“I hope that little girls, when they see us, will say that they too can become professional players.” Charlotte “Cosmic” Tranquillin will take the stage of Paris Games Week for the final of the first official women's cup of League of Legends (LoL). On October 31, with her team Team Go Aurora, she will face another entire women's team, Team BDS.
This will be a first scene for most players. If in theory e-sport competitions can be mixed, in reality they demonstrate “huge male representation”, underlines Yoann Bouchard, director of e-sport tournaments at Webedia. The media group is co-organizing this cup with Riot Games, the publisher of the League of Legends video game. The final is broadcast at 8 p.m. on OTP's Twitch channel, the most watched webTV on the platform.
When the Star Cup was announced last January, like other structures with men's teams, Team GO decided to train its women's squad. For a structure that plays in the French first division, this is a decisive first step. The selected players, already highly ranked, participated in regular tournaments but of less media importance. “We know we have a good level. We just had to be given the means to succeed,” confesses Cosmic, the 22-year-old player. In France, 47% of regular players are women, but only 6% of participants in e-sport competitions are players, reports the Women In Games collective.
The Star Cup is therefore intended to put “a spotlight” on these players “by offering them the necessary professionalization”, insists the Webedia spokesperson. This type of initiative could, in the long term, lead to truly mixed competitions.
“Women are often judged on their gender before their skills and face prejudice that creates a hostile atmosphere for them,” says Julie Jeanniot, spokesperson for Riot Games. They are under double pressure, “that of performing as a player, and that of performing as a woman, at the risk of receiving sexist remarks.”
Large French structures like Solary, Vitality or Team GO are starting to set up their own women's teams. And when the big ones lead by example, the others follow. Especially during competitions of this magnitude. “It comes a little late, but it’s never too late,” admits Cosmic. In 2022, she and her teammates participated in three tournaments, compared to ten this year.
On the first day of broadcast of the women's cup, the peak audience on Twitch reached 11,000 simultaneous spectators. Concerning the audiences for the final stages of the Star Cup, they are “comparable with audiences for Division 2 on League of Legends”, explains Webedia. If the Star Cup is the first competition officially organized by Riot Games, other initiatives have emerged in the past, notably the Women's League launched in 2018 by player Sonia "NiwaaSan" Allam.
“None of us had a female role model in video games. When we discuss our inspirations, it’s always a player, because there was no top level player,” sighs Cosmic. “High-level, competitive women exist and that’s the message we want to send!” insists Riot Games. “Our goal is that these initiatives will no longer be necessary because the ecosystem will have become healthy for everyone.” But the path is still strewn with pitfalls: the League of Legends fan community is known to be particularly toxic, especially towards women.
Only hiccup: if the stands for the final have 1,800 seats, they will not accommodate the general public. The event takes place during the inauguration evening of Paris Games Week, reserved for professionals. However, “the bigger the audience, the happier we are,” laments Cosmic. Riot Games and Webedia are jumping into the deep end while remaining cautious. “I would still have liked to see it live” testifies on X an Internet user who will visit the show when it opens to the public, from Wednesday.