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Man Awarded "Best Presenter" Award At Women In Games Conference (WIGJ)

Somehow, a man has been awarded the "Best Presenter" award at a conference supposedly dedicated to women in the games industry.

WIGJ is a UK-based organisation dedicated to bringing light to women in the gaming industry since they previously claimed that less than 5% of the esports workforce is female. They hold an annual conference that offers a variety of benefits for women such as workshops, talks and most importantly, a platform for women in the gaming industry.

Cordelia "Scarakye" Chui was given the Best Player award. Image courtesy of WIGJ.

At their inaugural esports awards earlier this week, they dished out a number of awards such as “Best Streamer”, “Best Team” and “Best Player”, won by Lisa Brightman (Leiseinwonderland), Riot Gaming UK, and Cordelia “Scarakye” Chui respectively. The “Best Presenter” award on the other hand went to James Banks, a “Freelance host, commentator and interviewer in CSGO, Fortnite & more,” according to his Twitter bio.

When talking to BBC’s Newsbeat, esports presenter Elle Osili-Wood who attended the event described a man winning the award as a “slap in the face”. Osili-Wood told Newsbeat that she was “only one of two female presenters invited to speak” and that she could “think of so many other women that should have been sat beside her.”

Game designer Marie Mejerwall, another attendee at the awards conference, explained in a tweet that Banks was given the award thanks to his “advocacy for female esports”. If that is the case, it raises the question of why he was given the “Best Presenter” award which should surely be reserved for a female presenter? There’s plenty to choose from: Frankie Ward, Elle Osili-Wood, Arielle Free… even Lottie Van-Praag, known for her work with Gfinity and the host of this actual event, apparently wasn’t even considered for the award according to one female WIGJ participant who requested to remain anonymous.

David Smith, founder of WIGJ came under some flak too, with the anonymous participant claiming the “plan was always just to give it to James.” She went on to say that “David just announced his decisions to the board,” implying that he didn’t confer or discuss the nominees with anyone. Apparently, a number of members on the board were upset about the decision to award it to a male presenter and are keen on rescinding the award. No action has been taken so far however.

One tweet from James Banks that has now been deleted.

Banks’ Twitter doesn’t shine him in a particularly positive light either, with a (now deleted) tweet from just last month complaining about how “feminists went mental” when Ninja announced his decision to not stream with women. In an also deleted tweet from 2012, he mentioned the “quality of women” decreasing by “100% now we are back in the UK.” They’re not tweets that showcase Banks’ support or advocacy for women, which puts the nomination even further into doubt.

After the issue was raised and Banks was questioned, he explained via Twitter that he would award it to Frankie Ward if he had to pick a female. He explained it’s because she’s “exploded onto the scene with full force” and he’s never seen any presenter “make the waves she has” before. There’s been no sign of him handing the award to her in place of him though.

BBC Newsbeat did contact Banks who admitted that he “can do better.” He went on to say that "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 offense 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."

It’s important to remember that even though Banks’ prior tweets may not indicate that he warrants such an award, the larger issue at hand isn’t to do with him. WIGJ need to be more transparent with the delegation of their awards and the unrest it’s reportedly caused amidst members of the board doesn’t paint the organisation in a positive light.

Lauren “Pansy” Scott, commentator and host at ESL for games like CSGO and PUBG spoke out in defence of Banks today via Twitter. “Banks has been a great addition to all the female esports events & has helped shape it,” she stated. “I can tell you hands down he has done more work than all the people pointing fingers.”

WIGJ told BBC Newsbeat that they’ll be putting out an official statement regarding the award but at the time of writing, it hasn’t been made yet. You can find the full BBC article including some other quotes we haven’t used here.

(Header image courtesy of Marie Mejerwall on Twitter.)

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