Imani Daniels has been gaming since elementary school.
“I got into League of Legends my freshman year of high school, and I played that ridiculously, like I was addicted to that game for years,” Imani Daniels, a college student who considers herself a gamer, said. She’s currently studying cybersecurity in college.
“When I was little, getting into gaming definitely influenced what I wanted to do when I went to college,” she said. As Daniels grew up and began playing games online with other users across the U.S. and the world, she started to get to know people, and noticed certain patterns.
“Being a woman of color and being a gamer, it’s rare that I come across a female in general. But it’s even rarer that I come across a woman of color that plays games while I’m gaming,” she said.
That’s something Keshia Walker wants to change.
“I started gaming 35 years ago,” Walker said. She is the founder of the Black Collegiate Gaming Association. The association was started last year and sparked by a visit Wzlker made to her 11-year-old nephew.
“He started showing me the professional gamers and the schools he wanted to attend and nobody looked like me and nobody looked like him. I said Jackson that doesn't concern you? And he was like no auntie Keshia, gaming doesn't have a color. I said that's great, I wish the world was like you and your friends,” she explained.
Women and people of color are underrepresented in the industry.
“The numbers are sad,” Walker said.
Professional Black gamers make up less than one percent of all professional gamers. When it comes to the esports industry as a whole, less than 3% of professionals are Black, according to stats provided by the association.
“But when you look at the numbers in terms of the percentage of us that play for recreational reasons and purposes, it’s 70 plus percent for Blacks between the ages of 13 and 24,” Walker said.
The association recently held Women Got Game -- a virtual summit connecting college age women of color with others in the esports industry.
“We want to start addressing those numbers as soon as possible and showing the industry there are a lot of women out there that are interested, and more importantly, qualified to play and work in the industry,” she said.
As Daniels continues through college, she’s playing a role with the association to help others like her see what possibilities are out there.
“It’s important to put the information out there to let other people know it's possible and to know that something like this is achievable,” Daniels said.