Counter-Strike pros write open letter to Valve asking for default female skins, histrionic reaction shows why that’s probably a good idea

The Astralis Counter-Strike womens’ team has released an open letter to developer Valve, asking for the game to include female skins as a default option in future. The letter was posted by team rifler Josefine Jensen, signed and shared by the other members of the roster (Aurora Lyngdal, Marie Toft, Anja Soelberg and Isabella Ferslev), and reads in part:

“We share the passion for Counter-Strike with millions of gamers world-wide and we love being a part of a truly global community. Unfortunately, we currently feel we are only guests at the party.

“Using a female agent skin costs extra, while default skins are all male. We don’t know why it is so, but we know that it strikes us as being both unfair and a bit unwelcoming. It certainly feels that way and in some way it supports the sexism that we unfortunately still encounter.”

As the letter mentions CS2 does include female agent skins, but they’re all part of previous CS:GO operations and had to be either earned in-game at the time or bought. Female agents available in the game include Lieutenant Farlow, Getaway Sally, Cmdr. Mae Jamison, Special Agent Ava, Chef d’Escadron Rouchard, and Vypa, with some of those having additional variant skins.

However: as is the nature of the CS:GO / CS2 economy, these agents now change hands for money. A quick glance at the community market shows the cheapest female agent would be Mae Jamison (around £7.50/$9) while the undeniably cool Getaway Sally would set you back (£40 / $51). “I do think they are pretty cool,” says Jensen. “but if there were to be added default women agents I would like them to be more casual, like the default male agents.”

So the argument being made by the Astralis players here seems fairly straightforward: the game already has women in it, they’re just all paywalled, and it seems unfair there’s no default female agent players can choose to use. The letter says “we don’t know why it is so” but the reason is surely just an historical hangover: Counter-Strike’s core mode had five male CTs fighting five male Ts when the game first arrived, and hasn’t changed much since.

The Astralis players’ letter mentions sexism still being a part of the CS2 scene. Unfortunately, despite the letter being widely reposted and attracting some considerable support, many of the replies are Counter-Strike players seemingly determined to prove the point. Whether it’s the casual sexism of insisting Valve has bigger priorities with the game or the basement-dwellers personally insulting Jensen and her fellow players’ skills, the reaction to this reasonable request proves one of the letter’s key points: this should not be a big deal.

Valve is first of all Valve, one of the world’s great development studios, and it has plenty of experience designing great female characters, quite apart from the fact it has already designed female agent skins for CS:GO and CS2. It is abundantly capable of implementing this idea, and has already dealt with potential problems like different hitboxes. And more than anything else, looking at some of the community reaction to this letter makes a very good argument that it should. Plenty of reply guys scoff at Jensen’s belief this would attract more women to the game, but in light of that reaction it’s hard to argue with her next point that “at least those of us playing now would feel more welcome.”

The open letter mentions some previous correspondence with Valve in January. I asked Jensen whether the developer had replied: “Unfortunately we have not yet received a reply from Valve,” says Jensen. “So we are still waiting for that.”

As regards the negative comments, “we have received many positive as well,” says Jensen. “So my main focus has been on the positive comments and messages I have received. It’s been a mixed experience, but I’m happy that we took the initiative.”

Default female agent skins in arguably the world’s biggest and best competitive FPS does not seem like a huge ask. The more I think about it, the more it seems like something that should’ve happened a long time ago.

“There should be no difference between agents,” writes Jensen. “There should be as many free female agents as free male agents.”

I’ve asked Valve for comment, and will update with any response.

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