Last weekend the Equal Esports Festival took place in Berlin at the Telekom Hauptstadtrepräsentanz and rocked the international gaming scene. It was the first such festival to take place in Germany – and it was about time.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the world of esports and video games is rather male-dominated, like so many tech-related things. But it’s not that girls and women don’t play games, in fact there are a lot of female gamers there. And there are also a lot of non-binary gamers and other members of the LGBTQ + community. But it is not easy for them to gain recognition or space in the scene.
Telekom could easily have set up another gamer event that mostly male players would attend. But there are already plenty. Antje Hundhausen, the initiator of the festival, therefore decided to take a different approach. With many partners, she founded the Equal eSports initiative and created a festival that integrates non-binary players and focuses on the themes of equality, diversity and eSports. And the particularity: it was not a festival reserved for players. It was a festival open to everyone, but with the aim of giving everyone equal space. It goes far beyond empowering women. It is also about including those who cannot be part of this scene for other reasons, such as economic reasons or being part of marginalized groups.
A playground for gamers
What I was able to see with my own eyes at the festival, to which Deutsche Telekom invited me, was a colorful and bright playground that seemed inviting and inspiring. The fun design of the festival immediately made me want to play. And there were plenty of opportunities to do so with multiple play corners set up throughout. If you just wanted to watch, there was a large arena with live game sessions and broadcasts of the WORLD semi-finals as part of the Esports Players Foundation Viewing Party – analyzed and commented on with many large casters.
But the festival was not only about the game itself but also on the stage. In several speeches and presentations, inspiring stories were heard not only by players but also by classic competitive athletes. For a scene that is usually so tied to the online world, there are few opportunities to come together in real life. Those who want to see their idols and stars in real life have had the opportunity to do so here in Berlin. My feeling was that the festival was a welcome opportunity to meet, mingle and connect with each other. The people who came seemed really happy to have the space to do so.
Empowerment of female players
One of the most exciting parts of the festival was learning about the Female Talent Camp hosted by the Esports Player Foundation. They have recruited 30 of the most talented rising players *, 10 of whom will receive a special scholarship and training to become the next stars in the video game world. A big goal of the initiators of this program is to one day bring a player to the final of the League of Legends championship.
Another very interesting aspect of the festival was the integration of health and wellness. With a medium that has a reputation for being addicting, it is impossible to ignore that there are negative sides to the game. But the way the festival has approached these issues has lifted some of the stigma when comparing the health aspects. and well-being of the game to those of traditional sports. During workshops and lectures, coaches spoke about the importance of recovery, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet, all of which are important to the fitness of esports players. This is insightful and dispels the stereotypes of the game, pizza-eating nerds that some people have in their heads.
On the third day, parents and teachers also had the opportunity to participate in the workshops. In addition to educating them about health issues, topics such as “hate in the game” and career prospects for players were also on the agenda.
As the Equal Esports festival in Berlin ended after three days, Deutsche Telekom’s commitment to the Equal Esports initiative continues: more events and projects are planned to support an equal and diverse Esports and gaming scene.
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