Thanks to all who joined us at PAX East and tuned into the live stream for our conversation on building positive competitive gaming communities! Our expert panel members, including moderator and MIT professor T.L. Taylor, Twitch Program Director Anna Prosser Robinson, YouTube Gaming Interaction Designer Lil Chen, ESL Product Manager Kelly Kline, and AnyKey Director of Initiatives Morgan Romine, shed light on some of the biggest issues involved in growing a healthy and positive esports community.

Here’s a video of our panel if you missed it! Be sure to skip to about 7:25 as the audio took a while to get going properly. If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, read on for some of the highlights!

 

Share resources and collaborate: Anna Prosser Robinson on positive communities

Taking initiative:
“Reaching out to share resources and collaborate is something that I individually have the capacity to do, and I think that when we continue this conversation about inclusivity it’s very important to turn the focus on ourselves and ask, ‘What I can personally contribute right at this very moment to make this space better instead of spending all of my time worrying about what other people are doing wrong?”

Enforcing a code of conduct:
“We spend a lot of time, and have from the very beginning, educating our chats. So if someone comes in and says ‘WTF, what are they doing,” or ‘Girls don’t play dungeons and dragons,” or whatever it is that we’re doing on Misscliks that someone doesn’t understand or is derisive about, we spend the time saying, “We’re glad you’re here, let us tell you a little bit about our community with a bot.” We have a command, ‘!WTF,’ which is for anyone who comes in and doesn’t know what’s going on. Someone in chat will type that and the bot will educate the rest of the viewers. What’s cool is that because we spend so much time educating, our viewers now also take part in that education and the same is true for when someone comes in and says something inappropriate. That’s what it’s about, not punishing, not being focused on the punitive, but saying that we want you to be a part of our community and we’re going to teach you the social norms so that you can hang out here, and then of course if you don’t follow them we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

 

It’s an exploration: Lil Chen on inclusivity and Smash Sisters

All women tournaments:
“Why does this topic have to be so black and white? Why is it so polarizing? People only see it in two ways: right or wrong, will help or won’t help. I don’t see it that way at all. How Smash Sisters came to exist was by sheer chance. I had written a lengthy post that was trying to lay down the mental groundwork within the Smash community and I said, ‘Hey, maybe these events might help. I don’t know if they might, but why not give it a shot.’ I’m not trying to say it’s the cure to the solution, but why would you not even attempt? Do we ever run a single normal tournament and when it fails we never believe in esports again? Is that what happens? I don’t think so.”

Trying to help:
“Even though I’m one of the co-founders and I stand by this initiative, it’s an exploration. If this fails in two years I have no problem getting on camera and being like yeah, it didn’t work, sorry. The more you treat it like that, there is so much more wiggle-room and potential for exploration, for testing different ideas.”

Including new players:
“A problem that we have been facing is how to bridge the gap between new women and veteran women within the Smash community. As someone who’s been there 10 years, I don’t mind things such as trash talk or the anxiety that comes with the territory of being a competitive player. We also have to consider inclusive aspects, creating a safe and comfortable environment for people who have never touched the game competitively but want to. The format that we’ve been doing is hosting two different versions of the crew battles. One is the casual crews and the second is the competitive, and I’ve been pretty adamant that we need to do both. Not everyone who is a part of esports tries to be the best player. I’m sure there are a lot of people in this room who enjoy esports and aren’t trying to be the PPMD of Smash Brothers.”

 

We can find solutions: Morgan Romine on fostering healthy competition

Getting more women to play:
“Ultimately, a lot of us who are women in this space want to see some women playing in the top-tier main events. That’s what we want to see. That’s still the goal today with the work that we’re doing with AnyKey and that’s a goal for Smash Sisters as well. We want to see those women on that stage. All of us know women who are amazingly good and competitive and we think they can absolutely be there. The question is, how do we get women on that stage? What are the barriers to entry? Because it’s not for some biological reason, like they can’t move their thumbs as fast, obviously that’s not it. There are cultural barriers that are preventing women from being on those main stages and that’s something that can take a really long time to change, but we feel like we can find solutions to that problem. One of the solutions is just to get as many women to play as possible.”

Creating a welcoming environment:
“Esports is not only intimidating for women, it’s intimidating for a lot of people, whether or not they’re willing to admit it, so providing some stepping stones and welcoming people in on the more casual levels of competition is really important to be able to see these effects at the top levels.”

The end goal:
“The reason why we feel that women’s tournaments are important is that we think they are a good temporary strategy for building that community, giving opportunities, and building up role models. We don’t ultimately want to see that be the solution. We don’t want segregated tournaments as the long term goal and we certainly recognize that they are a risk, but it is an experiment and we want to see if these tournaments will help. So far we’ve found that they’ve been widely successful. We’ve seen the community already grow. CS:GO is a great community because they have already been doing this for a long time, but they need that extra support.”

 

Try to educate the viewers: Kelly Kline on chat moderation

The importance of Twitch chat:
“I find Twitch chat to be part of the experience of watching esports. When you can’t be at the event, that is your crowd, together in one place, and you want it to be a good experience. It adds to the fun, if everyone in chat is going nuts it looks amazing and you want to be a part of that. My philosophy is that if you come into Twitch chat and the only point of you being there is to try to instigate, or try to harass, or try to be a jerk, then we will time you out and try to make it obvious why you’ve been timed out and try to educate the viewers on what is appropriate behavior and how to be a part of the community.”

IEM Katowice Intel Challenge:
“As a CS:GO fan I’m definitely excited to see more tournaments like we did at IEM Katowice where we had the Intel Challenge. I think that’s the kind of footstep we need to get this thing running and have diverse teams in CS:GO. I just want to see mixed female and male teams on the big stage, that would be amazing. I think that what AnyKey has been doing has been the most progress I’ve seen so far. There have been a lot of other organizations trying to do this in the past and having Intel help has been a big step.”

Twitch moderation tools:
“I want to work on figuring out a better way to have moderation tools, so if you’re a new female streamer, or really any streamer who wants to get on Twitch, that you have the tools and understanding of how to control and moderate your Twitch chat.”

 

Thanks again to everyone who joined in on our panel, and feel free to reach out to AnyKey with any questions about community management or fostering positive, inclusive spaces in competitive gaming!