Author: Author: Soraya Carvajal B., February 28 2018 - The sector of video games and eSports is growing and gaining players and audiences worldwide, but both in Spain and in the international context, the participation of women in the development and consumption of electronic games continues to face barriers that make them invisible and limit its link with the technology sector.

In the Women and Gaming event, organized in the framework of Women to Follow and celebrated this week in Madrid, Gisela Vaquero, video game designer and founder of Jellyworld said that, despite the widespread belief that women do not play, currently 44 % of women play "casual" videogames such as candid or Candy crush. However, Vaquero also said that fewer are participating in eSports or playing consoles, while only 17% of women work in the development of these games, which is a barrier in the sector.

Vaquero pointed out that the gender gap is also expressed in the scarce number of women in leadership positions in the sector, because although in Spain there are about 480 video game companies, only 5 or 6 companies are led by women and good part of those who work in this industry receive lower salaries than their peers.

The director of Jellyworld also indicated that videogames continue to be an eminently masculine space, where many women developers and players experience experiences of harassment. "Women are not recognized for their work, they are not listened to, their skills are not valued, they suffer contempt, many are not comfortable in their workplaces and sometimes they treat you like the vase of the office," she added.

On the other hand, Vaquero assured that in videogames female characters characterized by being secondary, women saved, submissive and sexualized prevail. In her opinion also masculinized stories prevail, where the man is protagonist, while the female characters do not make decisions.

"We need another type of video game with strong, determined women, fighters, heroines, with character; We need to apply the reality of videogame stories, because women know how to think and decide" she said.

Faced with the high levels of violence that prevail in numerous electronic games, the developer claimed the need for video games that put aside violence and aggression and bet on content that is not harmful to children and adolescents. In this sense, she pointed out that in her company, they apply the Bechdel test to evaluate their contents and combat the gender gap. In addition, she highlighted her commitment to highlight relevant women, pioneers and technology, through video games.

This creator also pointed out that, through the association Women in Games, of which she is co-founder, they work to make the developers and players visible through different events, such that at the same time their rights are promoted and they are given advice - legal and psychological, in cases of harassment. The association also strengthens the participation of girls in the technology sector through workshops and training programs and is already preparing the first fair of video games made by women, which will take place on April 7, which seeks to make visible and empower to the creators and make their work projects known.

Games as a factor of leisure and learning

Mar Rincon, responsible for the Game Academy of Telefónica, said that the world of video games is traditionally associated with a negative image of players, assimilating them with people who do not study, do not play sports, are asocial, among other criticisms, understand digital leisure, which "is already a tangible reality and therefore you have to lose your fear." Rincon said that prohibiting the use of video games is not the solution, but, rather, it is, defining the rules and that parents should keep in mind that any game can be useful for learning, noting, however, that games by themselves do not teach. Therefore, she stressed the importance of accompaniment and involvement by parents and adults, with adequate communication and information.

She also highlighted that the videogame industry is the one that offers the greatest and best information regarding its products, through the age classification system established by Pan European Information on Games (PEGI)

Rincon also highlighted the values ​​of the game and its positive aspects, because "they develop imagination, creativity, memory, skill acquisition and self-esteem, as they have levels of difficulty and demand to complete challenges". For the Game Academy manager, electronic games are valuable because they: promote respect among players because they value each other - many are played as a team where each one has their role; and develop resistance and overcome obstacles, among others. 

Based on the fact that the videogame sector is a reality, which is present in the day to day of a very wide swath of the population, Rincón said that with the Game Academy they seek to create a meeting space open to all, professionals, users, or people who simply want to learn, to give relevance, to train about how to treat them in the home and "bring this world closer to normal people, parents, uncles, grandparents". 

In turn, Claudia Vargas, 'gamer' who ventured into the world of video games and eSports at age twelve, with the support of her mother, confirmed the difficult penetration of girls in the sector, because they continue to prioritize prejudices and many of them receive criticism, sexist comments, insults and rejection from male colleagues and adversaries, who believe that they should not participate in the platforms. However, she said that currently many of her friends belong to the gamer world. For Vargas, although the girls are gaining ground in the amateur field in electronic sports, at a professional level, the male presence is still preponderant. That is why she called for more minor and professional leagues to be created, in which women and men can participate equally. 

In spite of everything, for this gamer it is clear that the female population little by little is making a hole in the terrain of the management and organization of platforms and events and pointed out that she herself has occasionally played this type of role.

Confronting the fear of the parents of the conflict of videogames versus studies, Vargas, who is 18 years old and studies Pedagogy, affirmed that both can be combined with a good organization of the schedules, accompaniment of the parents and with responsibility.

Finally, she invited the players to overcome the fear of participating in the platforms and not to change their nicknames to hide that they are girls, "because being a girl does not mean you can not be a gamer."

eSports and video games in figures

The Digital Society Report sdiE17 established that in 2017 the phenomenon of eSports grew exponentially in Spain and internationally, both in numbers of spectators, and in advertising revenues, so much so that it is expected that in 2020 these figures will reach 1,000 millions of dollars around the world.

The report also states that the first professional teams were created in Spain, such as the Movistar Riders, which also has a high performance center and that in 2017 the videogame competitions jumped to the Movistar + television platform with its own channel, the Movistar eSports .

In the event of presentation of the Report, Manuel Moreno, CEO of ESL Spain (world leader in eSports), said that the electronic sports sector is in good health in Spain and worldwide, given the high penetration of these because between 21% and 22% of the world population plays daily in any of the platforms.

For the neophytes, Moreno explained that the video game is the kind of ball in electronic sports and that these mass sports were born in the 21st century in the concentrations of amateur technology, LAN parties, where creators met to share knowledge and concerns about technology and networked.

The director of ESL Spain said that the relationship of eSports with technology is inherent, since they are the first mass sports born in the digital context and that its takeoff has been precisely due to the expansion and advancement of the technology that has made possible "to play on any device, PC, console, tablet or mobile, with anyone and at any time, so that barriers of space and time are broken".

Moreno also indicated that in the last eight years there has been a significant increase in the audience, so that currently around 300 million people are watching, consuming, matches or eSports events.

For this manager, videogames also represent an enormous opportunity for Spain, due to the demand of new professionals, as main actors. "Qualified professionals are needed because it is a sector with a high technological burden (...) we need people who understand the digital world, digital natives who have learned to use technology spontaneously."

But, also, he stressed that electronic sports have a lot of potential in terms of generating employment and boosting the economy for all the actors that pivot around the business in Spain.

Finally, he said that the state of health of eSports in Spain is frankly promising, but there is room for improvement.

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