TL Taylor: Hi. My name is TL Taylor. I’m a pro­fes­sor here in com­par­a­tive media stud­ies and I’m codi­rec­tor of an orga­ni­za­tion called AnyKey which I’ll tell you a lit­tle bit about today. We launched 2016 with the help of Intel and ESL. We’re an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to fair­ness, equi­ty, and inclu­siv­i­ty in gam­ing and in par­tic­u­lar esports. If that’s unfa­mil­iar to any of you, hope­ful­ly some of the lit­tle slides I will show will give you some con­text for that. 

I codi­rect AnyKey with Morgan Romine. I’m the Director of Research, she han­dles our ini­tia­tives. We’re very inter­est­ed in link­ing these two, mak­ing sure we’re spin­ning up things that are based on research work. Morgan is a PhD in anthro­pol­o­gy from UC Irvine. So, I encour­age you to vis­it our web­site. There’s lots of info there, and I’ll just high­light a few things today. 

So, I want to start with a lit­tle bit of his­to­ry. Maybe some of you are famil­iar with this sto­ry; it’s a fan­tas­tic sto­ry of Katherine Switzer attempt­ing to run in the 1967 Boston Marathon. The man pulling her out is Jock, one of the refs who was basi­cal­ly… You know, women were not allowed to run at that time so he was pulling her out. We could cer­tain­ly think of this as an inter­est­ing moment of harass­ment, but how might we think about par­tic­i­pa­tion in gen­er­al? And one of the things that we’re doing in AnyKey is real­ly try­ing to tack­le esports…what it looks like back in this peri­od pre Title IX, when women were harassed, pro­hib­it­ed, weren’t able to ful­ly par­tic­i­pate in com­pet­i­tive sports. 

So the Katherine Switzer sto­ry is an inter­est­ing one because of course in the space of forty-plus years we now have some­body like Mo’ne Davis, who’s an amaz­ing Little League pitch­er. So what’s changed, and how can we take some of those lessons from tra­di­tion­al sports and pull them over into gam­ing and esports? 

So, one of the things that we do at AnyKey is we try to think very soci­o­log­i­cal­ly about this. We tack­le issues of par­tic­i­pa­tion and inclu­siv­i­ty in gam­ing through a vari­ety of struc­tures and I’m gonna high­light a few of those projects for you. 

Probably one of the most impor­tant things we have to do at the out­set is explain to peo­ple that women are inter­est­ed in com­pet­i­tive gam­ing. Again, a lit­tle bit like if you think way back in the day, there was a whole kind of cul­tur­al shift that had to occur to allow women to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in ath­let­ics. Women have a long his­to­ry in esports, have been want­i­ng to par­tic­i­pate, do participate. 

And so one of the things that we do a lot of is try to give vis­i­bil­i­ty to all the women who are work­ing in this space, active there. One of the ear­ly work­shops we did, a lot of the women that were already suc­ceed­ing in esports said that hav­ing role mod­els or even just see­ing a woman at a con­ven­tion do what they want­ed to do was powerful. 

So we took that lit­tle tid­bit from our research. We have a video series that kind of high­lights peo­ple. We do pro­files. We try to sort of pro­mote this vis­i­bil­i­ty angle. 

But the oth­er thing that I think is impor­tant when you start to think about myths is one of the things we encounter very often in esports and gam­ing is the idea that it’ll just get bet­ter bet­ter with time. And we keep want­i­ng to say no, it actu­al­ly takes hard work. It takes allies, and it takes work across a range of levels. 

So I think one of the best exam­ples of this of course in ath­let­ics is Title IX. Probably most of us in this room ben­e­fit­ed from Title IX in 1972, a piece of leg­is­la­tion that basi­cal­ly said you had equi­table access. So one of the things that we’re often look­ing at in AnyKey are what are the—we can’t quite do legal, but what are the pol­i­cy things that we can do to facil­i­tate women and girls’ participation. 

So we do things in the orga­ni­za­tion like we help oth­er orgs for­mu­late codes of con­duct and set up kind of fair rules for tour­na­ments. We just pro­duced a whitepa­per on best prac­tices around gen­der in esports tour­na­ments. So what does for exam­ple hav­ing a trans-inclusive pol­i­cy look like if you’re run­ning a wom­en’s tour­na­ment? So again, it’s not quite law, but think­ing about what are the struc­tures of gov­er­nance that orga­ni­za­tions can take up.

The oth­er thing we do is we try to sup­port a lot of oth­er orga­ni­za­tions that are out there. Again, if you think of kind of kin­dred orga­ni­za­tions that are doing impor­tant work to facil­i­tate change. This is one of my favorite ones. It’s a project called Smash Sisters.

Women’s ath­let­ics, one of the most impor­tant things that hap­pened ear­ly on was some­thing called play days, where women and girls were just allowed to come in and try dif­fer­ent sports to see if they’d like them. Smash Sisters is a real­ly inter­est­ing project because it not only gives women an oppor­tu­ni­ty to play at the com­pet­i­tive lev­el, but at con­ven­tions they can come and just hang out and try out games on their own. 

So we sup­port things like Smash Sisters. We run our own tour­na­ments for com­pet­i­tive pro­fes­sion­al play at the high end. We sup­port a lot of affil­i­ate orga­ni­za­tions and maybe you rec­og­nize some of those that are doing good work. We try to get this con­ver­sa­tion out in pub­lic venues. So, not just hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about harass­ment or inclu­sion or par­tic­i­pa­tion in aca­d­e­m­ic spaces but we go to places like PAX and have a con­ver­sa­tion at a pub­lic event. 

The oth­er myth I want to men­tion, I’ll just run through quick­ly, is of course prob­a­bly most of us are famil­iar with the idea that just…you know, don’t read the com­ments, close the chat… We’re very com­mit­ted, very com­mit­ted to see­ing chat in these online con­ver­sa­tion spaces be changed and be fan­tas­tic and more productive. 

So we do whitepa­pers. We’ve worked with a lot of dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers who are inno­vat­ing in that space. We have a grad stu­dent in the audi­ence Claudia Lo, who’s doing fan­tas­tic research on game mod­er­a­tors in these spaces and how they’re han­dling it. 

The project we launched recently—we were blown away by this. We did a pledge that we rolled out online. We had a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple sign it, which was fan­tas­tic, pledg­ing that they want­ed to have good game spaces. They got a lit­tle icon in Twitch when they signed it. And I just pulled some of the quotes from Twitter where peo­ple were just thrilled to be going in to Twitch cha­t­rooms and sud­den­ly see­ing oth­er peo­ple with this icon which sig­naled some­thing about the cul­ture of the space. 

Finally of course, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber it can get bet­ter, it does get bet­ter. I love this pic­ture of Switzer and Jock just a hand­ful of years lat­er. Actually Jock learned. He came around. He actu­al­ly was edu­cat­ed and things got bet­ter. And we think it can be that way in gam­ing and esports, too. So fol­low us, feel free to hit me up if you want to hear more about what we’re doing. We have a lot of info at our web site. Thanks.