In the wake of ongoing injustices across the country, punctuated by last summer’s BLM protests, industry-leading companies are embarking on new initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion in the marketplace. While some industries are making great strides in this endeavour, there are some industries that still have a ways to go. The esports industry falls into the latter category, fraught with harassment and bullying scandals like “GamerGate,” where high-profile female gamers and public figures were systematically harassed.
Like Twitter, Youtube, and all other digital platforms that rely on social activity, the olde-school online gaming community is notorious for toxic behavior like trolling, cyberbullying, and even threats to safety. But, like those same social platforms, esports has the potential to be a powerful force for change on the DEI front, breaking down barriers through common interests and providing members from marginalized communities with an elevated platform.
Public conversation surrounding things like race and gender diversity in esports are a great start, and get lots of attention. But there’s so much more that the gaming industry is offering the broader community. From improving accessibility to individuals who are differently-abled to removing homophobic language to creating safe, inclusive esports environments for children, here’s how the esports industry is taking action to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Making Esports Leagues more Inclusive
Given how popular and interconnected video games are on a global level, it’s sometimes surprising to think about the insular nature of some segments within the community. While overt instances of discrimination and prejudice in public seem to be slowly trending downwards, environments that afford more anonymity can seem to be following an opposing trend. That’s why large corporations, esports companies, researchers, and participants across esports leagues are all pitching in to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Improving Racial Diversity
Across popular gaming communities like League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers, and Rocket League leagues, players from diverse backgrounds will be found at the top of the leaderboard. Highlighting this fact helps change some of the misconceptions of esports leagues being an extension of the “old boys club.” However, these trailblazers often have to overcome the socio-economic barriers that members of the African American, Latin, American, and other racialized communities experience when it comes to accessing tech services.
In an effort to address the lack of resources marginalized communities experience, many schools and community organizations are investing in equipment to create inclusive youth and children’s esports leagues. Coupling this with increasing donations and collaborations between gaming companies and large corporations, it appears that some of the barriers between racial communities and esports participation are slowly coming down.
Extended Accessibility and Inclusion
One of the groups most criminally underserved and overlooked regarding accessibility and inclusion across all industries is that of individuals who are differently-abled. Whether suffering from cognitive or developmental delay, impairment from an accident, or muscular dystrophy, these people are often an afterthought on the DEI front. Sports, education, and forms of recreation look very different within this community, with some activities not being a possibility at all. Until recently, this included esports as well.
The last few years have brought attention to the difficulty this cohort has accessing online gaming and potential solutions. Just a few weeks ago, the Special Olympics and Microsoft announced their “Gaming For Inclusion” featuring Paralympians and famous athletes playing one another in a Rocket League tournament. Esports giant Electronic Arts recently made several of their key patents available, so other companies can help improve access to gaming leagues for those with disabilities and medical issues.
With innovation and partnerships between nonprofits, gaming companies, and esports leagues, the industry continues to extend access and inclusion to those who have long been overlooked.
Removing Toxic Masculinity
As mentioned earlier, problems with toxic masculine behavior are some of the most high-profile, recurring incidents with the esports community. Unwanted advances and predatory behavior are a common experience for females of all ages within the space, as is cyberbullying against the LGBTQ+. High-profile esports leagues, gaming companies, and professional esports players are all working to remove this toxic behavior from the industry to encourage a more diverse gamer base.
For example, Riot Games announced early this year that they would hold Valorant events specifically targeted towards improving female representation at the highest level. The Game Changers initiative pledges to provide a safe space for talented young women to sharpen their skills in the esports space.
How Children’s Esports Leagues Improve DEI in the Community
Another way that the gaming industry fosters a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community is through the development of children’s esports leagues. However, they are few and far between at the moment.
These structured, supervised gaming leagues allow children of all ethnicities, genders, and abilities to learn the ins and outs of esports at a young age. By targeting a specific age range of children, these programs ensure that all play is productive, so youth can build essential skills. Esports coaching also ensures that gamesmanship, fair play, and collaboration are central to the experience, helping to foster a new generation of gamers that strive for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive esports space.
As one of the few companies that exclusively focuses on children’s esports leagues, Vanta Leagues is the ideal option for parents, teachers, and community stakeholders looking to develop youth into a generation of accepting and inclusive citizens. Our various esports programs provide the safe atmosphere and guidance necessary to rid gaming leagues of bias, bullying, and toxic behavior.
To learn more about what Vanta Leagues has to offer for the youth in your life, including Rocket League, Valorant, and League of Legends programs, reach out to us today!