Female Gamers in Cuba: Playing against Discrimination

By Sandra Madiedo  (El Toque)

Lara plays at the Computer “Palace” Photo: Eduardo Gonzalez Martinez

HAVANA TIMES – Claudia has been told “you’re mine” and has heard people say to others: “don’t get mixed up with her, she’s my girl.” She went from being “a disgrace” to having “so many boyfriends in the incredible DotA (game).”

However, she tells us, laughing, that they aren’t used to seeing her play. Male gamers look after her because “hell, there aren’t any girls that play DotA.”

Maybe this is why Melania was also told that she didn’t know how to play. Lara has felt discriminated against: “they think that we are inferior, that we don’t have the same skills or knack that they do.” And, Dalila labels them “machistas, but silly words fall on deaf ears.”

Dalila says that “when you’ve been playing for a while, they start recognizing you.” “We understand them,” Claudia adds, because “having a gamer girlfriend isn’t the same as having a normal girlfriend. A gamer girlfriend will say, let’s play together. A normal girlfriend will say, what are you doing playing? Get up!”.

A study [1] about the social use of the videogame on the Snet network (the main platform for playing in Cuba) says that only 5% of the 73 users interviewed were women.

These female interviewees explained that “their stronger connection to videogames began via their male partners, although some of them already had previous experience, but they weren’t as systematic,” the author, Felix Manuel Gonzalez, explains. This was Dalila’s case, who swapped her Barbies for an Atari.

“We became better because we have to put a lot more work in. They teach us plays. They tell us “watch this or that video, it’ll help you” and we learn from our mistakes. They have opened up a space to us and they realize that we are interested and only a few,” Claudia says.

Lara questions whether guy’s discrimination against them has any real basis. She still doesn’t know why women can’t dedicate the same amount of time to playing that men do, they both work and study.

Claudia in a face-off. Photo: Eduardo Gonzalez Martinez.

Claudia believes that household chores are the main obstacle, limiting their time playing DotA for example. “It’s a team game and you have to concentrate on what you are doing. Paying attention to the team, the minimap or opponent’s strategy.”

But, Dalila thinks differently to these two. “I don’t believe that women dedicate less time to playing. I’ve made my real friends on here because many relationships, friends and family don’t understand the way you live and what you like and, as a result, they don’t understand you, they marginalize you.”

“Your family supports you, but when you’re studying you have to study first and then play. For example, thanks to DotA, I got a 100 in a Physics exam at my pre-university. I focused so hard on associating it to DotA that when the exam came, I managed to do it all,” Claudia says.

No glass ceiling, sticky floor or nickname

Several factors might influence the discrimination that women suffer in the gaming world. On the one hand, there are society’s limitations; and, on the other, the influence of cultural norms associated with women, like taking care of a family.

Other elements of gaming might also have an impact, because “female characters have been sexualized (throughout history) and receive a lot of discrimination and not very much visibility,” Mexican blogger and feminist Angelica Contreras, the director of Quintaesencia Magazine, says.

“It has to do with the fact that men are the audience that most consume and play videogames and, therefore, game developers focus on creating sexualized (female) characters,” Alejandro Ferrera, an expert in eSports and Cuban gamer, says. Nevertheless, competitions are changing this reality somewhat because “guys only know your sex if you have a nickname or speak; if you don’t, they can only judge you by how you play.”

This is why Dalila used the nickname “Rodolfo” for a while when she was “stuck, embarassed”, as “women aren’t given the main roles in a game.”

Melania confirms this and says that she is the only woman on her team. Maybe that’s why they mute their microphones when they play, internationally too, because they are insulted. “I put it on mute, they go too far, they say all kinds of things…”

“We don’t rub in our victories,” Melania says: “we, women, always use our heads and prove that we know how to play just like they do.”

Dalila dreams of creating a team of just female gamers. Like others, she has taken part in national tournaments and events, but you need a team to back you.

Although in Ferrera’s point of view, the mere existence of this kind of competition is discriminatory because if it’s just for women, then it doesn’t measure the best.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is an “internal rivalry” between them, Dalila says.

“Women are very stubborn, it’s always tell me and I’ll tell you. I can’t be a team captain because I don’t like to give out orders, but I keep my team in balance,” Claudia claims.

This also partially happens because the “DotA community is very toxic. Nobody wants to admit to their mistakes and success depends on others, which means that you can be very bad or very good and you’re still discriminated against,” Ferrera explains.

Can you divide these two worlds?

Claudia believes that if an eSports academy were to open up in Cuba, “it would be packed. You’d have to take an entrance exam to get in,” the player says, who dreams of training spaces that exist in other parts of the world, “the ones you go to and have classes on the game you’re going to be competing in.”

Esports have made such progress, that they are already considered real sports by many. This view is reinforced by the discipline, physical effort and training that being a professional electronic athlete requires.

Claudia and Lara, from left to right. Photo: Eduardo Gonzalez Martinez

Cuba’s Electronic Sports Association (the unofficial organization of Cuban gamers) works so that these games earn recognition among the public and support as Cubans are amateur gamers who are at a disadvantage when they compete a lot of the time.

National tournaments that the ADEC organizes throughout this year is proof of this. The Master Habana Tournament for DotA 2, for example, is held two or three times; the FIFA 19 tournament will take place next March and there is a program of everything that is happening each month.

One of the results of Felix Manuel Gonzalez’s study is that, without specifying gender, interviewees said that “they were playing videogames less in the last year. The main reason for 7 of them (47%) was their professional or study commitments.”

The international landscape for female gamers is just as bleak. There aren’t very many competitions that are open to both sexes, plus they don’t receive the same financial awards that men do when they take part in these events.

Ferrera explains that some aspects put women at a disadvantage. Competitions played by men have greater audiences and are even more attractive from a commercial point of view. Winnings come from viewers, publicity and streaming the event via platforms such as Twitch.

Esports Earnings offers up-to-date lists with how much teams earn and tournaments, which there a great deal of internationally.

Ferrera says that this includes the WESG, a kind of Olympics for eSports, which involves playing several videogames. This year, there will be different renowned events such as the 2019 International DotA 2 Tournament and The Worlds 2019 League of Legend.

In Cuba, the gamer movement is struggling to survive and develop, with its very unique problems. Within the growing community of players, women are facing other problems like discrimination. Everything that maybe needs to be demolished in a world that hasn’t been conceived or designed for them, so they can play under equal conditions.

One thought on “Female Gamers in Cuba: Playing against Discrimination

  • As a gamer I have to say that the gamer community is very small compared to other sports communities and it’s hard to see a girl playing videogames for the way that they are raised. I would like to play with female gamers, sometimes they are even funnier than the male gamers. I hope the gamercommunity gets bigger and bigger and I hope that more females enter in this big and beautiful world of games.

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