The end of 2020 saw a conversation take place within the gaming community which took a nasty turn for the worse. It was about black female representation in gaming, and the support – or perceived lack thereof – received by black women from games companies and the community at large.
We’re going to do our best to give a rough breakdown of events and provide some clarity to a difficult issue. To conclude we’ll list ten great well-established black female content creators you might want to check out.
Do black women content creators need more support? Are they perhaps under the radar because they’re not as polished, or is there something more sinister at play? Are content creators right to speak out if they feel underrepresented or excluded? Well, let’s find out.
So, what’s the big issue?
On September 23, 2020, Stephanie Ijoma, black streamer, content creator and founder of gaming platform NNESAGA listed on Twitter the streamers and content creators who had received next-gen review consoles. “Alright, let’s play a game,” she wrote, “called ‘notice a pattern’”.
Alright, let’s play a game called, “notice a pattern” in this thread:September 23, 2020
The thing the console recipients had in common was they were overwhelmingly white and male.
Later that same day, woman of color Twitch streamer and content creator ZombaeKillz also tweeted that she and other black women would benefit from seeing people like her doing console reviews, rather than “black and brown adjacent MEN”.
Some of us black women have had a love for consoles forever. I adore xbox . I wanna see them in the hands of people that look like me for reviews. Not just the few black and brown adjacent MEN. I would love to watch youtube videos by us for us on tech. like this tweet if same!September 23, 2020
She went on to talk about the importance of representation and the lack of protection for black women, referencing Malcolm X’s famous “Who taught you to hate yourself” speech and ending by hashtagging Breonna Taylor, a young black woman victim of police brutality who was fatally shot in her home by plainclothes Kentucky Metro Police officers.
Exactly a month after, on the October 23, 2020, ZombaeKillz tweeted at PlayStation, saying she had noticed a lack of representation of women of color to review its new PS5. “I’d like to volunteer myself if you needed help in finding people to do so,” she said.
Hi @PlayStation , We noticed a lack of representaion of WOC ,in specific black women, reviewing your console. I'd like to volunteer myself if you needed help in finding people to do so. I have written review articles for Toms Hardware and would love a chance to do so. Thank youOctober 23, 2020
Not too long after, Stephanie and Zombaekillz (real name Natasha Zinda) appeared on YouTube channel Inside Gaming on a video titled “Why console makers need to support POC [people of color] creators”. They elaborated on why they thought games companies should make a point of including people from minority groups in their marketing.
“This year in particular,” Stephanie said, “has taught me to don’t not just say anything, [to] speak up. If there’s a problem, try and … say something until the right people get the attention.”
In response to this, white male content creator Griffin Gaming made a video in which he soundly mocked the women, claiming that their actions constituted nothing more than a shameful attempt to secure themselves a free console by accusing the companies of racism.
It should be pointed out that neither of the women accused Sony and Microsoft and other large companies of outright racism, but rather a lack of appreciation and massive underrepresentation of women of color.
“It wasn’t about me just getting a Xbox and a PS5,” said Stephanie. “It was about – where are the black women who are actually able to review these consoles? Where are the LGBT community that I want to hear from and their experiences?”
However, there were reasonable criticisms to be made of the women’s approach, like Natasha’s choice to hashtag Breonna Taylor. It was not clear why she added the hashtag, and for many it was offensive. Did she hashtag her name to emotionally blackmail Microsoft? Because to many that was how it came across. Was it to cement her argument? If it was, it was in poor taste.
Perhaps it was to remind them of the Black Lives Matter support they had pledged earlier that year following the murder of George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, a much more valid reason.
There were other criticisms: that race had nothing to do with the reviewing of consoles; that pointing out that white male content creators were overrepresented in the gaming world was itself racist.
Following Griffin Gaming’s video, Stephanie and Natasha encouraged their followers to mass flag it. This dubious move had, as you could have predicted, an effect entirely opposite to what was intended.
This is griffin gaming discord server. https://t.co/U1jmAJEolIHim and his racist community have been plotting and planning to lynch us. TW: there’s a lot of racist, sexist, homophobic comments in there. You know what to do. REPORT and let’s get it closed@discordNovember 25, 2020
Griffin Gaming’s followers were incensed and soon subjected Natasha and Stephanie to verbal abuse, death threats, trolling, attempted hacks and doxxing. The women did not back down and continued to encourage their followers to flag Griffin Gaming’s video in the hopes that YouTube would see it and then take it down.
In the end he decided to take the video down himself for fear of violating YouTube’s rules and subsequently receiving a strike against his channel, which could lead to him losing it all together.
