Black Lives Matter Discussions and Inclusion Stem From PTW20 Chat and Play

Gaming as a Social Movement

PTW20 Virtual's Gaming Day, orchestrated by Nerd Street Gamers, started a meaningful discussion while gamers battled one another digitally in Rocket League.

Usually, people play videogames to escape the world around them. 

Still, on Thursday, Baltimore reporter Donte Kirby led an informative discussion with four big players in the gaming industry:  John Fazio, founder, and CEO of Nerd Street Gamers; Gianni Lee, a Philly-based visual artist; and Will Gee, founder, and CEO of Baltimore's Balti Virtual.

Throughout the discussion, the topics ranged from race and gender to other cultural aspects of the videogame industry. Yet, they still managed to have a great time digitally competing with rocket-powered cars. 

However, it wasn't a random conversation. Instead, it was a planned event called Gaming as a Social Movement, a part of Philly Tech Week 2020 presented by Comcast's Virtual Gaming Day.

Kirby questions the tech leaders about the future of the gaming industry, especially as it pertains to inclusion and social evolution. 

Even though the group discussed some serious and sensitive issues, it was also clear that they were there to play. The entire discussion took place with roaring Rocket League battles setting the scene.

While there was plenty of fun and lighthearted banter, there was also a powerful conversation taking place. 

Gianni Lee discussed that since the pandemic isolated the world, there is a rise of around 50% in esports and gaming downloads. After all, people are trying to find a way to stave off the boredom.

Nevertheless, access to games, especially of the esports variety, continues to be a problem, and John Fazio was quick to explain.

Games & Gaming Necessesities

After all, allowing better access to games and gaming necessities is one of Nerd Street Gamers' main missions. Nerd Street Gamers are known for launching tournaments and operating esports facilities to combat the growing issue of access. Despite the number of consoles, downloads, and gamer gear sold, many do not have the money required to purchase professional-grade to compete in the professional gamer arena. 

"But yes, the pandemic has created a larger gap than what we usually see," Fazio continued, bringing up many kids who do not even have access to the internet to keep up with school work. Therefore, having it for gaming, in many households, is not even a possibility.

This conversation led to the question of whether the gaming industry plays a role in racial equity. 

Lee's answer was to point out the use of Black culture in video games as proof that race does play a role in the gaming world. 

To combat these issues, video game companies such as Ubisoft and Activision have issued "Black Lives Matter" statements. Through the conversation, they determined this action was more "performative" rather than helping to cultivate a lasting inclusive element. 

To this, Lee insisted that encouraging companies to encourage and employ black game designers to help cultivate lasting equity. 

From this, the conversation broadened to touch upon the misogyny in gaming culture. It is no secret that women are negatively portrayed and widely excluded from gaming. 

And, no, the irony that they were four men talking on this subject did not escape scrutiny by the group.

Fazio pointed out that the gaming culture has embraced anonymity, making it a lot easier to be non-inclusive. To help eradicate this issue, Fazio suggested that the industry force players to use their real names. Also, Fazio called for moderators to pay more attention to harassment.

If you want to see the whole lunchtime player panel, you can watch it on Nerd Street Gamers' Twitch