Bumble was able to stand out from the crowded dating apps field by using a female-first mentality, and now it is trying to bring that same mentality to gaming. While global gaming trends have moved close to an even split between the sexes, competitive gaming—better known as esports—is still male-dominated. Yet the platform with more than 65 million members is making a statement by forming a Fortnite team, comprised of only women, in collaboration with esports organization Gen.G.
While there is clearly room to grow, especially in Fortnite, some women have reached the top esports leagues in their respective games. Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim competes for the Shanghai Dragons in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League and Chiquita “Chiquita126” Evans became the first woman to score in the NBA 2K League earlier this year for the gaming affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.
But the Fortnite World Cup just wrapped up at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York and of the 178 players who qualified for the event through open qualifiers, there wasn’t a single woman. The multitudes of reasons for the gender discrepancy in competitive gaming reach into gender norms, added online harassment for women and lack of representation. Those issues are what Bumble’s new team hopes to address.
The team began when Gen.G signed Tina “Tinaraes” Parez and Madison “maddiesuun” Mann back in 2018. Tinaraes was a hot commodity at the time as she had recently placed fourth in a Fall Skirmish Fortnite event, one of the first major Fortnite esports events ever held.
Around that same time, they named popular gaming streamer Kristen “KittyPlays” Valnicek as the team’s head of new gaming initiatives. Since then they have added two new players to fill out a full roster of some of the most successful women in the Fortnite competitive scene.
“I’m honored to partner with Bumble and make a lasting impact in gaming,” said Valnicek. “Bumble is a visionary company in technology, media, women’s empowerment and facilitating human connection, which perfectly aligns with my own vision of inspiring positivity and empowering my audience. Bumble is in the unique position of providing value to an entire generation of gamers, encouraging them to strive for their goals and facilitating ways to connect them [in real life]. The future is bright, and I can’t wait to see the impact we make together!”
While Bumble began as a dating app that had women make the first move, thus putting the power in their hands, it has expanded to be a place to make many different connections. Bumble BFF is a platform where people can simply make platonic friendships, and that includes gamers trying to turn their Fortnite arena duo into a trio.
The app added a “gaming” badge that marks a user’s profile with a quick way to show an interest in gaming. Then, if people connect, they might have found another player to navigate the often-toxic environment of ranked esports with. Other than societal gender norms, harassment in online environments are often the most identified reason for why more women aren’t breaking through to the top level of esports.
To be great at an esport, one plays through the game’s ranked ladder. In team games, this usually comes with a voice chat function, ostensibly so players who aren’t in the same room can communicate strategies and opponent placements. And that’s often its purpose.
The main exception being when a woman’s voice is heard on voice chat; suddenly, some anonymous loudmouth won’t shut up, and the lobby devolves into pure toxicity. That’s the online ranked experience for many female players when they queue up for random teammates, so having a network of players to play with is crucial for competitive success.
As esports hits the mainstream and a generation of women can grow up and watch female players like Gen.G compete on the biggest stages, that gender gap will slowly close. Maybe the next maddiesuun/Tinaraes Fortnite duo will meet on Bumble BFF.