Even more of Griffin Gaming’s followers turned up to harass Stephanie and Natasha. This however did not deter the women, as they believed what they were fighting for was indeed justified, and their words were willfully twisted by Griffin.
Many of Griffin’s followers including YouTube channel The Quartering decided to wade in with their own commentary, mostly repeating Griffin’s points.
Numbers vs influence
One of the better arguments put to Stephanie and Natasha was, why would Sony and Microsoft give you a console? They’re for-profit companies. Your audience is too small; they care about numbers.
Surely they are sent to creators with a large following in the tech space and a track record of providing impartial opinions. Trying to use your gender or ethnicity to score a free console doesn’t sit right with me...October 23, 2020
But are numbers the be-all-and-end-all of marketing? Natasha argued that though her audience was small it was loyal to her.
Black women and the black market in general are a market to tap into. In a Nielsen press release dated September 12, 2019, African American Spending Power Demands That Marketers Show More Love and Support for Black Culture, Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President of Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement states: "This year, we wanted to help brands and marketers understand the multi-faceted process that Blacks take to buy the products they buy. There are several drivers, but culture is at the center of them all. Further, with their love for technology, they are much more savvy and conscious consumers. They are as we say, ‘woke.’ They pay attention to how companies are speaking to them. As they spend more, they want more for themselves and from the brands they support."
I mean, if that isn’t a good enough reason to better represent black people and women in particular in the gaming space, I really don’t know what is.
In an article published in 2018 on the Black Detour by Summer Moore, titled The Power of the Black Dollar, Moore states that black buying power is estimated to rise to $2 trillion by 2020, which, according to the World Bank, makes black people one of the largest economies in the world.
Black buyers, particularly black women, are loyal customers. They will come back if they are recognized, respected and offered a great service. This serves as a response to another argument that was made: what does it matter what color a tech reviewer is? Surely the product is what matters.
Agree 100%! When I see content by women gamers, or POC, or ANYBODY that doesn’t simply look like me (another white guy), it makes gaming feel more “legitimate“ to me, if that makes sense. I want a bigger world than just another “white guy“ thingSeptember 24, 2020
There aren’t many people from minority groups that would say such a thing, because they understand the importance of community, and look for spaces that accept them, and people they can relate to. That’s why there are LGBT+ groups, indigenous groups, black groups, groups for people with disabilities and so on and so forth.
To be perfectly honest, the majority of the pushback was from white male, (and some female) content creators, particularly followers of Griffin Gaming and the Quartering. It is important to note, however, that there were a few black male content creators who were of the same mind as Griffin and even made videos expressing their distaste with ZombaeKillz and NNESAGA.
We do not in any way condone calls to mass flag a video out of spite or because you can’t take an opposing view, but in this case the reason for calls to mass flag this content was to avoid what eventually ended up transpiring; the hate mob descending upon these women, and anyone that chose to see their very justified point of view, because Griffin Gaming had distorted their whole message.
This pushback wasn’t attempts at healthy honest discourse, or to attempt to reach some kind of middle ground or understanding of each other’s points, it was merely to tell both women to put up and shut up. Just deal with it, just get over it, accept the bare minimum, and be happy.
For people who felt the “race card” was being played, it was very telling to see the sheer amount of racist vitriol thrown at both women... very telling indeed.
Now, if both Natasha and Stephanie were in fact doing what Griffin Gaming, The Quartering and other content creators who jumped on the blind criticism bandwagon believed then, yes, they would be justified in feeling disgruntled. But not to attack and harass: to point out the errors, hypocrisy and double standards in a civilized manner.
A voice of reason?
Then came along the most unlikely voice of reason: Mr Keem “Drama Alert” star himself, the hugely popular and controversial drama YouTuber with a following of 2.8 million followers on Twitter and 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube.
The reason we refer to Keemstar as an unlikely voice of reason, is he has in the past been accused of racism himself, and other unsavory behaviors that have put his channel in jeopardy.
Keemstar was barraged with requests for comment. You can’t help but suspect these people were hoping he would side with them and lambast the two women.
have you heard about the drama between griffin gaming and zombaekillz and nnesaga. They sent their fanbases after griffin because he made a video about them and now his channel and discord server are being investigated.November 27, 2020
He didn’t. He took a step back and thought about their points, and decided they had some good ones.
In particular, he realized he didn’t even know any black female streamers. He asked his followers to suggest to him good ones, promising to check them out and report back with recommendations.
Many of his followers believed there just weren’t any, and if there were, they’d have a low number of followers, be boring and bad at games.
There were however some suggestions that met his criteria; Keemstar himself had even offered up a few that he deemed worthy of supporting.
We think there are many lessons to be learned from all of this. When an individual or group asks to be recognized, it doesn’t mean that they are begging for sympathy or for an easy or free ride. Nor does it mean there are no other minorities that have issues that they need help with.
