" IT IS EASIER THAN EVER TO BE AN “INNOVATOR” BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH LEFT TO DO IN THIS SPACE." " TRUE INNOVATION TAKES COLLABORATION, AND GAMING IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR THIS."- KATHRYN DE SHIELDS-MOON, CO-FOUNDER, DIVERTEGA
My ideal future for this industry is one rich in diversity and equality, from developing games and the content within them to more comprehensive professional representation in gaming and esports for minorities and gender minorities. It will take all of us working together to make this reality, and there is plenty of room at the table of opportunity for everyone. Let me tell you why:
The exciting thing about working in an emerging industry is that there are boundless opportunities for innovation, connection, and rapid evolution. In many ways, gaming and esports are just now becoming mainstream in the US. Whether it’s the way gaming is being associated with STEAM careers or how the esports industry is creating policies and practices to reflect the diversity of this nation’s gamers, the capacity for discoveries, alliances, and new perspectives is the perfect environment for innovation. The Star Wars fan in me calls this “Lightspeed Advancement,” meaning new businesses, services, nonprofits, and organizations are all bootstrapping, developing, iterating, learning, and pivoting at a breakneck pace simultaneously. All of this action leads to companies solving existing problems, discovering new ones, identifying niches, and developing the industry at an equally exciting and terrifying pace. If there was ever a case of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, there are plenty of all of the above in this ecosystem.
It is easier than ever to be an “innovator” because there is so much left to do in this space. However, with everyone and anyone inherently being able to “innovate,” as pioneers in an evolving industry, how does one truly stand apart as an innovator? The answer is counter-intuitive. The answer is strategic collaboration, and the gaming and esports industry is the perfect place for it.
Border-crossing collaborations will be the driving force behind the next phase of growth. Esports teams working with non-endemic companies, gaming-focused nonprofits partnering with school systems to create curricula, indie game studios making esports-ready titles that appeal to a broader audience. The intersectionality of markets and causes will exponentially grow the ecosystem and pave the way for the next generation of innovators.
There isn’t a mapped-out hiking trail that leads to innovation already cleared of brush and branches, but there are a few things we can do to guarantee we’re going in the right direction:
• Be willing to work with people who don’t look like you or share your background.
• Make an effort to listen to perspectives that differ from your own.
• Make it a point to challenge your assumptions and biases.
It is difficult, personal work, to be sure, but it is an integral part of stoking the fire of meaningful innovation within you and growing the industry at large. In my experience, introspection and creativity will always be the root causes of fantastic advancement and change. Inclusivity will always be the seed to re-ignite and revolutionize an industry.
Never forget that gaming and esports got their start with the community — be it couch co-op games or rallying around a favorite esports team with other fans. Gamers used to be the outcasts, and many of my colleagues in the industry (myself included) were told this hobby was a complete waste of time. Now that this sentiment is changing on a global scale, we should always strive to capture that same spirit of community that made us fall in love with gaming and extend a hand to those who believe in the future of gaming and esports.
After nine years of work as a newspaper reporter and in various marketing roles, Kat landed her first job in the gaming industry as a games journalist and communications manager for GameSkinny & Launch Media Network. Since then, her career has taken her all over the gaming industry, including full-service marketing for indie games with Novy Unlimited, esports community management with Hi-Rez Studios, and esports partnerships at Skillshot Media. Currently, she is the PR manager for Schell Games, a studio specializing in VR experiences, co-founder of Divertega, and the host of season two of the Women in Esports Podcast produced by the Pittsburgh Knights and PNC Bank.