Aisha Tyler still has to convince people she’s a gamer. Despite having played video games since she was a child, as well as voicing characters for some of gaming’s biggest franchises such as Gears of War, Halo, and Watch Dogs, the actress and comedian says there are still certain stereotypes of who a gamer can be.
“I’ve played video games all my life,” Tyler said. “I still have to keep explaining to people that I’m not a tourist. I love gaming, you love gaming — that is what makes us a community, and that in and of itself should be credential enough.”
Tyler has fond memories of the games she would play as a kid. “The first console game I played was actually Pong at a friend’s house,” she said. “Classic arcade games like Defender and Tempest, and then the LCD handheld Donkey Kong game that I begged my dad to buy me for Christmas in the third grade.”
Along with providing voices from some of gaming’s biggest titles, in early 2020 Tyler launched ready-to-drink cocktails with her new brand Courage+Stone, (Offering a premium ready-to-drink Classic Old Fashioned and Classic Manhattan, the company grew over 600% in its first year). She also voices Lana Kane on “Archer,” currently preparing to air its 12th season. She continues to host the improvised comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and directs for TV and film, including an episode of “The Walking Dead’s” most recent season and the feature-length thriller “Silent John,” which will shoot in Galway, Ireland this summer.
Even with all her responsibilities, she still finds time for gaming, which she says is a great way to unwind. “Gaming is a great way to relax, to use different parts of your brain, to problem solve, to blow off steam,” she said.
As games have become more sophisticated and the population of gamers has diversified, the industry has needed to change, to expand its scope and tell diverse stories, and to create more inclusive workspaces for game development teams. “All industries are slow to change,” Tyler said. “The gaming industry is no different. Things have been done a certain way for a long time and it’s been lucrative, so companies keep repeating old patterns.”
Tyler said that creating a more inclusive industry makes for a better business model. “The truth is that inclusivity isn’t just about fairness, it’s good business,” she said. “When you cut an entire audience out of your strategy, you are leaving money and growth on the table. Hopefully as more women move into game development and gaming company c-suites, and female gamers continue to speak out as well as vote with their money, that will change.”