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Gaming in America

How Mari Takahashi Paved the Way for Inclusive Gaming

Photo: Courtesy of Peter Kitch

Mari Takehashi is an award-winning TV and digital gamer, host, and actor, who is most famous for her work on the widely popular sketch comedy channel Smosh, and for co-founding its video game-centric sister channel Smosh Games. We talked to Takehashi about what got her into gaming and what she’d like to see changed in the industry.

What sparked your interest in gaming and how has that interest grown?

I’m a typical 90’s kid, so video games were introduced early into my life, a SEGA Genesis was the coolest thing ever, and games were nothing more than a pastime — one that was awarded when you were finished with homework, chores, extracurricular activities, and family time. Games have been a passion my whole life, but I never fathomed diving headfirst into the industry, let alone building a career that’s spanned a decade now. 

How would you describe the current state of diversity in video games and the gaming industry?

Like a lot of industries, things are changing, and it’s important to highlight the positives, but there is still a lot — a lot — of work that needs to be done in terms of diversity, representation, equality, and addressing sexism, racism, ableism, and homophobia in the gaming space. Important conversations are happening every day with communities small and large. 

It takes courage to shake up the status quo, to poke holes at ideas and institutions that have been the same for decades, to question, and to dispute — but I like to think that, more and more, we’re societally getting to a place where we’re all willing to listen, empathize, and call ourselves out on our own BS in order to change and evolve for the better.

What are some changes you would like to see the gaming industry implement in order to become more inclusive and diverse?

I’d like to see the gaming industry uplift smaller niche creators who work hard using their voices to implement change. In a social media-run world, it’s easy to default to “follower numbers” as a barometer of who to highlight. However, it’s oftentimes the lesser-known creators who build passionate, informed, and curated audiences that are zealously focused on supporting and advocating specific causes. 

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female gamers and creators to ensure their voices are heard in the industry?

Despite the headlines that might put fear into your mind or make you doubt that you have a place in a male-dominated industry, I would remind up-and-coming female gamers and creators that the positives unreservedly outweigh the negatives. Women and men who uplift, support, and nurture careers absolutely exist, and so do safe, positive communities. It’s a world with trolls in it, but they don’t run it. 

We’re out here contributing to and benefiting from a multi-billion dollar industry, bringing together amazing communities, and paving a road that has been, in the past, way less traveled — so if you’d like to be a part of it, set aside your fears, pick up a pickaxe, and get paving.

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