Queens Gaming Collective, Black Gaming League provide platform for women and Black gamers to excel

By Isaiah Colbert, Opinions Editor

Chloe McMullen

While the video game industry managed to stay relatively unaffected by the pandemic in 2020, marginalized communities within the industry felt left out of the conversation. Instead of staying on the outskirts, these groups decided to amplify their own voices.

Black Gaming League

Justin Hayes saw that Black people were not represented in development and live streaming within the gaming industry and created the Black Gaming League to make a change.

Black Gaming League is a gaming organization based in Chicago focused on bringing awareness to career opportunities in gaming for Black people and creating a competitive league producing professional gamers.

The league hosts tournaments, live streams and creates content around video games like “Tekken,” “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty.”

Hayes said today’s top competitive players could get blown out of the water because the competitive scene has been untouched in the Black gaming community.

“I’m excited to see how good of gamers we can bring out of the Black community,” he said.

Remel Terry, co-founder of the Black Gaming League, said Black people are often not given a seat at the table and not aware of the tools and resources they can use to participate and compete in the gaming industry.

“We really want to educate our children, our families, our friends [and] everyone around us about the actual benefit of how we can have income from gaming,” Terry said.

Terry said the pandemic has been helpful in allowing the league a window of time to organize and build relationships before actually meeting face-to-face. One of those relationships is with Chicago Public Schools as a vendor where the Black Gaming League will be able to develop and build gaming clubs and leagues for students and faculty to engage a larger conversation about economic opportunities in the industry.

Gregory Sherman, vice president of Black Gaming League, said while esports and Major League Gaming were the “industry powerhouse” guide for creating a competitive gaming league, this is also where Black people are forgotten.

“We don’t want to follow their template,” Sherman said. “We are interested in creating our own template that will be an opportunity for us.”

Hayes, the president of Black Gaming League, said a major reason why Black people are not seen in major esports tournaments is because the games are played on high-end computers.

“Most of us don’t have PCs, don’t know how to build PCs [or] don’t have the money to buy it,” Hayes said.

This economic disparity is why the league plays popular esports games on consoles to be more accessible to the community, he said.

“Our goal at Black Gaming League is to ensure that as a Black person, you are free from being disrespected—it will not be tolerated—and you feel protected and welcome,” Terry said.

Queen’s Gaming Collective

In a similar fashion as Hayes, when Justin Giangrande discovered women play a major role in purchasing habits within the gaming industry but only make up 46% of the audience, he decided to build a business organization that would later become the Queens Gaming Collective.

Queens Gaming Collective is an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for women in the video game community by providing them the tools, resources and platforms to “level the playing field in gaming,according to its website.

Through networking and creating a community of female gamers, Queens Gaming Collective allows women to host gaming events and fundraise for causes that resonate within the community.

Queens was conceived at the beginning of 2020 and debuted on Nov. 17 in a promotional video featuring prominent content creators, including cosplayer Kiera Please and Twitch streamer XMiraMira, on its social media accounts.

While the gaming industry is male-dominated and, at times, toxic for women, Giangrande said he hopes Queens will provide the economic resources for women to show the world “it’s anyone’s game.”

Queens is made up of talent and advisers from the fashion, sports, music and gaming industries, and invites visitors to join its players as it creates opportunities that resonate, according to its website.

One of these opportunities includes partnering with Twitch, the livestreaming platform, to fundraise for the Entertainment Software Association Foundation while playing video games together. Queens also partnered with Razer, a gaming hardware company.

“My vision is for Queens to be an inclusive business that supports women with the infrastructure to accomplish their goals,” Giangrande said.

Junae Benne, community manager intern at PC Gamer said marginalization comes from the heads of gaming companies as well as their fanbase.

“I think what people are sometimes fail to recognize is the racist fanboys from the bottom are being hired to be at the top,” she said.

Benne said Queens and BGL spark the conversation by being a template for inclusive gaming organization, but long-lasting systematic change must come from higher-ups in the video game industry.

“Change does have to come from the people that are in power that can make those decisions because, at the end of the day, [Queens and BGL] are doing things out of the goodness of their heart,” she said.