Just over two weeks ago, AfreecaTV, organizers of StarCraft II’s flagship event, GSL (Global StarCraft II League), announced their first ever female tournament, the Diva Cup.
With the Diva Cup just days away, I got a chance to talk to the event organizer, Allaryce, for some insight into the tournament and the female StarCraft scene.
Note: This interview has been edited and revised for clarity.
The Diva Cup
The Game Haus: How did you first become attached to this project?
Allaryce: “Someone from Afreeca Global reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in running a female only tournament, so of course, I said yes! I started participating in tournaments only 3 weeks after I first started playing so running a tournament is something I’ve always wanted to try.”
To your knowledge, how long has the Diva Cup been in planning?
About a month
What can you tell us about the behind the scenes planning involved in this project?
“When it comes to running a tournament, it’s pretty simple. You figure out the format (this one is double elimination), the players, and the prize pool. Since Afreeca was providing the prize pool and I got other additional sponsors, the rest was easy!
The only tricky part of the planning comes from finding a time and date that works for all the players considering they’re all in different time zones. It’s all about staying on top of communication between everyone, even while I was away for IEM Katowice in Poland. With my work schedule and other obligations I have, it’s also great to have the team at Afreeca work on the promo/PR stuff for the tournament.”
At risk of asking the obvious, is there a story behind the name “Diva Cup” or is it just because of the Overwatch character?
“Yes, it’s inspired by the Overwatch character. D.VA‘s lore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that she’s a pro StarCraft II player who became the GSL Code S champion at 16 and went undefeated for 3 years. I would love to see that story step out of fiction and into reality. Someday, I hope we can see a female lift up that trophy in a moment of glory on the big stage!
Many people seem to think that I, as a female, have ignorantly chosen this name for my tournament. To me, that’s very laughable. It’s meant to be a double entendre. It’s meant to be a provocative and funny play on words. I hope that people can appreciate my sense of humor and laugh with me! Even if they can’t, I would encourage them to look past the name and focus on the players instead!”
“I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play Starcraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.”
TGH: One of the key criticisms that has been brought up regarding female-only tournaments has been: why is there a need for a male/female division? How would you respond to this question?
Allaryce: “There’s no defined male division, it’s just that they’re more likely to sign up more often for online and offline cups. Girls are more than welcome to join and there’s nothing stopping them but themselves. I can only speculate that a few of them don’t feel like their skill levels are up to par and therefore don’t enter. I refuse to speak for the other girls and make assumptions about this matter since it’s not a question I’ve asked them about. Everyone has their own individual feelings about it and deserves their own voices.
For me, the Diva Cup is a way to highlight the many female players in the scene that people may not know about. It’s not meant to be a gender divided issue. Many of these girls don’t promote their social media as much or may stream every once in a while. Others participate in the FSL (Female StarCraft League) or they just play on their own. This is a way to bring awareness to them as players and promote their play.
I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play StarCraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.
There was a really great article published by Polygon that explains the need for female tournaments and uses Chess as an example. In summary, the female demographic is under represented and it’s a good way to foster growth in the community and encourage other girls to try the game and compete!
I also hope that these girls will join more online and offline tournaments, regardless of results. There are many that cater to all skill levels no matter the player. Regardless of the reason why girls play in female tournaments or gender neutral tournaments, what’s important is that they’re putting themselves out there to compete and enjoy the game we all love to watch: StarCraft II!”
“I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see SCII being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree.”
TGH: I’d imagine it’s also potentially demoralizing on many levels to see a competitive scene so male dominated. There’s a psychological aspect there that isn’t often explored.
I’ll use a contrasting example, if my first competitive experience were to be against 100 women, I think it would make an already intimidating situation exponentially more so. And if I were to get crushed, it would psychologically reinforce the idea that I didn’t belong there.
Regardless of the reason, I think it’s important to have events like these to let the female StarCraft world know there are competitive outlets available for them.
