The Future Of Esports
When you think of gaming and esports a 27-year-old Black Latina woman probably doesn’t come to mind. Well that’s probably going to change really soon because Erin A. Simon is poised to take esports to new heights. And she’s poised to do it from her own unique perspective.
Just today the Cheddar Esports Host and Grass Routes Podcast co-Founder and co-Host signed with Matthew Olson and David Koonin of CAA. It’s a sign that major companies are taking note of the esports community and recognize that there’s money to be made. It’s also a sign that major companies see the value in having diverse personalities represent the industry of esports. And that’s exactly why Simon decided to sign with one of the largest talent firms on the planet.
“I really respected the fact that they wanted to support and help me grow the lane that I’m currently in. They took their time to understand that my lane is the intersection of culture and esports. Throughout this process of signing with them I always felt heard so I really appreciated that.”
Being heard is something that for so long so many gamers hadn’t had the opportunity to experience. That’s because esports (and the gaming industry as a whole) was largely ignored or shunned for a significant amount of time. The gamers were considered nerds and social outcasts. The belief was that there were no real careers to be had or money to be made within gaming. But now that organizations like the NBA and artists like Drake have caught on, the community of gamers are ready for primetime.
Simon, a former NCAA Division-I soccer player and lifetime avid gamer, likens the growth of gaming to that of hip-hop. “I really think that there are some strong parallels between hip-hop and gaming. They both started as these underground movements that general society didn’t accept or take seriously. People said hip-hop was horrible and bad for children. And now its an internationally accepted and celebrated form of art. I see gaming going the same way. As someone who has been watching the change and been a gamer since before it was socially acceptable, it’s important to me to be one of the ones telling the stories of the people and situations who make up the industry.”
And the stories of the people in esports that are available for her to tell are vast. Unlike some traditional sports, like football, for instance, esports fans and players cross gender, racial, national, economic, ethnic and sexual orientation lines.
“One of the top fighting game competitors in the world is from Pakistan,” explains Simon. “And he’ll tell you that there are probably a lot of kids who are better than him in Pakistan; he’s just one of the few who has access to stable internet and the means to get a VISA. There are kids in inner cities who love and are really good at gaming but can only afford gaming consoles instead of PCs which have the big money tournaments attached to them. These are the kinds of social issues, issues of access and economics, that I want to tell about the esports community.”
Simon has been preparing to tell stories since she was in high school. At the ripe old age of 16 she started a blog, Box of Mess, where she produced content surrounding sports, entertainment, music and style. Her stories earned more than 1.5 million YouTube views and set her on the pathway to sports journalism. As an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, she juggled being a student-athlete while holding down internships within Kentucky’s Athletic Department, at Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal and more. Following graduation Simon worked at companies like Revolt TV, Cycle and as a freelance journalist. In August 2018 she co-launched Grass Routes Podcast with partner Brandon “Killa BH” Hall and landed her current position as the co-Host of Cheddar Esports in November 2018.
If it seems like that’s a lot to accomplish in a short 27 years on this earth, that’s because it is. But Simon’s not worn out; her passion for esports and storytelling drives her to work harder and tell more stories. “I remember being the kid who was afraid to tell people that I was a gamer because of the bullying and the stigma surrounding gaming. My family and I used to play sports and video games together so sports and esports are a huge part of who I am. This is a space that I genuinely love and am so knowledgeable about. So I’m grateful that there’s now a lane for me to share stories about what I love and do it from my unique perspective.”
For a woman of color to co-host a show on a live stream, post-cable network that garners 6.5 million views per month and is aired on SlingTV, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Philo, Twitter, Facebook Watch, Pluto, Xumo and more; is epic. While she is proud of her accomplishments and positioning within the industry, Simon wouldn’t dare allow you to think that she’s the only or one of few women and women of color who are pushing the industry forward.
“Although we might not be getting the publicity just yet. Women are heavily involved in esports. You have women like Johanna Faries, who spent 11-years at the NFL and then went on to become the Commissioner of Call of Duty Esports; and women like Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who is the CEO of Evil Geniuses. Women run support groups, are gamers, commentators and overall leaders in esports. I’m just one of a significant number and I promise you’ll start learning more about us as the industry grows.”
There’s no doubt that Simon will hold good on that promise. As long as she continues to add her spin of culture to esports, there’s no doubt that she will continue to garner interest and the support of fans (old and new) to the world of esports.