Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are at the centre of this women-led gaming community

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are at the centre of this women-led gaming community

Written by: Yasmin Aboelsaud

Originally posted on March 22, 2022


“I love thinking about the legacy that we are leaving, and being part of a really huge movement”

Before it was officially called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” Verta Maloney was involved in what was then known as “diversity training.” The 50-year-old New Yorker was always involved with student activism groups during her youth, which eventually paved the way to her future work in creating anti-racist and anti-oppressive spaces for individuals.

“I feel like I have had so many different careers in this short lifetime I’ve had so far,” Verta said.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the centre of this women-led gaming community

She was a teacher, then a principal, then she worked to train principals for a while before working in non-profit. Eventually, she began consulting around equity, “generally I use the term anti-racism, anti-oppression because that’s the goal. And that path led me to be one of the founders of the*gameHERs.”

Founded by Heather Ouida, Rebecca Dixon, Laura Deutsch, and Verta, the*gameHERs is a community “where women and folks of marginalized genders connect over their shared love of gaming.” Since it began, the women-led community has worked to amplify and centre the voices of women, femme-identifying gamers and non-binary gamers.

And it is a community that has over 500,000 followers and members across different platforms.

“We’re growing,” Verta said. “I feel like we’re small and mighty, and steadily just seeing an increase of our community, and the engagement has been amazing.”

Besides being a platform for the gaming community, the*gameHERs offers a Collegiate and The*gameHERs Awards. The collegiate space allows the organization to work with colleges and universities “to support and attract more women and femme identifying gamers to their esports and gaming programs.” It also provides connections and opportunities for those interested in a career in gaming. As for the Awards, it is the only awards show in gaming by women, for women. It honours and celebrates women in gaming.

While she is an active part of the gaming community, Verta only considered herself a gamer in the last three years.

If you would have asked me three years ago if I would ever be founding a company that focuses on gaming, I would have been like "that's not even possible"


“The term ‘gamers’ feels relatively new to me, in some ways I think it prevents people from just acknowledging something they just like to do,” she said. “Being a gamer is just part of your life.”

For Verta, growing up, she and her family loved playing board games.

"Video games are just one kind of game, and I think ‘gamer; can be broader than that in a sense,” she said, adding that she only began streaming two years ago, after founding  the*gameHERs.

If you would have asked me three years ago if I would ever be founding a company that focuses on gaming, I would have been like ‘that’s not even possible’,” she laughed.

Verta said she’s still learning the technology of streaming, but it’s something she likes to have fun with. “I’ve been enjoying it,” she said.

And for those who know Verta, her motto in life is “all love, with an appropriate dose of rage”, and she tries to channel that daily and during her streams.

"I love people. I love justice. I love gaming, but then there are things that just make me angry about what’s happening in the world, and what’s happening in the spaces that I love, so I try to appropriately mash that up,” she said.  

Within the gaming world, Verta has found inspiration in women that experience negativity but continue to navigate the space.

“Gaming is supposed to be fun,” she said. “When it was created, there was no identity attached to it. You’re behind a screen, gender doesn’t play a factor, yet it still has mimicked the larger world creating inequities. That is surprising to me.”

She spoke of the inequity in gaming, the pay gap, inequity in career opportunities, as well as prize pool money for tournaments.

But in her community, she is seeing positivity.

“I am so inspired by women who would experience some of the most vicious things, but staying committed to gaming and finding their own communities within the space to stay connected and uplifted.”

One of the changes Verta is seeing is that women and those marginalized are creating their own spaces, and “not waiting anymore.”

“There are pockets of men in industry that do want to see change, but it’s not at the speed that we need,” she said. “Which is why organizations like the*gameHERs exist. We’re making it happen for ourselves. And what I love about it is how we can collaborate and do something in the space together.”

Looking at history, Verta spoke about how long it took a woman to become Vice President in the USA. “That journey is what, over 200 years?”

She said conversations in the gaming space need to turn into action, which means there has to be more money put behind it.

“It’s the big companies that have hundreds of billions of dollars to spend putting large chunks of money behind this happening: behind supporting indie game devs and studios, behind supporting tournaments that are being created in more inclusive ways, behind actually taking prize money away from people that are harassers. We have an opportunity, if we lean in and we do it in the next five to seven years,” she said.

“If not, if those types of things don’t happen, then it will be left to women, left to the marginalized groups to continue to pave the way. And it will happen, it will just take longer because that’s the smaller group, and money matters.”

But Verta is hopeful. She has hope in people in the gaming community.

“My hope is in people, and not in an industry. I think there are people doing phenomenal, amazing things - very specifically women and other marginalized groups,” said Verta. “It is important that there are so many amazing humans that have been warriors to this cause, without them we wouldn’t even be here. And I am so grateful to be a part of that story.

She said she is grateful the*gameHERs is part of that narrative.

One of Verta’s favourite questions is “what kind of ancestor will you be?”

“I love thinking about the legacy that we are leaving, and being part of a really huge movement,” she said, adding that in 15 years, “We will all sit back and think ‘oh my God, do you remember when…?”

“I’m looking forward to that.”

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Written By

Yasmin Aboelsaud

Writer for Paidia Gaming