In the last 4 years, NASEF’s esports initiatives have grown to become one of the most engaging hubs for aspiring esports professionals and entrepreneurs. With an active community of youth players, creators, and enthusiasts, it’s vital for the federation to build upon its mission to develop STEAM-based skills and attract a more diverse and inclusive esports community. In an effort to contribute positively to diverse representation in esports and esports organizations, the Games, Learning, and Society lab at the University of California, Irvine, identified barriers facing underrepresented communities and compiled a series of recommendations with actional next steps. Our overall goal is to support NASEF in creating an inclusive esports ecosystem welcoming all students.

Providing Pathways for Marginalized Groups

One of the critical career paths for underrepresented communities seeking opportunities in the video game workforce is through internships or apprenticeship programs. Game development and esports careers often do not have direct structures for hiring new employees or a talent pool of diverse mid-level candidates. Unlike other industries, gaming professionals do not have a clear path to success from the mailroom to the board room or from intern to CEO. Apprenticeship programs can support students on a one-year contract with partial skills, while paid internships can bridge the gap from school to employment. Students should be careful about the opportunities they pursue to ensure their work and talents are appropriately rewarded.

Provide Accessible Hardware Access to technology and hardware is more critical than ever, especially for low-income schools, community centers, and civic spaces. Technology literacy is a critical need for underrepresented youth in the esports industry and a necessary diversity and inclusion effort that stakeholders need to expand on. Creating youth computer and gaming centers creates opportunities and experiences for students to become digital creators and designers (Kafai et al., 2007). Leading esports organizations can equip and staff physical spaces with loanable gaming, podcasting, streaming, and computing devices which provide avenues to close the gap on technology literacy, skills, and training. 

Reinforce Code of Conduct

Another factor to consider includes providing a code of conduct or participation agreement to students engaging onsite. NASEF has established a code of conduct which sets the standard for behavior across the organization. Individual clubs are also encouraged to create a club charter with specific points for their participants. 

With the increased use of social media platforms, apps, and mobile technology, an agreement builds and holds good digital citizenship accountable amongst peers. This conduct can also proactively inhibit toxicity, disavows racism, and prevent aggressive behaviors typically associated with gaming (Hilvert-Bruce & Neill, 2020).

Spotlight Diverse Representation in Esports

Through a series of public-facing campaigns, NASEF can recruit diverse talent through promoting current various leaders in the esports field. When industries hire inclusive leaders, aspiring professionals can see themselves and aspire for personal success in the same environment (Bourke and Titus, 2019). 

Highlighting today’s diverse esports champions through a series of posters, literature, and recorded webinars demonstrates to underrepresented students that they too can envision a career in gaming and esports. By highlighting talented, diverse industry leaders, students can visualize their next steps and aspire to work towards similar roles. For underrepresented genders and people of color, the path to career success lacks clarity (Rashid and Sherbin, 2017). These actions also have the potential to provide students with a form of social capital that may not have been previously afforded to them. To that end, NASEF has been publishing a series of video interviews and blog posts featuring a range of professionals working in the esports world. Students can see many different types of people in a variety of roles. This collection of videos and blogs will continue to grow and illustrate opportunity and diversity. 

Expand Professional Development Opportunities

Whether students choose to attend university, master a trade, or work elsewhere, NASEF can expand its career pathways program and facilitate new professional development opportunities. NASEF’s current career pathways program has several assets, and we recommend a few expansions as well: 

  • Career pathways curriculum: Schools and OST programs can follow NASEF’s outline of Career and Technical Education pathways, approved by the state of California, to provide  students with a clear system of education and practice in order to work as strategists, organizers, content creators, and entrepreneurs. 

  • Develop application materials: Building bootcamps, workshops, and seminars can help students with creating resumes, portfolios, and technical reels so that they can seek employment and strengthen their interview skills in the esports industry. NASEF already offers basic online guides developed by reputable esports companies like eFuse and Hitmarker. A new partnership with Tallo will soon yield a platform for students to showcase their experiences and talents to recruiters.

