The gaming industry is seeing a crazy surge right now.
From technology reaching new heights that make gaming a more collaborative and immersive experience to thought leaders in the field, becoming trusted voices in the community, gaming is in great hands. During Women’s History Month, CASSIUS is highlighting women in male-dominated industries who are dominating their lanes and constantly growing their following. First up is Erin Ashley Simon— a gamer and host whose unlikely path started as a top tier soccer player.
Cassius: Tell us a little about yourself and what Erin was like growing up before Cheddar. When did Erin fall in love with video games, you can include some of your favorites, etc.
Erin Ashley Simon: I’m Erin Ashley Simon, and I’m a co-host for Cheddar Esports, an Esports and gaming show on Cheddar’s network. I’m someone who has always loved playing video games, just as much as I love playing traditional sports and listening to music. And the woman I am now at 27-years-old is way beyond the woman I thought I would be when I was younger and not because I wasn’t confident as a kid but, I was so ambitious as a kid and didn’t expect the experiences I’ve had to happen. Growing up, I was a kid who loved to learn and try new things, travel, be adventurous, and wasn’t afraid to pursue my passion. Funny enough, I was quite shy, but [laughs] video games was an outlet for me to express myself. Especially growing up where I had pressures being one of the top soccer players in New Jersey and also just societal expectations during high school. The first video game I played was Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. My passion for gaming was initiated by my brother Ian Simon, who is a gamer too. We butt heads a lot growing up, but [laughs] video games were the one thing we made peace with. Some of my favorites include Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil Franchise, and more.
C: When did you realize you wanted a career revolving around the gaming industry?
EAS: Honestly, it just happened! I’ve had a career in media for over 10 years, and within the past 2-3 years, I gradually moved over into it. My friend Kyle Harvey, who at the time was the Managing Editor for The Shadow League, encouraged me to start covering Esports and video games from a media perspective. Especially since we’re used to always having conversations around it with a cultured tone to it in the office. And once I did that, I made the move! But, it wasn’t until I did a Twitch show for the NBA 2K League that I realized I can do the broadcast/hosting side of it. Eventually, I made my way over to Cheddar Esports, but this was never something I grew up saying, “I want to work in the gaming industry!” Remember, a lot of these platforms and opportunities weren’t around because people didn’t take the industry seriously…well, at least people from mainstream platforms. But, I saw an opportunity and lane that I’m passionate about and decided to jump right in!
Even though my career path took longer, it’s been more fulfilling because I stayed true to who I am and didn’t let others sway me.
C: What is something you would like to see more of in the gaming industry? Anything you want to see change? Do you feel women are represented enough?
EAS: There are various women in the gaming industry who are doing amazing things! So, the diversity perspective has gotten better, but inclusion and visibility are the keys that are missing. How can people know, for example, that the Chief Diversity Officer over at Riot Games is a Black woman? This needs to happen — more of these stories shown and told and include women and people of color at the table for decision-making opportunities and more. That’s the only way the industry will truly grow, even more, is when we have diverse voices and perspectives. Also, I would like to see more talented people of color on esports broadcasts and media. That’s something that I can see improving.
C: What are some of the challenges you faced trying to maneuver in the gaming industry?
EAS: Oh, man, where do I start? Well, of course, there are challenges with me being a person of color and a woman. I wouldn’t say so much on the business and media side because everyone I’ve met has been great, open, and accepting but, still, there are problems with racism and sexism online. Also, since my appearance isn’t super femme, I’ve had people state that I do not “fit the mold” for their content. Which is just their way of saying I’m not super femme and can’t “sell sex in the way they want.” And that’s fine, I get it. But, if we are going to talk about the gaming industry when it comes to these mainstream platforms, there’s not one look for women.
C: How do you overcome them? If you faced any.
EAS: I let my work speak for itself and just be myself. I mean look, some of the companies that judged my appearance are now hitting me up for potential work [laughs]. I don’t get upset or worried about who sleeps on me or ignores me when I know my work speaks for itself, and I do a great job. Plus, my supporters and people in the community have been phenomenal with uplifting me and my work. And when it comes to racism and sexism, I address it when I need to, but also, I ignore those who just want to see a rise from me. Even though my career path took longer, it’s been more fulfilling because I stayed true to who I am and didn’t let others sway me. And now, being signed to CAA, I have an amazing team behind me who help me with things like business and etc. My happiness and work ethic has carried me, and it will continue to.
C: Esports has taken off in the last few years. Do you think there is a chance that it could be as big or even more prominent than actual leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB?
EAS: I think it can definitely be prominent and big– I would say definitely bigger than NHL and MLB later on due to the fanbase and also the content distribution structure the MLB has, for example. Gaming is universal, and the younger generation loves attending events and more. Now, what’s important is that Esports needs appropriate structures to have financial stability and viewership growth. The competitive scene has been around for decades, it’s just now it is gaining the respect that the communities have earned. And I don’t see it slowing down any time soon if everything is done correctly.
C: Where does Erin see herself in five years? Do you have any goals you hope to accomplish?
EAS: Honestly, I can’t even tell you where I see myself in five years. I never expected to sign with CAA, be an AT&T Influencer or do some of the things I’ve been doing this soon. But, what I can say is in five years, I will be in a better position to help those in and out of the gaming community. And especially underserved communities. I would love to be teaching by then and grow in my career and also as a person. I have some goals in mind but don’t want to jinx myself [laughs], but at the end of the day, I would love to be considered as one of the most positively impactful people in esports and gaming.
C: Advice for young girls and boys (primarily of color) who want to work in the industry?
EAS: My advice for young girls and boys who want to work in the industry is that they should never be afraid of speaking up for what’s right. People may try to paint you as a “difficult person of color” but, there are people in the industry, just like any other industry, who will take advantage of your work ethic, your ideas, your potential. Don’t allow them to. Work hard, work smart, but also be your biggest advocate and don’t allow people to take advantage of you. And make sure you never sign contracts that you, yourself, don’t understand. If you have to get a lawyer, get one.
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