When you look at the largest Twitch streamers, the faces of Twitch, there are almost no Latinx personalities visible. In fact, they aren’t that diverse at all. Seeing this, and what the face of success seems to look like, it can be discouraging for Latinx content creators. This is why Latinx in Games, a SIG for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), held a panel called LATINX in Gaming: You Belong Here.
From the moment I entered the room, to the selfie the panelists took with the audience members and to the talks I had outside, I definitely felt like I belonged. Held in the GivePLZ room, one of the smallest rooms in the convention, and it was packed. There was only standing room remaining by the time the panel started. The space felt communal, beautiful, and before the panelists started talking, I already had felt seen.
This is was the second Latinx in Gaming panel I had attended, the first being during my trip to PAX West earlier this year. The panelists included: Alan Widmann, better known by his in-game name Hotted89 and is professional World of Warcraft player and streamer, Joe Tirado, communications and marketing at System Era Softworks, Julian Collins, head of strategic partnerships of J!NX clothing, Peter Toledo, host and content creator for Gamertag Radio, and was moderated by Christina Amaya, event manager at Unity.
The panelist not only brought their own unique latinidad, most easily translated as Latin experience, but they were also able to speak from different positions in the gaming industry, which helped give insights to the crowd during the Q&A at the end.
Their different positionalities informed how they started the panel, tackling right away what it means to be Latinx. Too often being a member of the Latin community involving countering gatekeeping within our own community. We’re too dark, too light, don’t speak the right kind of Spanish, or don’t speak Spanish at all, or in some cases being US-born, and all of these things I’ve mentioned stand as examples of not being Latin enough. But that wasn’t the case here.
Amaya broke down the differences in Latin cultures, and how although identities may not be 100% the same, with different intersections, we are all Latinx. Starting the panel like this was absolutely the right call as it helps ease worries of possibly not fitting, a worry I had at PAX West as a Chicana who doesn’t speak Spanish and has been kept out of Latin spaces for that reason. It also served for those in the audience and watching at home who weren’t aware of the multitude of identities and the diversity that the Latinx community holds.
Next, the talked about the uniques issues that Latinx creators face: not being heard, not feeling “Latino” enough, current political climates, as well as issues that some Latinx creators will and do face given political issues in their home countries. As a Chicana creator, it was great to hear some of the issues mapped out and recognized. The panel validated issues I and other creators have faced that some may not recognize. The inclusion of this section would stand to be the largest talking point of the Q&As.
The panel also provided a look at representation on Twitch. Amaya presented the top Twitch streamers based on social statistics, all of whom are not Latinx or women. But instead of focusing on this, the panel shifted to highlight Latinx streamers in the community doing work and by highlighting them, causing many in the audience to head to their phones and drop a follow. This included both established Latinx streamers as well as a slide for up and coming “gems” in the community. The latter of which were each nominated by viewers on Twitter. ButWhyThoPC, this site’s channel which I stream for was included on this list and we are extremely grateful.
The next portion of the panel focused on solutions to the lack of representation and how we, as streamers, can make an impact in gaming by being heard and changing the landscape to better showcase our experiences and voices. This included calls for featuring Latinx development studios and games created by Latinx developers in your streams, doing charity streams for organizations that focus on Latinx issues, and encouraging Latinx streamers to discuss real issues with their communities and not hide their latinidad, but instead be proud of it. Toledo also offered a call to action that resonated with me; calling for the Latinx community to be one big voice so that companies like Twitch can’t ignore.
However, there was more than just streamers in the audience so panelists also offered calls to action for developers, encouraging them to reach out to Latinx streamers to test their games, to represent our narratives in their games, and ultimately ask for our input on that representation. As the panelists all reaffirmed, Latinx in the games industry are here and here to stay. In regards to the industry side, the panel also highlighted a couple of ways that Twitch as a platform could make changes too, primarily by highlighting Latinx charities and including a Latinx Heritage Month focus on the front page of Twitch as the company has done for Black History Month as well as other events.
But it is perhaps the end of the panel that delivers the importance of the panel’s existence, “If you do not see a space for you, make one.” Advice that may sound simple, but for those who hear it can have a lasting impact on them. The site that you’re reading this on now is evidence of that. Each panelist hammered in the importance of Latinx creators speaking up and making our space. They reaffirmed that although it may be hard, we can make it. Amaya even noted that when she entered the space she was surrounded by white men in the industry but through Latinx in Games she has met so many more Latinx. They also explained the importance of reaching out to other Latinx creators for help and helping those around you.
When it came to the Q&A portion of the panel, the questions were specific to the Latinx experience on platforms. Do I stream in English or Spanish? How do we explain it to our parents? How do we market ourselves to sponsors as Latinx? How do we keep going in the face of people ridiculing accents in chat? And the panelists had answers. From personal stories about discrimination to not feeling Mexican enough by not knowing Spanish, the space was intimate and welcoming enough to foster deep discussions of latinidad. The positive and the negatives that surround us as Latinx in gaming.
They were able to showcase the nuances in our community and provide an understanding that made every response feel personal. As each Latinx creator came up and asked the question, each answer highlighted how to keep going and building inclusive communities in the games space. The questions and comments were so personal that I don’t believe these important questions would have been answered at any other panel, including the many panels held this year on branding. Tirado also explained the importance of seeing our Latin identities as an asset. Explaining that although our environments make it easy for us to see our identities as a hindrance, we have to see them as assets for community building and partnerships with companies.
I even got to ask my own question which focused on my fears of being pigeonholed into just review or talking about Latinx issues and my fear of speaking out too loudly on issues of representation and how it could affect future opportunities. The response to this question blew me away. The language of embracing your identity was refreshing and Collins’ response to me, that we are the only ones who can fix issues by calling them out because they won’t fix themselves reasserted my commitment to telling my stories and using that to help foster connections with companies instead of seeing it as something that could hurt them.
It was amazing to see people speaking on Latinx issues and inspiring every attendee in the audience to keep moving forward and offering a support system for them to reach out to. Latinx in Games also held a brunch the following day and were highlighted at the TwitchUnity lounge, akin to PAX’s Diversity Lounge. Keep your eyes out for more Latinx in Games panels at upcoming conventions like PAX Unplugged and PAX South.
Personally, finding the Latinx in Games group and panels have changed my online experiences and inspired me to work even harder than I already was. We recently featured a roundtable with members of Latinx in Games and had an amazing discussions on latinidad, gaming, and representation.
To see the full panel from TwitchCon 2018, click the video below, starting at 4:42:00