Hearthstone pro Hafu speaks out about sexist trolling on Twitch


Hafu Chan is one of the best Hearthstone Arena players in the world. She's also a woman. Some of the things she has to deal with a result of those two facts are the topic of The Trials of a Female Esports Champion, a ten-minute interview/documentary that examines some of the struggles women face when they take part in a scene dominated by men.

Hafu, who also hosts a popular Twitch channel, clearly loves Hearthstone, but is just as obviously troubled when the topic of the abuse she faces as a female pro gamer comes up. She was formerly a World of Warcraft pro, but describes how she was turned off of competition by incidents like the presence of a team called “Gonna Rape Hafu At Regionals” in a WoW Tournament Realm. She now earns a living streaming Hearthstone, but has given thought to walking away from that as well.

“When you have 70,000 people watching a stream, and all you see is terrible things being said about you, it's kind of like, why am I competing?” she says. “[Viewers] know to press where it hurts, right? And when you kind of show where it hurts, people will just keep pressing.”

A number of commenters in the related Reddit thread claim that she's not being harassed because she's female, but simply because she's a streamer, and putting up with abuse is just part of the job. But the nature of the comments are telling: Trash-talking bad play is an integral part of the sports-watching experience, but hurling threats of sexual violence or abuse at a player's gender or appearance? Do the male pros get abuse related to being men? Very much not.

One bright spot, although it must be little consolation in the grand scheme of things, is that her tormentors seem reluctant to step out from behind the anonymity that protects them online. “I've never had anyone come up to me and be rude in person,” she says in the video. “Not even a passing-by comment.” The Trials of a Female Esports Champion isn't the happiest or most uplifting video you'll watch all day, but I'd encourage you to watch it anyway.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.