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 eports 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.


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Square Cash, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.