Listening without waiting for a chance to speak or criticize is key to being clear and fully informed before entering a debate, and avoids any misunderstandings, or the need for fake outrage.
And some conversations don’t require your input and that’s OK, because how can you see something that you’re not affected by? It wouldn’t even be on your radar if you had no experience of it, so why argue with someone who does know about it?
It is, however, also important that whether or not you like a person’s point of view, they should permit them their right to express it. Attempting to silence someone because they do not agree with you – or in this case have totally misunderstood you – is not acceptable.
Everyone can be criticized, and everyone should have a right to express their opinion. That does not mean there won’t be consequences to expressing that opinion, but it shouldn’t be from a place of hate, and intent to harm and that applies to both parties.
So, in light of this entire saga, here’s a list of some – not all, because there are a lot more to mention – individual black women streamers and content creators who have large followings that without qualifications justify sponsorship from games companies and organizations.
Black Women streamers, in numbers
First up is Amira Virgil better known as Xmiramira. A Twitch streamer and content creator, she is one of the most influential women on our list.
She is especially famous for her Melanin Pack custom content for the Sims, which adds diverse characters and skin tones to the game.
She was also part of the process of diversifying skin tones in The Sims recent legendary update, and heavily credited (along with Ebonixsims) for being the main reason why the update was even happening in the first place.
She also has a website where you can check all things Amira and The Sims custom content.
Next up is the mayor of Cupton herself (self-appointed; don’t go reaching out for legislation changes in Cupton, Southern California now).
Kason, better known by her gamer name CupAhnoodle, is a popular streamer, presenter and content creator.
Kason is a multi-game streamer with a particular penchant for horror games.
She was also one of the people appointed by Twitch to be on its Safety Advisory Council, an effort to reduce harassment of its users.
Ebonixsims, or just Ebonix, is a Sims custom content creator and streamer from the UK. Her custom content for the game provides black cultural hairstyles, fashion, jewellery, makeup and much more.
Like Xmiramira, Ebonix was recently asked by EA to help them, after over 20 years, improve the available skin tones in the game.
Last year she won YouTube streamer of the year in the GameHERs awards. She had already reached popularity through her main YouTube channel DwayneNJazz, which has well over two million subs and where she and partner Dwayne make reaction and prank videos.
Kandi, better known as iAM_iKandi is a multiplatform streamer and content creator from Atlanta Georgia. You can find her streaming on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook Gaming.
Kandi is a Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Partner with over 24k followers on Twitch, 4k subs on YouTube and almost 2k followers on Facebook. She mainly streams Apex Legends and has the number one Apex TikTok community, with over 131k followers.
With a Discord server of over 1.3k members and over 20k followers on both Twitter and Instagram, she is sponsored by and partnered with Gamer Advantage, Advanced GG, Technisport, Aporia Customs, JerkyXP and 985 Products.
Chastity, better known as Girl Gamer Chas is a rugby player, streamer and content creator from Memphis Tennessee.
Chastity has over 20k followers on both Instagram and Twitter and an Onlyfans account for her adult followers. She has a YouTube channel where she uploads everything from gaming content to gaming tips and other things that are of interest to her.
Christene, also known as AyChristineGames is a video content creator on YouTube. She mainly posts playthroughs and reaction videos among other content on her channel. She loves to share happiness, positivity and inspire people.
Briana, Bri to some, and better known as Storymodebae, is a variety streamer on Twitch.
As her name suggests, she has love for games with rich storylines, like Cyberpunk 2077. She also plays Among Us and Drug Dealer Simulator.
Missy MissDoitBig is a Twitch streamer and content creator from the US.
Missy is a Twitch Partner and was previously a Twitch Ambassador for TwitchCon 2019. She has 26.3k followers on Twitch and over 7.5k followers on Twitter and Instagram.
While Twitch is the main platform that she streams on, she also uploads funny videos, gameplay, stream highlights and vlogs on her YouTube channel.
How’s that for numbers?
Black women and women of other races in the gaming community are not asking for performative allyship or sympathy follows. No black person – female or otherwise –wants you to follow them for sympathy, just like the content creators that innocently shared their feelings about impediments they experienced in this industry were not looking for free consoles. They are looking for change, real support and genuine inclusion.
Eventually we’ll get to a point where all women in gaming can express themselves, their opinions, and their beliefs without fear of bullying, recrimination and harassment. Until then, stand strong and don’t be discouraged from asking for that change – while it’s exhausting, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
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Rosario Blue is a writer, playwright, and freelance journalist.
She is a Global Goodwill Ambassador for Postcards for Peace.