Astralis belatedly backs up its womens' Counter-Strike team's request for default female skins, says it can't understand the reaction to something 'that does not hurt others in any way or form'

 Counter-Strike 2 header image.
Counter-Strike 2 header image.

On 29 February the Astralis Counter-Strike womens' team released an open letter to developer Valve, asking for the game to include female skins as a default option in the game. The letter was signed by all five roster members and spearheaded by team rifler Josefine Jensen, and made the basic point that "there should be as many free female agents as free male agents." The default skins for all players in CS2 are male and, while the game does include female agents, those are all paid-for skins.

The reaction to this was "mixed" in Jensen's words "but I'm happy that we took the initiative." Last week Astralis, the esports giant they play for and winner of four Counter-Strike Majors over its history, decided it might be a good idea to get on-board too.

"Equality both off and ON the server" is the headline of a new blogpost by the organisation that begins: "Last week, the players on our women's team spoke up in an open letter to Valve… With the full support from the organization, both leading up to and after their posts, the players asked for a solution, where they too, as women, would be allowed to play as their own gender in the game they love."

Astralis says the letter has now been seen by millions and it has seen "overwhelming support" for the players "but we have also seen a lot of disrespect and even hateful messages. As an organization and as an employer, but also as human beings, we fail to understand and will never accept this kind of reaction to something that means a lot to some and that does not hurt others in any way or form."

It's come up with a bit of a scheme to promote the idea also, roping in the organisation's sponsor Netcompany which published its own letter of support and stumped up the cash to buy a load of female agent skins in CS2. People could sign up to support the demand for default female skins in Counter-Strike, and in return receive a 'free' female agent skin from Netcompany. Unfortunately Netcompany swiftly ran out of female agent skins, but the thought was there (even if I'm not sure buying loads of marketplace items is a good way to incentivise Valve to do anything).

Default female agent skins in arguably the world's biggest and best competitive FPS does not seem like a huge ask, nor something beyond Valve's enormous capabilities. I contacted Valve for comment when the first letter was published, and will circle-back and update with any response.