Meet Paidia, the company making gaming inclusive
The newly-launched platform provides a place where women gamers and allies can play, create content and build community.
Inclusion, integration, diversity, kindness — these are the values Paidia, a recently launched videogame platform that centres women and allies, and its members, hold with the goal of creating a brighter future for gaming. The values are more than just talk; by taking the “Paidia Pledge,” players denounce any sort of online harassment, including behaviours that have become synonymous with the industry, such as racism, sexism, queerphobia and ableism.
“One in three people game and nearly half of all gamers are women, yet 77% of women report being harassed,” explains Jill Kenney, Paidia co-founder and CEO. “We wanted to build a brand from the ground up that focused on women, [though] it’s for both women and allies, so men can 100% join as well. They just have to put their hand up and say, ‘Hey, I agree to be supportive and inclusive and kind.’”
Sexism in gaming is nothing new and takes place in both the workplace and on gaming platforms. Most people will likely be familiar with Gamergate, the campaign that began in 2014 that centred around sexism and anti-progressivism in the gaming industry. The campaign targeted women game developers and one feminist media critic, in particular, with behaviours ranging from threats of rape and death to doxing.
In addition to harassment occurring on platforms, which has been common since at least 2007, the industry itself has also faced several allegations of sexual assault and harassment from women developers, yet there has yet to be a full #MeToo-like reckoning.
Named after the Greek goddess of play and amusement, Paidia boasts a diverse team of women, most of whom are gamers themselves, that seek to empower women and allies of all genders to “Connect, Learn, and Play.” While they are located across the globe, many have local ties to Vancouver. For example, Vancouver-based Julia Becker is a strategic advisor and Jonathan Bixby, a co-founder and board member, also has strong Vancouver entrepreneurial roots.
Using Vancouver as an informal home base allows Paidia to leverage the city’s burgeoning tech and esports ecosystems while building on the legacy of EA Sports, which has been in the Lower Mainland since 1991.
Video games weren’t always gendered and full of trolls. The 1970s sought to market the same games to adults and children, as evidenced with Pong and Tapper. However, the industry fell into a recession in the early 80s and came to terms with the now basic idea that you can’t be something to everyone, which resulted in video games becoming “for boys,” a trend that persisted into the 2000s with the Game Boy SP and the marketing campaign that the device was “for men.”
Throughout the 80s, despite the shift in marketing towards boys, research consistently found that women gamers, or “girl gamers” as they’ve also been known as, made up between 20-30% of all gamers, illustrating that despite efforts to gender gaming, women have always shown interest in the industry.
Other gendered issues outside marketing towards boys have created barriers for higher uptake by women, including overly sexualized female characters, a lack of female protagonists and the requirement to communicate with strangers online.
As a platform, Paidia provides a place where women gamers and allies can create content, participate in gameplay or tournaments and build community with like-minded people. At present, the platform is in Beta which includes: a library of games for Paidia users to host and play tournaments; a variety of original content and media experiences including on-demand classes taught by industry leaders, written editorial content and audio content — all created to help gamers discover and advance respective interests and expertise; and accessibility to new technology through exclusive partner collaborations, such as select Razer Customs gear and Xbox Game Pass for PC.
In addition, Paidia has launched a podcast, The Move Makers Podcast, Razer skins, and Paidia merch, and is looking to enter the streaming world by the end of 2021.
As for what’s next, Kenney says that the company is seeking new investors, but current ones are continually surprised by the statistics related to the number of women gamers, particularly when juxtaposed to those on harassment. “So far, everyone really sees the need and the importance of what we're doing.”