TECHNOLOGY

How the Black Girl Gamers community became a lifeline


Know Jay Ann Lopez She can do better. She was in college, and two of her friends were racking up views on YouTube with a gaming channel that was abusive at worst, mediocre at best. They used African American English slang for cool points, made jokes that turned femininity into a punchline, and generally came up with one cliched thing after another. Watching them gain fame was frustrating. Lopez decided it was time to start her own channel. What I created has evolved into a platform that connects black female gamers around the world.

Born and raised in London, Lopez She started playing video games when she was just 6 years old, after receiving her first console, the Nintendo, from her uncle. She was addicted, but rarely saw herself as an actress – as with films and television. “On screen, I rarely saw black characters. When I did, they were there for comedic relief. They were the macho black guy or the black woman with a behavior problem, or the rude black woman,” she recalls. ‘Growed up with an absence [Black characters] In the games that I loved, she made me feel like playing wasn’t right for me.” Lopez tried to find a place in gaming through her YouTube channel, but eventually gave up. I was upset, ostracized, and invisible – and there were plenty of gamers just like her.

In October 2015, Lopez started black girl players, a channel on Twitch that has since become a safe online space and platform to increase the visibility of black women in gaming. BGG currently has more than 7000 members in her Facebook group And about 35,000 followers on Twitch. The group runs IRL events and creates online content to support diversity in the gaming industry. What started as a small Facebook page with four community managers, has evolved into a dedicated and growing Twitch channel with 184 team members. The organization now offers events, workshops, counseling, mentorship opportunities, and a talent agency for signage representation. Recently, the group partnered with Facebook Reality Labs to provide members with a three-month mentorship program for commercial roles in augmented and virtual reality.

according to Entertainment Software Association (ESA), there are currently about 227 million gamers in the United States. The majority of these players are white (73 percent) and identify as male (55 percent). For players who are not in those groups, playing it is not easy. a Study 2020 by the Anti-Defamation League It found that 64 percent of US online multiplayer gamers between the ages of 18 and 45 have experienced some form of harassment, with the majority of such harassment related to gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. “Women and girls don’t play as much as men and boys do and not because of a lack of interest or ability,” she says Rabindra (Ruby) RattanAssociate Professor of Media and Information at Michigan State University. “Despite the stereotype that women and girls are not as good as men and boys in games, when we look at increasing skill over time, women and girls do.” Ratan Research, which focuses on Harassment in gaming culture, shows that women do not spend much time playing due to the toxicity they are exposed to on online platforms.

And it’s not just harassment. Black female players are also subject to what’s known as stereotype threat, which Rattan describes as “the idea that when you’re reminded of a stereotype that applies to your group, you are more likely to fit in with that group as long as the reminder is subtle.” It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t lead Not only does black women perform poorly in games, it can also cause many to eventually move away from technical careers or STEM fields. Black female athletes also face double discrimination of racism and misogyny, while simultaneously dealing with a backlash for trying to cure them. “When we started BGG, people were always saying, ‘Why do you need a page for black girl players? what if i did [one for] White male players? ‘ says Lopez. ‘If I had a pound every time someone said [that] I’ll be rich now.” As Black Girl Gamers grew, it became more and more clear exactly why they were so important.

When it started, BGG was among the first Twitch channels to feature a variety of streamers rather than one person being the only face, an approach that has become familiar ever since. Having multiple streaming devices allows for more collaboration, and when a particular player is offline, BGG uses it stream team, a list of personal accounts of group members which gives individuals a chance to learn more about BGG and connect with individual live broadcasters who are broadcasting live on their own channels. While Lopez is the foundation of the organization, they are not strict in how the community is run or the games that can be played. These choices are made collectively by members of the broadcast team, and this freedom of choice hardly goes unnoticed.

In 2018, in Twitchcon, a conference for Twitch Streamers, “A white woman came up to me. She told me ‘I love what you’re doing with BGG, but I noticed you like playing violent games,'” Lopez recalls. She was struggling to figure out what it was. Much like in movies and music, Lopez realizes that everyone has their own taste in video games, but assuming a link between racing and game preferences couldn’t be further from the truth. “Black women play all kinds of games,” she says.



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