PAX WEST: Uncovering Black Women’s Voices in Esports

PAX West 2020 (September 12-20th) just wrapped up its 24/7 stream of events, panels and gameplay. PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a series of gaming festivals that includes tabletop, arcade, and video games, usually held in physical locations in various U.S. cities and in Australia. PAX West was supposed to be held in Seattle, WA but as all other conventions, had to go the virtual route so the organizers gave us PAX Online! Free broadcasting on 3 streams from 3 continents, 24 hours a day over 9 days! Fans got to check out the latest in upcoming indie games, play demos, watch panels and performances, participate in Discord and Twitch streams, and even tune in to the Esports tournament!

Esports (electronic sports) is an organized form of sport competition using multiplayer video games (typically fighting games, card games, first person shooters (FPS), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS), and battle royales) between professional players (individually or as teams). Even though organized competitions have been a part of video game culture for decades, the involvement of professional gamers and spectatorship through live- streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch has surged the popularity of competitive gaming reaching millions of viewers. The now billion dollar market is such an integral part of gaming with many developers actively designing and funding tournaments and events. Despite viewership being predominantly male, there are also many skilled female gamers that play professionally.

With the rise of Esports popularity and its significance in the video game industry world-wide, there is still a serious lack of representation. The industry has shown us there is still so much racism and genderism in gaming. We also tend to see the same faces and voices represented, there are so many voices that have been marginalized, especially those of black women. There are many black women in gaming from industry executives, to owners, journalists, professional players and programmers who don’t get enough recognition.

REDinFamy [Founder/ EIC, GEEK GAME TYTE], Aziza Brown [CEO, Dynamik Focus], Junae Benne [CEO/ Reporter, The Gaming Dojo], Taniesha Jane [Founder/Commentator, Ladies Night FC]

PAX West featured a fantastic panel of black female professionals in the industry, from CEOs, pro gamers and journalists as they discussed the lack of representation and how the industry can fill that void for better inclusion. Moderated by Esports host (Redinfamy) Tamika Moultrie, you can hear from these professionals as they discuss their individual journeys, industry knowledge, building a sisterhood and how to bring about change in the live-stream Below:

The panelist discussed the lack of black female presence in gaming, the biased treatment of female gamers and ways to support each other. They talked about turning their hobby and passion into a business, and the struggles and adversities as black women in the industry. Esports journalist, Junae Benne talked about her love for sports and video games, hosting her own Madden and 2K gaming tournaments and how she transitioned into gaming journalism. Junae also has an E-book “How to become a Successful Video Game Journalist” which features over 100- pages of proven methods to help you become a published writer.

Aziza Brown, CEO and founder of the inclusive Esports team Dynamik Focus talked about her passion for gaming since childhood, NYC arcade culture and expanding into the gaming scene, attending tournaments like the fighting game-specific Evolution Championship Series (EVO) and East Coast Throwdown (ECT). Really getting into Esports, Aziza became a project manager and eventually created Dynamik Focus. She talks about building and creating an Esports team  from the ground up that creates a safe space, and her experience being a black female owner. “I won’t be visible unless I’m unique.” She also discusses how she structures her team and what she looks for in choosing team members that exemplify not only competitiveness but also focus, dedication and respect.

(Professor High Kick) Taneisha Jane is a well- renowned gamer especially in Tekken, and the founder of the fighting game group Ladies Night.  Taneisha discusses how she turned her passion into a profession, from working on a radio show to competing in online tournaments and eventually doing commentaries. She talks about her experience as a black female commentator, and how toxic the community can be especially the fighting game community which is seen as “A man’s game.” She talks about women fighting for their place in a space where they are judged solely by their gender instead of their skill, avoiding the drama, and pushing towards a better space for women empowerment. She started a gaming  community Ladies Night that focuses on building a sisterhood and uplifting one another. She initially invited ladies to join the chat that she saw on streams and in tournaments offering a safe space to empower each other, share knowledge and advice. Through Ladies Night the members boost each other in a positive way, encouraging each other to use their voices, it’s not a competition or race.

Moderator and media personality (Redinfamy) Tamika Moultrie stresses the importance of uplifting one another and mentioned Gary Vee as a great influence and perfect example of simply sharing knowledge and advice with others, he didn’t get paid. In order for more voices to be heard you have to be supportive of each other. The ladies discussed giving advice on weaknesses, “Fix Crown” don’t look at it as someone is taking your spot. The more people in the pool makes it a bigger pool, and the more opportunities are given out. Why not let more people of color and voices be heard? Don’t gate keep opportunities from people who look like you, its an international business with billions of dollars and you can’t do it alone.

They talked about the statistics of African American and black females in gaming (supposedly only 1% are black females) and how they each felt like they could easily name way more, and this shows how they don’t feel included enough. Yes, it’s definitely a fact the percentage is way smaller compared to those of white men but who are these statistics even including? Are they even counting indie games, moders, and programmers? They discussed instances where these positions and creators don’t even get acknowledged for their work or when black gaming creators and inventors were not included in the Hall of Fame. (There is currently a Call to Action to Nominate people to hall of fame).

Another very important topic the panelists discussed is the lack of protection of black women in the gaming community. There is such a disparity especially in the fighting game community. Females not only face sexism, racism, harassment and sexual assault but they aren’t being protected or accepted, and are judged based solely on looks. Black females are rarely even supported by black male counterparts and constantly face trolls. Redinfamy mentions Fight For Change, an organization pioneering Esports event leading the battle against social inequality, injustice, and racism.

BurnYourBra, the first female sponsored by a fighting game organization has shared how she was treated as a black woman that is not “seen as aesthetically pleasing to everybody.” She addressed the hate she received from the FGC with racist, sexist  and hate comments in multiple interviews. The fighting game community really needs to change, there are so many amazing black women competitors that get drowned out. The industry tends to praise and glorify Asian and white women, some of whose skills aren’t even up to par. There are many great black women in gaming and Esports who have to fight twice as hard to get recognition, even if their skills are better than their male competitors. They should be able to feel safe, confident, comfortable, and receive the same respect and guidance as male players. There are some men that do stick up and will not tolerate harassment, however more need to stand up and create a safe haven for female counterparts.

Redinfamy also mentions Chiquita Evans, the 1st black woman and only woman drafted into an NBA 2K league ! People didn’t even want to pass her the ball because she’s a woman even though she has clearly proven herself.

CALL TO ACTION

*Get voices heard! Tweet, twitch, stream YouTube Share! *
*Some women don’t even support other women, instead of competing, share experiences and tools you have learned.
*Network ! Use word of mouth! The voice is a very powerful form of advertisement! Support is not always monetary
*At conventions network and get names out, expose yourself and try different avenues.
*Acknowledge colleagues and friends, businesses look at reach and likes, need to talk about each other in a more positive light.

Watch the Full Live-Stream HERE & Make sure to check out and follow all these amazing ladies: 7:12:19 Uncovering Black Women’s Voices in Esports

This is the livestream of the PAX2 channel, aka The Unicorn Theatre.

Junae Benne (Esports Journalist) @junaebenne
Aziza Brown (CEO Dynamik Focus) https://www.dynamikfocus.com/
@dynamikfocus
Taneisha Jane
/Professor High Kick (Founder of Ladies Night) @TaneishaJane
Tamika Moultrie/ Redinfamy (eSports Media Personailty) 
@REDinFamy @geekgametyte

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