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Diversity Challenges in Esports

Ty Galiz-Rowe is the founder and editor-in-chief of Uppercut, a games & media site devoted to punching up* while focusing on highlighting marginalized voices, as well as a freelance writer.
Ty Galiz-Rowe is the founder and editor-in-chief of Uppercut, a games & media site devoted to punching up* while focusing on highlighting marginalized voices, as well as a freelance writer.

*Punching up is a term used when someone engages in a conflict with an adversary who has greater power/status then themselves. Urban Dictionary

They join us to discuss some of the diversity challenges in esports.

What are some areas of concern in terms of representation in gaming and esports?

I think my real area of concern is that people kind of seem to think that representation is the beginning and end of the conversation. It’s of course great to see more marginalised folks being depicted across games and esports, but we need to be thinking about the systemic issues keeping marginalised folks out of the rooms where those characters are being created, etc. There’s a way broader lens I think we need to apply to marginalised folks being included beyond representation.

There has been a lot of recent news coverage on sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and overall problematic workplace cultures in some leading gaming companies. What measures and practices should gaming companies adopt to create supportive environments?

I’m not a business person or DEI person, but to me the main thing seems like giving into worker demands in regards to this stuff. So, for example, the Activision Blizzard employees have asked for outside investigation and no more forced arbitration for when these things come up, and that’s certainly a start. But overall workers just need more inherent protections so management can’t just sweep bad behaviour under the rug or make it into a workplace culture.

Outside of gaming companies, where else do you see issues related to diversity within the audience? How about the relationship between players and their fans?

I mean, honestly, it’s everywhere. There are toxic streamers all over the place, abusers within the influencer, streamer, pro and journalistic space and just fans that have fully bought into GamerGate rhetoric like it’s a religion. All you have to do is look in the comments of any major site or YouTube channel. As far as the relationship with players and fans, I don’t know. I see plenty of really great communities and I see even more that are awful and the people in charge refuse to do anything.

How do you think the design of games can be changed to improve inclusion and representation?

Having marginalised people in the room but, more importantly, giving marginalised folks the money, space and support to create the work they want outside of the realm of AAA.

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