If you look at the gaming audience, you’re going to see a lot of dudes. It’s an inescapable fact of the community, and a few corners of it can even get pretty hostile toward anyone invading the boy’s club. With that in mind, Intel and ESL have created an organization devoted to diversity in the world of esports.
The Anykey organization plans to support diversity in competitive gaming. The bulk of their initiative is focused on women, but they also want to advocate for LGBTQ participants and people of color. ESL official Jesse Sell says “AnyKey initiatives are well under way and with those that will debut at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice and beyond, we hope to be an advocate for positive change. We’re looking to broach a subject that most shy away from - it’s a daunting road that lies ahead but we have a fantastic team on board and we’re confident we can make a difference.”
Anykey is a two-pronged initiative. T.L. Taylor, an MIT sociologist specialized in esports and online communities, leads a research team devoted to identifying problems in the community, getting industry experts together, and facilitating discussion about how to solve those problems. The development team, helmed by Frag Dolls co-founder Morgan Romine, will focus on developing specific strategies and actionable solutions to help grow the community.
The spirit behind this initiative is wonderful, but with esports growing increasingly fragmented as it grows larger, I’m not sure that a single initiative that’s built by a specific organization like ESL is the best path toward progress. There is no central body for competitive gaming, and there probably never will be. The communities around shooters, fighting games, strategy games, and various MOBAs are all so different from each other that it’s going to be impossible to impose diversity upon them by a single organization.
Despite that, if AnyKey is successful for ESL, it could represent a solid precedent for other esports organizations going forward. Increasingly diverse competitors help to grow both the level of competition and the potential audience. I hope that AnyKey has success in its corner of the gaming world, and that such success leads to similar gains for the community as a whole.