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Professional gaming was already beginning to pick up steam before the year 2020. Pandemic or no pandemic, making money through playing video games has sounded rather appealing for a while. But the stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the otherwise fringe profession of live gaming into the spotlight while people panic-searched for new streams of income during layoffs and furloughs—especially streams of income that let you work from home. And Cyber Athletiks reports that gamers can expect to make between $1,000 and $5,000 a month in some cases. But, like with many industries, that opportunity doesn’t appear to be equally available to all.
E Sports Earnings chart of the top earning esports players shows that the first woman to even appear on the list doesn’t show up until all the way down at #367, earning a mere fraction of what some of the top earning men make. So while some reports might say there are more pro female gamers, they still aren’t coming close to earning what their male counterparts are. Women and especially women of color are nearly nowhere to be found in many sectors of the gaming world, including game development. Data reported by the International Game Developers Association on CNBC shows that only 24 percent of developers are women and only two percent are Black. For Black women, gaming is not an easy world to make a name for yourself in, but some women have managed to do it. Here are five Black women you should know in gaming.
The OG: Jay-Ann Lopez
On this list you’ll find several women who are a member of a group called Black Girl Gamers. Jay-Ann Lopez is the founder of this revolutionary group. Lopez has been gaming since childhood, and was always struck by both the lack of representation she saw in the actual games she played, as well as the lack of Black female gamers – most of her gaming buddies were white males. So she created the platform Black Girl Gamers. She wanted to make it easy for Black female gamers all around the world to find, and that’s just what happened. The Facebook group now has over 7,000 members worldwide, and has a YouTube channel, Discord page and Twitch channel and partnered up with Twitch to host the first ever Black Girl Gamers Online Summit.
The Up-And-Comer: Dark Shichi
Dark Shichi describes herself as an “AfroLatinx streamer/content creator.” She is the founder of gaming network Hoodlum Nation and member of the Black Girl Gamers and Black Gamer League teams. Shichi livestreams her gaming six days a week and uses her streaming platform to raise money for various charities. Some of the charities she’s fundraised for while live gaming include Transgender Lifeline and the Transgender Law Center. Shichi was recently a grant recipient of the 2021 BroadcastHER her program, an initiative and grant program designed to support women pursuing careers in several creative spaces, including gaming.
The Business-Minded: Keisha Howard
Keisha Howard is the founder of marketing agency Sugar Games. In her bio, it’s stated that Sugar Games “Began as a women’s advocacy and networking group for consumers and professionals, but eventually blossomed into an organization that advocated for all demographics who were underserved.” And it has then gone on to become a marketing agency that boosts brands in the tech, fashion and gaming arena. Some of their projects have included Live CGI, a virtual production platform and Project Violacea, an “open source multi-media experience.” Sugar Gamers also produces regularly blogs about news and current events in the world of gaming and offers internships for those looking to learn about marketing in the game, tech and fashion space.
The Revolutionary: Tanya DePass
Tanya DePass is the founder of the non-profit I Need Diverse Games, a journalist in the gaming sphere and a gamer herself. According to I Need Diverse Game’s mission statement, the organization “Seeks to bring projects, works and research by marginalized folks to light. We also seek to discuss, analyze and critique identity and culture in video games through a multi-faceted lens rooted in intersectionality.” The organization collects donations that are directed to several efforts of supporting minority groups in the gaming and tech space, including participating in the Game Developers Conference Scholarship, which helps offset the cost of admission to this professional development conference for those who could not otherwise afford to attend. DePass’ articles on gaming, feminism and diversity have been published in several outlets.
The Rising Star: Briana Williams
Briana Williams, better known by the gaming community as Storymodebae, was still in college back in 2018 when she started her Twitch channel. She first started streaming her gaming on YouTube but eventually found her real audience was waiting for her on Twitch, where she now has a following of 33.5 thousand. She’s a Twitch ambassador, regularly asked to host Twitch shows, many of which make it to the front page of the platform. Storymodebae focuses on story based games, hence her handle. Like Dark Shichi, Williams is a member of the Black Girl Gamers team that is working to increase Black female representation in gaming.
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