Blizzard has spoken of its desire to make the Overwatch League as “welcoming and inclusive” as the game itself, after the confirmation this week that the first female player would be joining the eSports competition.
While the popular hero shooter is renowned for its rich and diverse roster of male and female characters, the Overwatch League launched its inaugural season last month with 100% male players. That’s soon set to change, however, as on Wednesday, last-placed side the Shanghai Dragons confirmed the acquisition of Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon, following weeks of speculation.
After dropping ten straight matches in the first stage of the tournament, the Dragons have recruited four new signings in an attempt to address “core problems” and create a roster with “more flexibility and synergy”, with Geguri set to take on the tank role. The 19-year-old South Korean is renowned for her play as Zarya but, according to a press release, she has also expanded her hero pool, with the capability of playing Roadhog and D.Va at a high level.
Geguri Held 80 Percent Win Rate
Geguri gained notoriety in 2016 after amassing an 80 percent win rate in Overwatch’s competitive mode, which led to accusations of cheating from fellow players – accusations which were later confirmed by Blizzard as being unfounded. She soon turned professional following widespread publicity, and most recently made the group stages of the Overwatch APEX Season 4 while a part of the ROX Orcas roster last year.
— Shanghai Dragons (@ShanghaiDragons) February 14, 2018
Shanghai have certainly not drafted in Geguri as a tokenistic gesture; they will be hopeful that she, along with fellow new recruits Sky, Fearless and Ado, will be able to propel their side out of the mire. The oddsmakers certainly seem to think that the quartet will give the Chinese team a boost; while still favourites to finish bottom of the pile, many of the top betting apps have seen the Dragons’ odds shorten considerably since the announcement was made.
Commissioner: OWL ‘Incredibly Diverse’
Geguri’s signing is being hailed in the eSports community as a historic moment for gender equality and diversity, although some have said the scene still has some way to go; given the overall lack of female players competing at the highest level. In an interview with Gamespot, OWL commissioner Nate Nanzer praised the tournament for being “incredibly diverse”, while admitting that it does not expect to solve internet “toxicity” or gender equality issues on its own.
Nanzer added that it wants the professional league to be as inclusive as the base game itself, pointing to the fact that the title’s elite players come from 19 different countries as evidence of some of the work done. Moreover, due to the lack of physical differences between male and female eSports players, he added, Blizzard expects to see the gender makeup of teams evolve over time.
Although Geguri herself has remained cool on the significance of her recruitment, publicly stating that she’s uncomfortable with the notion of her signing being used to “forward ideologies”, the South Korean will undoubtedly be looked upon as a female role model in a sport that until now, hasn’t had many to celebrate.