Share Tweet Share Email

NIU Gaming For All group receives a grant from the Gen.G Foundation to support diversity in video gaming

November 17, 2021

Gaming For All – a new sub-group of the NIU Esports Club – is getting a boost from Gen.G, one of the world’s leading esports organizations. NIU Gaming For All received a grant from the Gen.G Foundation, whose mission is to develop talented young gamers and promote diversity and inclusion within gaming.

With this new group, NIU Esports takes another step forward in a global movement to promote diversity and inclusion in video gaming. The NIU Esports Club has already been known as a place that welcomes all gamers, regardless of identity, experience or preferred games. By supporting this new sub-group, the club is intensifying its already strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Gaming For All grows out of our knowledge that playing video games together has the potential to build a healthy and positive community on campus,” says Jeannine East, NIU Esports project manager. “Esports Club members frequently tell us that the club provides a community and support system at NIU, that it helped to ease their transition into college and that it provides insight into the wide variety of careers available in the esports industry. We want to make sure that this community and career exploration is available to everyone.”

The NIU Gaming For All executive committee.

While Gaming For All welcomes any and all gamers, the group has a special interest in creating a safe and welcoming space for women and gender minorities.

“We know that 45% of casual gamers are women, but less than 25% of our NIU Esports community are female, so we wanted to create a place for those other gamers to join us – the students who may love to play casually or competitively but don’t consider themselves an esports player. And we wanted to create a place for anyone who wants to try out for our esports team to practice and improve their skills in a supportive environment.”

Why is there a need to combat gender disparities in esports? NIU students who helped to develop the Gaming For All group say that esports communities can often be intimidating to women and gender minorities.

“I know many people, myself included, who have interests in gaming and/or esports, but have past experiences that make participating in gaming communities intimidating. That’s why it’s so important for there to be explicitly inclusive spaces for diverse gamers available,” says Emily Brown, an NIU senior majoring in Computer Science and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

“I was especially grateful to be involved in the inception of this club as a queer and trans person so that I could work to make sure people like myself are explicitly included,” she continues. “I’m really proud of the work that the other founding members and I have done to get GFA going, and I have high hopes for the club’s future.”

Gaming For All President Elisabeth Pierce – an NIU sophomore majoring in early childhood education – says she particularly loves that Gaming For All offers a less competitive segment of the NIU Esports Club for those who prefer a noncompetitive, casual approach.

“I’m a huge League of Legends fan and I love to play that game,” Pierce says. “The world championship has been going on for the past few weeks, and when you look at the pro teams, they’re all men. But a lot of women have joined NIU Gaming For All, and it’s great to see there are so many women who enjoy gaming as much as I do.”

The group’s focus on gender inclusion made NIU Gaming For All a perfect fit for the Gen.G Foundation grant.

“Gen.G shares NIU Gaming For All’s passion for promoting inclusion in the esports community,” says Gina Chung Lee, CMO of Gen.G and co-chair of the Gen.G Foundation. “Gen.G believes it is vital to support the next generation of the esports industry. There is a lot of untapped talent in underrepresented groups in the esports and gaming space, and our mission is to champion the young gamers who will strengthen the representation that all industries need. We’re so excited to see what the NIU Gaming For All community brings together, and we look forward to seeing what these future leaders will bring!”

What motivates Gen.G and other groups looking to increase diversity within video gaming?

The NIU Gaming For All group recently met at the NIU Esports Arena. The group invites other NIU students to join.

According to a March 2021 article by Forbes contributor Tomoko Yokoi, gender discrimination is an all-too-common experience among women working in the gaming industry, and gender stereotypes are rampant within games themselves. For example, although women make up almost half of video game players, only five percent of video games feature female protagonists; those female characters that do exist are often objectified and hypersexualized. While Yokoi reports some improvements in recent years, it’s clear that the video game industry would benefit from increased gender diversity to better serve its customers.

In the meantime, while it’s part of a larger effort to broaden and diversify the pipeline of talent leading into the esports industry, NIU Gaming For All remains focused on the group’s primary goal: to make gaming fun, welcoming and inclusive for all NIU students.

Pizza Salinas, a junior majoring in Rehabilitation and Disability Services, says, “I joined this club because I wanted a safe space to share my interest of video games. I feel comfortable and respected by my fellow club members, and I am glad we get to meet up and make connections through one of my favorite hobbies.”

“I’ve been playing video games since I was about seven years old, and it’s been one of my favorite pastimes ever since,” Emily Brown adds. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to enjoy getting into the competitive side of gaming, too. It’s something I have boundless passion for and that feels like a core part of my identity. I’m so honored to have played a part in establishing a community for people who, like me, often feel unwelcome in gaming communities to come together and engage each other in that passion.”

Elisabeth Pierce wants NIU students to know that Gaming For All is all about having fun. “There are still people who don’t know about this club but would definitely enjoy it,” she says. “It’s very inclusive, and we love to have fun. It’s great to see everyone playing the games they love.”

Learn more about NIU Esports at niu.edu/esports. Become part of the NIU Gaming For All group by joining the Gaming For All Discord community.