3Q: T.L. Taylor on diversity in e-sports
MIT sociologist’s “AnyKey” initiative aims to level the playing field of online sports
Imagine a sports arena full of cheering fans. Are you picturing basketball, or perhaps hockey? Actually, that image also applies to high-level e-sports (short for electronic sports), the competitions where fans watch people playing popular video games. E-sports have experienced a surge in growth in recent years, and boast their own professional teams as well as partnerships with major team sports. But how diverse are e-sports? A little over two years ago, an initiative called “AnyKey,” co-directed by MIT’s T.L Taylor, began examining that question. The group has released a series of research papers and worked to establish codes of conduct for e-sports. Taylor, a professor in MIT Comparative Media Studies|Writing, recently talked to MIT News about the challenges in the field.
Q: What is “AnyKey”?
A: AnyKey was started as a project supported by Intel and the Electronic Sports League, and our mission is to foster more inclusion and diversity in e-sports. Lots of people are playing e-sports competitively, and some of them are playing for money. AnyKey is trying to foster fairness and inclusivity in that space.
The way I often talk about it is: Imagine how traditional sports were pre-Title IX, [in terms of] trying to get women on the playing field. AnyKey is tackling that with digital sports. Women actually play a lot of computer games. … But we still do have the hurdle of women feeling that they cannot be competitors and play on a professional level. We also think about how to support people of color, how to support LGBTQ players as well, and we put out guidelines recently about how to help tournament organizers create trans-inclusive spaces.