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AnyKey: ESL, Intel Announce Esports Diversity Initiative

Esports R&D

Esports company ESL [official site] have partnered with Intel to found the AnyKey organisation. The group's aim is "supporting diversity in and around the competitive gaming industry."

ESL goes on to add:

"The organisation’s core goal is to create more opportunities and inclusive spaces, whilst advocating for the underrepresented members of competitive communities, such as women, LGBTQ participants, and people of colour."

I've been perusing the information in my inbox and on the AnyKey website and the biggest thing for me is the emphasis being placed on research and then converting that research into strategies or solutions. So... a kind of esports diversity R&D lab?

I'm excited because the research side of things is going to be headed up by T.L. Taylor, whose work I think I've referenced a fair few times over the years. She's professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and currently writing a book about game live-streaming. Her book Raising the Stakes is one which lives on my shelf and sports all manner of underlinings and post it bookmarks.

I remember I interviewed her back in 2014 when I was working for Red Bull's esports site and asked what areas of pro gaming or esports she wanted to keep an eye or or investigate next. She replied "Two things continue to ping my radar: the state of third party organizations in the eSports ecology and the continued need for progress around gender and diversity." From what I've read so far, AnyKey seems to fit that bill.

"The research team assembles and establishes discussion opportunities such as the “Women in Esports” panel and industry workshop with industry experts, and fields audience studies and more at events such as the Intel Extreme Masters San Jose, from which White Papers are published."

The team charged with taking those findings and turning them into strategy or practice is headed by Morgan Romine, co-founder of the Frag Dolls and Esports Director for Firefall at Red 5 Studios.

I'm actually reading the AnyKey White Paper from IEM San Jose 2015 (that's the event in the header image) and there are a few interesting bits in there. One is that the women attending had significantly more experience with conventions and fan events generally so the idea is that non-esports conventions would be a place to reach prospective attendees. Another is about how friendship groups who game together are "often more gender-mixed than typically thought and one way of reaching and supporting women is through these. Group ticket packages, using promotional materials that “hail” this kind of mixed-gender friendship cohort for gaming, etc. could provide powerful messaging to bring more women in."

AnyKey will have a presence at the upcoming IEM Katowice event which runs from 2-6 March. There will be a lounge ("a welcoming space for conversation, information exchange, and networking") and the group is supporting the Intel Challenge CS:GO tournament for women.

Header image: ESL/Patrick Strack

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Philippa Warr

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