A man has won the Presenter Award at the Women in Games (WIGJ) Esports Awards.
One female esports presenter who attended the event described it as a “slap in the face”.
They believe the award was a missed opportunity to recognise the women who are driving the UK’s flourishing esports scene.
A recent report by WIGJ said only 5% of the esports workforce is female, which works out as 1 in 20.
WIGJ is an organisation dedicated to championing female talent in the games industry.
Their annual conference offers talks, workshops, awards ceremonies and a platform for women. Women in Games: Man wins best presenter
“That’s why this situation is so frustrating,” esports presenter Elle Osili-Wood tells Newsbeat.
“I was one of only two female presenters invited by WIGJ to speak at the esports event, and I can think of so many other women who should have been sat beside me.”
According to a tweet from game designer Marie Mejerwall, James Banks won because of the support he gives to female esports – but some have pointed out that there was already a separate Advocacy Award, yet he won best presenter.
“I actually shared a panel with James, where he gave fantastic advice,” adds Elle. “But there are so few women recognised in gaming, let alone esports, and an organisation that claims to champion women should be the first to celebrate their success.”
“Frankly, it’s a slap in the face to all the brilliant women on screen in gaming.”
Concerns were also raised by conference attendees to Newsbeat about James’ eligibility for the award after past tweets surfaced.
Now deleted, one of the tweets from 2017 called for gamers to make a popular title, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, “great again” and “stop arguing/pratting about with mix teams and acting like girls”.
Another from August this year, referring to a streamer’s decision never to broadcast with women, said: “He gave a very valid reason why he doesn’t stream with women and the feminists went mental lol.”
Elle said she found the tweets “really disappointing.”
Newsbeat contacted James, who comes from Reading, and in a statement he said: “I can do better.”
“The language I used was childish, and never intended to be anti-feminist, though I can understand the impression that they have created.
“I sincerely apologise for any offence I may have caused.
“Having worked alongside incredible women in the space, I have always been a champion of women in esports both in-game and in-business, which shall continue.
“Esports as a whole is better off being more inclusive.”
For Heather Dower, marketing and communications manager at ESL UK, the British division of the world’s largest esports organisation, the issue doesn’t lie with the winner but the judges.
“I don’t think the topic should focus on James personally,” she says.
“It’s not clear, it’s not transparent what WIGJ are trying to achieve. It feels like a mixed message.
“I don’t feel like this is the time and space for him or any gentleman to be winning an award at that conference.”
Elle believes there were plenty of women who could’ve won.
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic year for women in esports.
“In fact, it’s unusual to see an event that doesn’t have at least one woman on the broadcast team.”
Newsbeat contacted WIGJ for comment. They declined, but in a blog post said: “this presenter hosted the Intel Challenge for CS Go Katowice – 2018, this year’s womens tournament at the Copenhagen Games 2018 and the WESG Women’s’ Finals in 2017.
“James wins for his good nature, his ease at working with all talent. His own experience and knowledge is growing as is his support for Women in Games and his desire to challenge inequality in esports.”
A member of WIGJ, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted Newsbeat separately and told us: “As a board member, I didn’t approve this decision.
“As far as I know, nobody on the board was consulted about giving this person an award or whether we should give it to a man. There was no discussion.
“We were told on the day. It’s a serious misstep that undermines all the great work everyone does for WIGJ and overshadows the amazing conference we’ve just had.
“The way the organisation is run needs an overhaul and the board needs to be included in all decisions, not just some of them.”
Another source close to WIGJ, who wished to also remain anonymous, confirmed the board were not consulted about the award.
However, WIGJ denied this in their blog post saying the awards, “were selected from European Women in Games Conference speakers by our WIGJ esports leads and were approved by the WIGJ Board prior to the conference.”