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Inclusivity in esports with Sylvia Gathoni

Sylvia Gathoni shares her perspective as a female professional gamer in Kenya and how the industry is becoming more inclusive of different populations
<v ->Hello, and welcome to our teach out on esports.</v> I’m James Alexander. And today we are joined by Sylvia Gathony, a professional gamer, who was the first Kenyan to be signed to a major esports company. Let’s get into it. Sylvia, can you tell me about your personal experience as a female professional gamer from Kenya? So my personal experience as a female professional gamer from Kenya is I’ve had a supportive community. I haven’t experienced too much of a problem for me with addition for me, as in games.
But you know, as to be expected, there’s always going to be those few clowns who want to put you down, saying that if, whatever you achieve, it’s because of your gender, not because of your hard work and skill. But I’m been grateful, because for the most part, I’ve had love and support from people who are happy for what I’m doing. <v ->That’s awesome and really good to hear,</v> cause we hear all kinds of stories all the time.
I want to know a little bit more about how esports compares to other sports. Can you tell me how accessible esports are to new players? <v ->Esports, as of now, it seems to be a preserve</v> of the wealthy due to the high cost of entering into esports, because of the high cost of consoles, and other peripherals necessary. But luckily enough, I’d see there’s been, I see a demand for gaming cafes, where it’s, it’s like the entry cost, and make these peripherals more accessible to the general public and those who can afford it. <v ->So would you say it’s,</v> it’s not as accessible as, like more traditional sports because of those issues you’ve outlined. <v ->Yeah.
You know, compared to traditional sports,</v> I’d say like, you know, with football, it’s actually, it can actually make it one football from, you know, maybe plastic bags, and, you know, just throw. And that doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, as compared to me having to buy, you know, a console or a PC. <v ->What about from the viewer perspective in Kenya,</v> do you think esports are particularly accessible for people to get into as a fan? <v ->Yeah.
From your perspective,</v> I’d say it’s much more easier, because we have a fast internet here in Kenya, and, you know, YouTube is a popular platform where people have been uploading the, you know, gaming videos and, you know, they get to watch live streams of people playing video games. So I’d say that from the viewer, and it’s much more accessible. The vendor’s also been, I’d say, not slow, but steady popularity for Twitch. So people also getting into Twitch, and watching the streams. <v ->What do you think</v> are some of the successes and limitations in esports around encouraging a diverse community of players?
<v ->Yeah, successes in encouraging a diverse community,</v> with the whole, I’d say Me Too, and the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been a demand to see, you know, more people of color. And I’ve actually been seeing more initiatives coming out, like the 1000 Dreams Fund the game has, which I’ve been trying to, you know, push women and non-men. And then there’s also been grassroots, I’d say organization like, with one of the communities on part from the, The Divine Muses, which has like, I’d say, recruited women all over the world too, in a stream, and just encourage each other, and be there for one another.
<v ->That’s awesome that there’s like that sense of community.</v> And that’s one of the things that we’ve been hearing, is the community is really strong in these areas.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer people who are new to the esports community? <v ->One piece of advice I’d offer to people</v> who are part of the, who want to become part of the esports community, is, you know, just be yourself. I’d also mention that, you know, try to also be as someone who uplifts others, because it’s, esports unfortunately has this toxic element where it feels a bit more individualistic, rather than, you know, if the driver of a traytruck, you know, people drink to bring up one another, don’t rather than lift each other up, and we need more people who want to see others succeed, and you know, just don’t be that toxic person. <v ->Yeah.
That’s good.</v> That’s good life advice in general.
The last question I have today is how do you see the industry changing to promote more positive experiences in esports, and limit that toxicity so that it can be more inclusive.
<v ->I’ve seen, there’s been more people</v> speaking out against this toxic behavior in as much as esports has that toxic element that I mentioned, I’ve actually been happy to see that people are saying no to this kind of behavior. And I’ve seen this, I’ve seen some willingness from the publishers and developers to try and create tools that need to get this kind of issue, which is also encouraging.
But one thing that Smith, as he said, that’s made me really happy is that people are just speaking out against this kind of behavior, and, you know, trying to do that grassroots thing by rooting out these toxic elements, banning them from events, and saying this is not the kind of thing that we condone. <v ->Thank you so much for joining us today.</v> I appreciate your candor, and sharing your experience with us. <v ->Thank you, as well,</v> for having me speak about my experiences. I really appreciate it.

In this segment, professional esports athlete Sylvia Gathoni shares her perspective as a female professional gamer in Kenya and how the industry is becoming more inclusive of different populations.

She also discusses how accessible esports are to new players and viewers as well as what more can be done to support greater diversity in competitive gaming.

Discussion: What other ways could esports organizations, and the video game industry, better support diversity, equity, and inclusion to reach broader populations? What accessibility barriers do you think have prevented diverse populations from competing in esports?

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