INTERVIEW: Uplifting Women Gamers with Heather Ouida of the*gameHERs

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PAX, as a convention, has been working to create an inclusive community. The convention has areas like the Diversity Lounge – a space for groups focused on empowering marginalized communities and bringing them together during the show. There’s the AFK room, which provides a silent space for those who feel overstimulated at the convention to seek safety in the quiet. And, this year, there was the LatinX Lounge. It’s no wonder that PAX is attracting more organizations focused on empowering those in the industry that have been overlooked. This is exactly what The gameHERs (pronounced “gamers;” stylized the*gameHERs) is doing, and with PAX South 2020 as their first convention, we got the chance to sit down with one of the founders, Heather Ouida, to discuss their cause and their platform which launches in March.

The*gameHERs is a virtual and in-person community that connects all women gamers as well as those who identify as female, non-binary, and their allies. They aim to be a space for the casual players, the hardcore gamers, the techies, the streamers, the designers, the cosplayers, the developers, and the programmers alike to advance the role, voice, image, and power of all gameHERs in the gaming world. During the interview, Ouida explained how they chose their areas of focus as a community.

Laura Deutsch and Heather Ouida at PAX South 2020

For the writing component of their site, the GameHERs aim to provide a platform that women gamers can use to tell their stories of empowerment, success, and just how gaming works within their lives. Instead of focussing on just the toxicity that women often face in the industry – something I know all too well – the GameHERS aim to showcase how games fit into our lives. The platform will showcase women, their favorite games, and their stories of why gaming is important in their lives. Additionally, the website will feature how women have used gaming to pull through some of the harder times in their life. Naturally, issues of toxicity will be touched on, but instead of being the focus, the*gameHERs aims to allow women to control their own narratives, showcasing what is important to each writer individually and allowing tough conversations to be approached organically.

Additionally, the GameHERs will be building out in-person meet-ups at conventions and throughout the year to bring the community together. From happy hours to convention meet-ups, Ouida explained that they’re looking at what the community wants and figuring out how to bring those requests to fruition. While the founders are not gamers themselves, they’ve spoken extensively to women in gaming, from tech employees, developers, and voice actresses to existing community leaders like the site runners of Black Girl Gamers. By doing this, the GameHERs have been able to find their mission, not competing with existing movements focused on bringing women together in the space, but by uplifting them, using their site as a platform to connect women with existing communities while pulling everyone together in theirs.

Speaking with Ouida was a joy, equaled by the strength and importance of her mission as one of the*gameHERs’ founders. Gaming can be scary sometimes, especially when you’re a woman, but with organizations like theirs bringing us together, the future is bright.

For the full interview, and to learn more about the*gameHERs in Ouida’s own words, click play on the audio above.

To stay up to date with the*gamHERs and their mission, make sure to follow them on social media at @thegamehers, as well as their website thegamehers.com.