  • Mentorship: Soliciting professionals from various esports disciplines to mentor students will increase students’ understanding of where they can improve their work, materials, or technical skills. Students can learn a lot by watching the videos  and reading the blogs mentioned above. If they enter Beyond the Game challenges, they can qualify for a mentoring session with a professional working in a field that is directly interesting to the student. Mentorship is critical, so these programs can greatly expand in order to serve even more students.

  • Group Workshops: Facilitating small-group resume and portfolio reviews assists students with accountability while gearing their efforts to a professional or academic audience.

Build Partnerships with Existing Organizations

By broadening its partnerships, NASEF can increase diverse participant participation across its programs. Such changes are well aligned with current NASEF practices and ongoing efforts to ensure that ALL students have the opportunity to build on their passions for esports in ways that pay off in their out-of-game lives. Just as it leaned on AnyKey for insight around diversity and their GLHF Pledge, NASEF should continue to cultivate relationships with established stakeholders in the video game community.

Check out these foundations, organizations, and associations working diligently in the United States and internationally to encourage, foster, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. With aligned agendas such as these, partnerships among such entities offer real promise to diversity booth esports and the STEM fields to which they connect.

Additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources

  • AIAS Foundation: Founded in 2010, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Foundation’s mission is to advance an inclusive worldwide interactive entertainment creative and business community through collaboration, education, and professional development. 
  • Code Coven: Code Coven aims to be intrepidly daring,  providing marginalized developers with the skills and confidence needed to thrive in the games industry.
  • ESA Foundation:  The ESA Foundation has supported programs that harness the power of the video games to benefit students, schools, and charities, with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of America’s youth and setting them on the path to productive and fruitful careers.
  • Latinx in Gaming: Latinx in Gaming connects Latines across the gaming industry worldwide to promote cultural appreciation and representation in games and related content, providing a platform for Latinx community members to elevate each other and themselves.
  • GameHeads: Based out of Oakland, CA, Gameheads uses video game design, development and DevOps to engage, prepare and train low-income youth and youth of color ages 15 to 24 in the Bay Area for careers in the tech and video game industries. 
  • Gay Gaming Professionals: GGP is a leading organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and NNtransgender game industry professionals and enthusiasts from around the world.
  • Global Game Jam: The Global Game Jam® (GGJ) is the world's largest game creation event taking place around the globe, typically at physical locations. A "game jam" is essentially a hackathon focused on game development. 
  • Homeboy Learning Works Charter High School: Learning Works@Homeboy serves as a re-entry site for all the youth Father Greg Boyle, Homeboy Industries founder and Executive Director, visits in the juvenile probation camps and detention centers. 
  • IGDA Foundation: The IGDA Foundation focuses on improving the lives of game developers by making game development a more diverse and inclusive community.  
  • Native Girls Code: funded by Seattle based non-profit Na’ah Illahee Fund, introduces young Indigenous women (ages 11-17) to technological skills, careers and academic fields.
  • Pixelles: Pixelles organizes free monthly workshops, a mentorship program for aspiring women-in-games, game jams, socials and more. 
  • TakeThis: The TakeThisMission is to decrease the stigma and increase the support for mental health in the game enthusiast community and inside the game industry. 
  • Varsity Esports Foundation: The Foundation brings unity to the Esports industry as the first non-profit built from necessity. The foundation works to be proactive through its initiatives and leading the next generation of gamers, Generation E.
  • Women in Games International: Women in Games International (WIGI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, California, with a mission to cultivate resources to advance economic equality and diversity in the global games industry. 

References

Bourke, J., & Titus, A. (2019, March 30). Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organizations, and How to Become One. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one. 

Hilvert-Bruce, Z., & Neill, J. T. (2020). I'm just trolling: The role of normative beliefs in aggressive behaviour in online gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 102, 303–311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.09.003 

Kafai Y.B., Peppler K.A., Chiu G.M. (2007) High Tech Programmers in Low-Income Communities: Creating a Computer Culture in a Community Technology Center. In: Steinfield C., Pentland B.T., Ackerman M., Contractor N. (eds) Communities and Technologies 2007. Springer, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84628-905-7_27

Rashid, R., & Sherbin, L. (2017, February 1). Diversity Doesn't Stick Without Inclusion. Harvard Business Publishing Education. https://hbsp.harvard.edu/product/H03FC8-PDF-ENG.