Interview

Addressing Gaming Toxicity: An Interview With Arkadium CEO Jessica Rovello

It is Time to Mitigate Toxicity within Gaming

By Amy Chen
Published September 13, 2019
Addressing Gaming Toxicity: An Interview Arkadium CEO Jessica Rovello
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Recently, Twitch streamer Cupcake received misogynistic remarks about her abilities as an Overwatch player. Cupcake then posted a clip of the Livestream on Twitter, which emphasized toxicity within parts of the gaming community.

Following the incident, Jessica Rovello, the CEO and co-founder of Arkadium has reached out to CGMagazine for a discussion on the steps the community and industry itself may take in order to improve the culture. 

Arkadium is a company that creates accessible and inclusive interactive content such as games and data visualization for websites like the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Washington Post, and USA Today.

CGMagazine: Why is it important to address this toxicity within the gaming community?

Jessica Rovello: This incident, and others like it, generate so much interest because they’re incredibly offensive, for one. But, more than that, they’re symptoms of a deep-seated and systemic problem. It’s no secret that sexism and misogyny are far too common within the gaming industry, despite the fact that most players today are women. The only way to address it, head-on, is to call it out when it happens and tie it back to the underlying causes. At the end of the day, none of these incidents occur in a vacuum. Everything is connected. 

CGM: Why is it important for the companies themselves to get involved, as well as increase the representation of women in gaming, especially at a time when esports is rising in popularity and as an industry as a whole? 

Jessica Rovello: Gaming companies need to be the first line of defence against sexism and misogyny, period. They can drive immediate change by calling out bad behaviour and banning bad actors. And those that don’t should be called out themselves. 

Most importantly, though, they can affect more systemic change by investing in the female gaming community. That means supporting women players, hiring more executives that are women, and building an inclusive workplace that gives them confidence that they can succeed. The latter piece is where Riot has struggled, for example, and why the walkout happened. Women are mindful of the industry’s reputation and need to be supported. 

At Arkadium, we’ve made diversity a focal point of our culture. We’re a proud female-led company. In fact, we recently polled women across our offices and found that 100% of them say they can see themselves advancing here. That’s a huge point of pride for us and our female employees are a core part of why we’re so successful today. 

CGM: In what ways can staff members of game development companies contribute to decreasing toxicity?

Hire women to ensure representation in the gaming experiences you’re developing. Then provide those women with the support they need to do the job well. 

Part of that is mentorship. Senior male team leaders can be allies by mentoring women they work with. Across industries, most men are just mentoring other men. It reinforces the status quo because these men then recommend other men for positions of power. Mentorship is a big part of supporting women and encouraging a more inclusive industry. 

It’s also important for team members to speak out against bad actors who are playing their games. It’s incredibly powerful when someone calls out behaviour as unacceptable. It makes it clear that it’s not okay and shouldn’t be tolerated.  

CGM: In what ways can the gaming community itself help prevent situations like this in the future?

Players within a particular gaming community should speak up if they notice someone is acting inappropriately. Online gaming is a community and one that players should feel safe and comfortable in. This responsibility is on both the gaming companies and the gaming communities themselves. It’s everyone’s right to relax with a game without fear of sexism, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make that happen. 

CGM: Arkadium has skill-based games that can be played competitively. As the CEO and co-founder, what inspired Arkadium to come about in the first place?

Arkadium is the brainchild of me and my husband Kenny, back when we were dating. In fact, we got the idea to start Arkadium over a competitive game of Miss Pac-Man.

That was back in 2001, so we’ve been around for nearly 20 years. We’ve created hundreds of products since then and worked on dozens of platforms and technologies, but our desire when we started and what continues to drive us today is to create games that people can love and play forever.  

CGM: How does Arkadium’s goal of accessibility, inclusivity, and user engagement relate to mitigating toxicity?  

Accessibility and inclusivity are the antidotes to online toxicity. By putting them at the center of what we do, we hope to lead by example and inspire other gaming companies to do the same. 

CGM: In what ways has Arkadium contributed to mitigating toxicity towards women in the past when it comes to gaming and esports?

Our greatest contribution is in who we are and how we show up every day. We are the only sizable games company that I know of that has a female CEO and a 50% female executive team. You can talk about gender equity or you can live it. We live it.  

CGM: What is next for Arkadium?

I think artificial intelligence will have an incredible impact on the casual gaming industry. It’s an area we’re investing in heavily and very excited about.