As you may know, South Korea takes their competitive Starcraft very, very seriously. And when Kim Shee-Yoon (above), also known as “Eve” was put on a high-ranking Starcraft 2 team, making her the first professional SC2 player with an innie instead of an outie, it’s nearly become a national scandal.
And it’s not just because she’s a she. Well it is, but it isn’t. There are female professional gamers in South Korea, but not yet a female professional Starcraft 2 player. And so the controversy is that Kim was picked to be on a highly ranked professional team because she is a female over her actual skill level.
You see, after the announcement, some fans strongly objected to the fact that Eve isn’t as highly ranked as the rest of her team, nor is she as highly ranked as some other players who haven’t been chosen for teams. There are conflicting reports about her ranking. She seems to be Diamond, though an awful lot of folks claim that she’s Gold. What is for certain is that Eve’s only big win at this point is first place in an amateur competition. In short, she’s good, but she’s not the best.
SlayerS made no apologies for Eve’s ranking. In fact, her amateur status was entirely the point. Getting signed to a pro StarCraft team isn’t some sort of gladiatorial deathmatch in which only the surviving player gets rewarded. Teams choose players that they think will benefit them, and sometimes those benefits aren’t directly related to winning matches. Eve wasn’t chosen because she was the best, she was chosen to be a padawan. Eve is a project, taken in to be trained on the top level. She was selected, to quote Jessica, “for her skills and looks.”
Which, of course, set off a whole ‘nother train wreck.
Now, my knee jerked as well when I read that, but let’s put this in perspective. In Korea, pro gamers fall somewhere in between athlete and rock star. They have to be good at their game, but it doesn’t hurt if they look good. This isn’t some kind of gaming Olympics we’re talking about, based purely on ability. It’s a spectator sport, yes, but it’s also a huge business. There isn’t a team out there who doesn’t put some effort into making sure they’ve got players who are easy on the eyes. Do an image search for “progamer Korea” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the beast, and in this case, it has nothing do to with gender.
The need to find marketable players ties right back into Eve’s lower ranking. SlayerS wasn’t actively recruiting when they picked up Eve. She didn’t knock a better-ranked player out of a spot on the team. Jessica publicly stated that part of the goal in taking in Eve was to get more women interested in the game. If you’ve ever watched a pro StarCraft match, it is very obvious who the target audience is. Cutesy girl-bands typically open the show. The on-stage announcers tend to be women looking like they’re off to a cocktail party. Finding boys with pretty faces is fine, but it’s not enough to get women actually interested in, y’know, the game. The thinking was that seeing a woman in SlayerS colors, sitting on their bench, competing on their level, would inspire other women to throw on a headset and start learning the finer points of a Zerg rush.
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