Black women want a fair shake
Gaming is not just for computer geeks, but for everyone. Nearly 50% of U.S. adults play video games on a computer, television, game console or phone, and over 40% are females, said a 2015 Pew Research study. But the data on Black female gamers aren’t readily available.
When she’s not hoopin’ Aerial Powers is gaming. The six-year WNBA veteran has been a gamer since her growing-up days in Detroit. She told us that gaming became a family affair in her home.
“It was a way for us to gather and just share times together,” said Powers. “My mother playing my dad. My brother playing her. Just talking junk to each other [while] playing—that was our thing.”
“As I progressed and got older,” she continued, “video games were staying in my life, and staying in my family’s life.”
Powers recalled a story that in her opinion forever changed her family’s home life: “I forget how young we were. We had one Xbox at the time, and my brother showed me this new game called Call of Duty. One day my dad came home and it was rather quiet,” and he asked, “‘What the hell is going on?’ We were playing a game together.
“The next day he started playing it,” said Powers of her father’s conversion to gaming.
The Michigan State graduate, now in her first season with the Minnesota Lynx, said, “My Xbox is a way to stay connected to my family when I go overseas [during the off-season].” She also plays NBA 2K, Apex Legends and NASCAR Racing among others.
“For me, it’s kind of like a way of relief,” admitted Powers, who was a member of the 2019 Washington Mystics championship club. “Sometimes you’ll have a bad game and you want to just relax, get your mind off it.”
Despite nearly half of this country’s gamers being females, gaming remains a White male-dominated sport. Black girls and women have expressed concern that they haven’t felt welcomed in the gaming community. “Misogynoir,” a term describing hatred and prejudice specially directed to Black females (the MSR discussed the term in an article last month), exists among gamers as well.
Women and girls, especially Black females, deserve “a safe place to come play,” declared Powers, who earlier this year became a gaming ambassador for Team Liquid, a professional gaming organization. She also chairs its diversity and inclusion task force. Powers once hosted an all-woman NBA 2K tournament, and last month she hosted a similar event in Ghana.
Powers in 2019 launched her own Twitch channel, “POWERZsurge.” She explained that “Twitch is a platform where you play video games and people can watch it and interact while you’re playing. Talking while you’re playing is so, so cool.
“I started that because women in gaming…weren’t getting a fair shake. It’s all about making everyone feel that this is not just for a certain group of people but is all-inclusive,” stated Powers.
Black Girl Gamers, a multi-platform age and LGBTQIA+ inclusive on-line gaming community on Facebook, boasts over 6,000 Black women gamers. It was founded in 2015 by Jay-Ann Lopez of the UK. She told Tech Radar.com in 2020 that her main reason for starting the group was because she was frustrated with the racism and misogyny she and other Black women regularly faced as gamers, sometimes on a daily basis.
Powers said she will keep fighting for all women gamers, especially Blacks and other POCs, against gaming exclusion. “We all can play,” she said. “That’s the amazing, beautiful thing about gaming. It brings us all together, no matter skin color, no matter shape or size.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.