“Tom Cannon is a StarCraft player. He is also black. And in the hypercompetitive eSports scene, those two things just don’t go well together.
Getting into competitive gaming isn’t easy for anyone. Most professional gamers play their game of choice as a full-time job and put an incredible number of hours into mastering their craft. In many cases, the types of games they play — StarCraft 2, League of Legends, etc. — aren’t even easy to begin. They have steep learning curves, with huge bodies of required knowledge and existing players that have been learning and improving for years.
For Cannon, there was one more barrier to entry.
“When you look at the crowd … it’s literally like … find the black person. It’s all Korean people from Korea, or Asian-Americans, or Caucasians — almost 100%,” says Cannon. “And it’s a little bit intimidating to think OK, I’m going to go in here, and like, be a part of this thing, when there’s nobody who looks like me in this scene.”
A look through the rosters of North America’s professional StarCraft teams confirms Cannon’s story. He usually is the only black person in the room at the tournaments.
This lack of diversity is not uncommon in eSports. In North America, the League of Legends professional scene is completely dominated by Asian-Americans and Caucasians, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a black or Latino face in the ranks of the teams present at League of Legends‘ North American Regionals.
Clearly, eSports in general has a diversity problem, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause of it is. One answer might be found by looking at a very different kind of competitive gaming — one that, seemingly against all logic, seems to have cracked the problem of racial diversity…”