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Felicia Day Talks Making Gaming More Diverse

Photos: Courtesy of Christina Gandolfo

Day is also an influencer in the gaming world, and the creator of the web series “The Guild.” And she is living proof that change is possible. 

The 41-year-old Huntsville, Alabama native has been a gamer since she was 7 years old, back when she played text adventure games on her mother’s lap. “I was homeschooled as well, so most of my social contact in my early years happened with people on MUDS and early internet sites, discussing one video game I loved or another,” said Day, referring to multiplayer, real-time virtual worlds. “As an adult, gaming has become a big part of my career.” She added, “It’s my passion and part of my identity. I’m a gamer. And thankfully, the world now supports so many pathways to making gaming part of our lives.”

As a woman, Day is in the minority of gaming community influencers. And she argued there’s much room for improvement in her career field.

Calling for diversity in gaming 

“From the outside, gaming can appear more diverse, accepting, and inclusive than it actually is,” Day said. “Front-facing characters and stories have become much more diverse, and that’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “Streaming culture has also introduced a ton of new faces and voices.” 

However, she cautioned that this can be deceiving. “Digging deeper, you see gaming companies being upended by whistleblowers and reports of harassment and prejudice amongst their cultures. It’s endemic.”

Indeed, according to an October 2019 article in “Arts Management & Technology Laboratory,” harassment and “social toxicity” aren’t foreign within gaming. You can even see these trends in multiplayer online role-playing games, which are environments that tend to be more inclusive to women and people of color.

A “top-down” makeover may be what gaming needs for real, meaningful change, Day argued. This step could change the gaming culture for the better. “Until the corporate structures are improved and truly diversified, you’ll see this happening again and again. The push for diversity can’t just be window dressing,” Day explained.

Promoting inclusivity 

Day expressed a desire for companies to organize in a way that promotes a wider array of voices and faces in the gaming industry. Mentorship, scholarship, and real investments may aid this effort, she explained. 

“I’d love to see more responsibility amongst the social media and front-facing personnel of those companies, too, drawing the line at harassment and hate speech in very clear ways,” Day said. “A culture is created by what it allows and encourages. Take responsibility for the world you create around your virtual worlds, and it will pay off in helping diversify your fanbase.”

Aspiring female gamers aren’t powerless in the meantime, though. “I would encourage female gamers to seek out mentors. And to form groups among themselves to support each other and fact-share about finances and career advice,” Day advised. 

Making change from the inside-out

For those who are already gamers like Day, speak out and seek to inspire. In doing so, you may help pave a brighter future for others like yourself. “We don’t have enough role models in media (or in life) to show women and girls that programming and gaming culture can be fun or making games can be a career. Talk about the good and bad of your career publicly,” Day said.

Finally, she encouraged female gamers to “pay it forward” and educate others about the gaming industry — a step she considers the “key” to changing this culture.

“Mentor younger girls and cultivate the maker-spirit in them, too,” Day said, speaking to other female gamers. “The idea of ‘scarcity of success’ in male-dominated fields tends to drive women away from each other. Fighting back against that is key.”

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