghat says that females lack the confidence to raise their voice and at the professional level there aren’t any platforms for them to “shine”. Withing the gaming industry, at the professional level, women have made significant contributions to the field, and it is crucial to find strategies to understand why women are not as successful as their male counterparts when it comes to professional esports players.
Paul ‘The Prophet’ Dawalibi, CEO of Holodeck ventures says that he “sees worrying trends”. He thinks that it is critical to encourage girls from a young age as much as boys. He adds that at the professional level, the discussion should be around the economics of esports. “Even today as mature as the esports scene may be, most of these esports teams don’t make money. The majority of them are losing money, and even more so today than even six months ago and my fear is that you get a female esports team but if that female esports team never turns a profit, never draws a big enough audience or enough sponsors all you’ve done I think is set women back.”
Investment is key
Pavel Dergachev draws similarities with the current situation in esports to how it was around 10 -15 years ago in tennis: “when no one was watching ladies’ tennis …. WTA was investing lots of money to make the sport more inclusive they invested to ….. different social programs and for now I would say that tennis is more equal than it was 10 or 15 ago of course … but you have to invest and invest more money”.
Short- and long-term solutions
Strategies to break down gender barriers in gaming and esports should offer different solutions with short to long term goals. Arshiya Faraghat adds that “we have to have all-girl tournaments because this is the point of time where we have to encourage female gamers in the MENA region to participate and once that stigma is defeated, once they feel comfortable to expose themselves then there will be no need for all girl tournaments”. Pavel Dergachev agrees and holds that one of benefits of having all-female tournaments is that it “creates something that other girls can look up to”. In response to Paul Dawalibi’s argument of profitability, Arshiya Faraghat claims that all-female tournaments also translate into profit because they provide a platform and create visibility and exposure which in turn draw the attention of potential sponsors.
The Eurasia SiGMA Summit is returning in 2024
The Eurasia Summit will take place in Dubai, UAE, 04 – 07 March 2024. Find more information here. Interested? Have a look at the agenda for Eurasia 2023 for more information on panels and keynotes that took place throughout the summit.