October brings us Black History Month, where people from across the globe celebrate and learn about the various steps ethnic minorities have taken over the years for equality.
Even though esports is already known to be inclusive, it is important to celebrate Black History Month in the industry – making sure that people of various backgrounds can share their experiences.
Although the month normally looks into very established timelines of events that have already happened, there isn’t really a set list within the esports scene. We want to change that – collating moments and individuals to showcase their achievements allows for this list to begin development.
Erin Ashley Simon (Broadcaster and Producer), Malik Forte (Social Media Producer), SonicFox (Player and Streamer), and Freeman Williams (Fortnite Manager at Excel Esports, and Game Advisor for British Esports) are just some of the amazing people within the esports industry who work to promote diversity.
We spoke to Freeman, and discussed the importance of Black History Month within the esports industry.
Q: Why do you believe it is important for everyone to celebrate Black History Month, especially in esports?
“Black History Month is always important to remember. We need to know what things were like not so long ago! 200 years ago, it was legal to own a slave. It sounds insane to even say, but that was the reality.
So yes, It’s important to be aware of how things were, and why that cannot be repeated ever again. Esports, alongside every other industry in the world, should make time to be made aware of Black History Month. Celebrate the good and understand the bad.”
Q: Within the esports industry, do you feel that POC are represented well?
“I’m not sure what “well” looks like. Perhaps there are less POC competing/creating content, but that can be for several reasons. From my experience, the esports industry is welcoming and open which is always nice to see.”
Q: What changes would you like to see in esports to make it more diverse?
“The changes to make esports more diverse stems from deeper issues. I would need stats to properly judge. From a professional player/content creator POV; Can their family afford a good PC? Do they have the means to travel to events/competitions? Certain areas/demographics of London, for example, would struggle with this.
I don’t feel, as a Black Man with my upbringing in Portsmouth, discriminated against when it comes to opportunities in esports. But, that answer could be different from someone less fortunate than myself.”
Q: When you were getting into esports, did you see many POC being promoted within the industry?
“My esports journey started around Call of Duty and Fortnite. There were POC in Call of Duty, and some big ones in Fortnite. Some of the biggest faces in Fortnite were Hamlinz and Daequan! They were, and still are, adored by the community. And to answer if they were being promoted; yes, and heavily – it was nice to see.”
Q: Obviously toxicity is prevalent in the industry, and POC have had a lot of racist remarks over the years. What instances of toxicity have you faced in your esports career?
“Most of my toxic experiences were not actually racist, but came from call of duty lobbies and discord DM’s. Call of duty lobbies were a bunch of teenagers hurling insults at each other, which is sad, but i’m not surprised about.
Discord DM abuse would be after a 1v1 (if you won) and then giving you stick for it. I always replied with a “good match” or something positive along those lines. Then they would always refrain and say sorry.”
Q: Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into esports, but feels restricted due to their ethnicity?
“I would like them to stop thinking like that! To a certain extent… The world is mostly very welcoming.
Many POC have broken into the esports scene without resistance. Of course, certain areas of the world make things much more difficult which is sad. But if you live in a developed area, the world is your oyster with a bit of hard work. Create connections, learn everything you need online, and work harder than your peers.”
Whilst diversity in esports is still being developed, Freeman is a great example that you can be successful in esports regardless of your ethnicity or background.
Creating a safe and diverse environment in the industry is incredibly important, so even though Black History Month may be coming to a close, several communities and organisations continue to celebrate diversity all-year round. Groups like Black Girl Gamers, POC in Play, and Raise the Game are just a few in the industry to promote ethnic minorities – with more organisations gradually joining in.