It’s a big topic in competitive gaming, and the work of mixed gender grassroots tournament Skylla, as well as ESL and Intel’s AnyKey initiative, are hoping to make esports more diverse…

Is a lack of diversity a problem?

Esports has been criticised by some in recent years for a lack of female professional gamers and those from minority backgrounds.

The issue has been raised by the media on several occasions (but not always as fairly as possible), and has regularly sparked debate.

In a nutshell, there is a lack of female players at the top level within esports. And while gaming – and competitive gaming – is gender-inclusive (it’s not like football for example, where men’s teams and women’s teams play separately), men still outnumber women significantly in terms of the number of professional players.

There are a selection of women’s-only tournaments out there, but they aren’t at the same level of the world’s biggest esports competitions, in terms of stature and prize money. Some reporting in this area has also confused general gaming with competitive gaming, muddying the matter further.

Because of the lack of diversity, there are several groups in the industry are working to make esports more inclusive. We’ve highlighted two below:

What is SKYLLA?

SKYLLA is a series of grassroots CSGO tournaments founded by former pro Petya Zheleva, Mousesports co-founder Tom Lemke and CSGO player Hege Botnen.

The competition pits male and female teams against one another, with a $17,500 prize pool. It also aims to promote amateur-level organisations which often don’t receive the same exposure as top-level teams.

As well as the players, SKYLLA hopes to provide a platform for other up and coming talent, such as casters, video editors, journalists and more. It hopes to create role models to inspire others.

SKYLLA managed to reach 2,200 concurrent peak viewers peak during its broadcasts, and its Twitch stream channel has been viewed more than two million times altogether.

Skylla said in a statement: “With open qualifiers for female teams, paired with direct invites (both male and female), this tournament series will give them a chance to shine!

“The idea behind this tournament series found instant support from various well known eSports experts and gaming celebrities like Lauren “Pansy” Scott, Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez, GenerikB, Anderzel, Heather “sapphiRe” Garozzo, Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, docm77 and Matthew “Sadokist” Trivett, to just name a few.”

Visit the SKYLLA website here

What is AnyKey?

AnyKey is a diversity initiative set up by ESL and Intel, which aims to support diverse participation in esports.

Its current research and initiatives are focused on women in esports — from providing competitive gamers with resources, support and opportunities, to collaborating with women in the industry, from sectors like game development and broadcasting, to building better gaming spaces.

AnyKey’s long-term vision is to foster a gaming community that is ‘welcoming to all players, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, religious belief, background, or physical appearance’.

AnyKey is working with the likes of former pro gamer Morgan Romine, as well as respected researcher T.L. Taylor. It has also supported several women’s esports tournaments such as the Intel Challenge at the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, and hopes to create female role models within esports.

“We believe it is possible to be fiercely competitive and embrace positive play at the same time,” AnyKey said in a statement. “We hope to pursue research and initiatives that will help to build a gaming culture in which players are noted for their skills, not personal traits.

“Women have long played an important role in competitive gaming and we are excited to promote, build on, and grow their involvement in the scene.

“We hope to foster welcoming spaces and positive opportunities for competitive players of all kinds.”

Visit the AnyKey website here