5 of the Most Influential People in Modern Gaming

Recognizing Some of the People Making the World of Gaming a Better Place

The gaming industry has grown a lot in the past decade. Technology has been changing and evolving faster than ever before, and as a result of that, so are the perspectives and habits of the people who use it, including the adoption and (somewhat relative) acceptance of gaming into the mainstream, meaning more people are playing video games now than ever before. Now, it’s become pretty clear that a very vocal minority of the gaming community can get caught up in “gatekeeping,” a type of purist elitism that likes to believe that video games (and likely other things in life) should be catered towards a singular group of people, or that there’s only one way to consume it properly, or some other arbitrary rules that they hold dear to make themselves feel better. However, as I said, these people are nothing but a vocal minority, and there are a lot of people doing their best do make sure that everyone feels welcome and included in the infinite world of gaming.

Now, this list in particular was written with a very specific set of people in mind: those who have gone out of their way to challenge the way that people see each other as well as the art they consume, in the gaming space – people who did more than just their jobs, and their effect meant more than money changing hands. Naturally, there’s dozens of other people who deserve to be on this list as well for their efforts and contributions, but at that point I would just be writing a book, because there’s more and more people doing great things in gaming all the time, and perhaps that’s a book worth writing, but in the meantime, here’s five people who have made a point of using their platform to change the way that people think of video games and the people who play them.

5 of the Most Influential People in Modern Gaming

Anita Sarkeesian

I’ll be the first to admit that in the beginning, I too was reluctant to Sarkeesian’s content, message, and endeavor – to reassess the way women are portrayed and represented in games. “How could there be a problem with the way women are portrayed?” I asked in my groveliest, manliest voice because I was a big strong man, “they are present.” Little did I know, she and the throngs of depraved and aggressive boys out for her blood just for asking the question had already proved her point. As I grew older and matured through experiences with real-life women, I came to see what Anita was getting at through little cracks in the system – another damsel in distress here, an unnecessarily sexualized character there, and lifeless women scattered about different games waiting to either be wooed, whooped, or put on digital display for gaming’s boys club to gaze at. None of these caricatures were like any of the women I knew in real life, and I began to see how the canyon of difference between the real and idealized versions of women could be problematic, especially when I saw how boys treated real women – a discussion saved for people more educated than myself to discuss.

Anita and Zoe Quinn speaking with the UN about online harassment.

That’s not to say I agree with every single word she’s ever said – there’s definitely room for improvement, particularly in regards to the games and characters she uses as examples. But, regardless of whether you agree with her or not, we’re still talking about her today for good reason. This woman has experienced arguably the worst the internet has to offer, from having to move from her own home to canceling an event at Utah state university following domestic terrorists threatening to open fire during a planned lecture. She regards dealing with these abusive trolls as a “new normal,” all for asking people to take a closer look at how women were, and sometimes continue to be negatively portrayed in video games, and we have. In the past few years, there’s been a noticeable influx in the number of strong women taking center stage in video games – Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, Fiona from Tales from the Borderlands, Emily Kaldwin and Billie Lurk from Dishonored (2, specifically), Senua from Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Aya from Assassin’s Creed Origins, Red Dead Redemption 2’s Sadie Adler and Battlefield V’s female soldiers, are just a few victories in positive female representation that may not have come to fruition if it wasn’t for the discussion regarding the subject that Anita brought up and unintentionally put her life at risk for bringing up. Can you name anyone else in the history of the entire gaming industry who has risked as much as she has for making a YouTube video? You’ll probably also notice that she’s the only woman on this list. We may have come forward a bit in regards to the portrayal of women and people of color in games, but both the industry – and the community – still have quite a bit of work to do when it comes to diversity.