Allaryce: “I, personally, don’t know anyone who’s cocky enough to enter a tournament and expect to win. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who are pro gamers and almost all of them are very humble about their skills. They mostly just want to perform well enough to their own standards. When it comes to competition, failure is inevitable but it’s how we cope with our losses and come out stronger that matters. It’s a character building tool, if anything, which is why I think tournaments are important. This is one of the reasons I enter tournaments no matter what skill level I’m at.
This is why it’s called ‘tournament experience.’ You’re forced to face your opponents head on, in real life, in defeat or victory. How you choose to handle your sportsmanship says a lot about yourself.
Again, I cannot speak for the other girls, nor would I want to generalize their experiences. I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see StarCraft II being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree. Many people have different reasons that drive them to play the game. That being said, seeing it be male dominated encourages players like me to do better and raise myself up. I can still find role models in the men because I see them for the player they are and not their gender.
Speaking from a personal perspective, I have never once felt like I didn’t belong in the scene. Quite the opposite, in fact. People have been nothing less than generous with their time when it comes to teaching me how to play and my understanding of the game. They encourage and inspire me to improve every day. Some even go as far as to ask me ‘so… when are you getting GM?’ I love the Starcraft II community!”
Follow up question; do you think growth of the female StarCraft scene is possible and what do you think is necessary to foster further growth?
“Yes I think it’s just about having a community they can be a part of. This game can be quite intimidating to get into, regardless of the gender, so having friends to talk to is important!”
TGH: So now let’s move on to the participants. Who would you say are the players to look out for?
Allaryce: “Based on her track record, I think Koshkii has a really good shot. Miyako also seems to be a favorite among some of the girls so I’m looking forward to casting their games! We also have a few newcomers that I haven’t seen play before so I think it’s still anyone’s game.”
Any personal predictions?
Fair enough, any players you would like to see participating in (potential) future Diva Cups?
“Most of the girls, on average, are diamond and above so I encourage any of the other girls to get to diamond and come to compete!”
If you were competing yourself, where would you rank yourself among the competition?
“I’m a bit out of practice because of my work and travel so I don’t think I’d make it past the second bracket. I only get maybe two to three hours of practice these days. Some of the girls are better practiced and have a better shot!”
TGH: Finally, let’s talk about StarCraft a bit. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?
Allaryce: “I think we’ve seen some of the most exciting gameplay lately in premier tournaments and even online ones. I’m excited for the new changes to Zerg (which is what I main) and to see how that translates amongst the top players. I’m also excited to play on a new map pool! Who isn’t hyped for that?”
It really has been a great year of StarCraft gameplay so far. IEM produced so many amazing games and the GSL Quarters was just one mic drop moment after the next. It helps as well that we have a really exciting map pool at the moment. I would be surprised if there’s ever been a map that has delivered as many amazing games as Abyssal Reef has in the short time its been live.
If there is one change you can make to StarCraft what would it be?
“I think if they made it free to play, it would be really great for people who are hesitant to pick up the game. We’ve seen that kind of success with LoL and DOTA so I think Starcraft II could benefit from it as well. They’re starting to finally move towards DLC, which I think is a good direction but there needs to be a good balance for people who can’t afford some of it.
I think for everyone who’s purchased the game up until now, they can release some kind of exclusive skins or content to ease the transition. I’m no expert about what this would mean for Blizzard internally, so I’m not sure how feasible the strategy is.”
I share this sentiment. Though I think it’s still a bit early to go free to play, currently. Of course I’m no expert on this either but I think there needs to be more micro-transactions available than what we currently have to make it a feasible model. I expect there will be a huge spike in traffic and interest if StarCraft II does go free to play, the game should be well stocked with cosmetic options to capitalize on that. Blizzard is on a good track at the moment.
TGH: Finally, any last words to close?
Allaryce: “Regardless of viewership, I’m really happy to be working on this tournament with Afreeca and give these players a platform and a little extra cash! I’m also excited to cast with my friend Temp0 since we see each other at events often but have never done a cast together before.”
Tune into the Diva Cup on Saturday March 18th at 12PM PST on Afreeca.tv/Allaryce
Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2