The video game industry spoke up against anti-Asian violence - some went further
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By Shannon Liao
In March, after a man in Georgia killed eight people at three spas, six of them Asian women, dozens of gaming companies responded with statements of solidarity with the Asian community. Some went further and made donations to charities and hosted internal employee support events.
The recent responses by companies in the video game industry mirror moves made in other industries, which have begun to address politics and social justice in their public relations and marketing. Some anonymous employees at video game companies who spoke with The Washington Post said they saw reflections of how companies had reacted to the murder of George Floyd last year. Public support for the Black Lives Matter movement helped companies respond faster to anti-Asian violence.
After recent waves of anti-Asian violence and racism, many gaming companies spoke out, and some planned events around May, which is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month.
Bandai Namco, a Japanese company with branches in the U.S. and Europe, was one of the first companies to respond with a statement. Denny Chiu, Bandai's director of communications, said that the company is diverse and the recent news "left us all shocked, dismayed, and saddened."
"The statement we shared on our social media channels was intended to offer support to the AAPI community, our players, and our employees," Chiu said. "We hope our statement inspires other game publishers and individuals alike to be aware of the plight being experienced by the AAPI community. Only by uniting and working together to fight racism and hate, can we stand a chance at building a better and brighter future for everyone."
Bandai declined to say if it had donated to charity, thrown any events or changed any company or game policies beyond its initial statement.
For the month of May, Twitch said it placed Asian and Pacific Islander creators on its front page, on Times Square billboard ads and on social media. It also partnered with Lions Share, a community and weekly podcast featuring artists from Asia and the Asian diaspora, for the three-day Lion Awards held in late May. The Lion Awards drew in 477,000 to 829,000 views a day, featuring Twitch streamers and various Asian celebrities.
The Lion Awards set an ambitious goal of raising $50,000 for the Hate is a Virus nonprofit, and so far has raised about $2,000. Cathleen Cher, co-founder of the Lion Awards, said they still have a few days left to the end of the month, and have asked a few companies to contribute as well.
With the Lion Awards, Cher said her organization was trying to strike more of a positive note after several months of holding tough conversations about race and violence.
"[I was] asked to do quite a lot this month in terms of diversity and inclusion initiatives within my company and I was on a podcast speaking about violence against Asian women, and things like that," Cher said. "We can talk all day about all of these issues and how we can improve, but it is quite emotionally exhausting for everyone at a certain point. Being able to celebrate how far we've come and how much talent exists in our community is also really important to do in times like these, when there is a lot of pain and suffering."
Niantic CEO John Hanke said in an April 2 blog post, "We will continue to fight racism, injustice, and white supremacy."
In the post, Hanke said Niantic is donating $1 million in total to organizations including Stop AAPI Hate, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, internal and external educational programs to "help people learn the history of communities of color in the U.S." and more. Part of the funds will also go toward matching employee donations that go toward AAPI support organizations.
Some companies have pledged to donate as well, but had fewer details to share.
The Pokémon Company, a Japanese company which has branches in the U.K. and the U.S., said on March 26 that it was donating $200,000 in total to "organizations working to bring awareness to this issue." The money went to Stop AAPI Hate, the nonprofit legal aid group Asian American Advancing Justice and the U.K.-based community interest company Southeast and East Asian Centre.
Sony, Bungie and Devolver Digital all publicly announced they would make donations, but Sony and Bungie did not respond to questions about the timing and amount of their donations. Devolver declined to comment on how much it donated to Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta and Red Canary Song. WarnerMedia, which owns Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, donated a total of $329,500 to organizations including the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and Asians Americans Advancing Justice, but did not share a breakdown of how individual game studios contributed.
An Electronic Arts employee, who is Asian American, said that when they saw anti-Asian racist attacks in the news, they "went through the range of emotions" before deciding they needed to take some action. An Asian-American employee at Twitch expressed similar sentiments.
"When the Atlanta shooting happened, that really affected me in a way that I hadn't anticipated," they said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. "I tend to be a pretty tough person. It's hard to make me cry. But I felt so paralyzed after that happened . . . my grandmother lives in Chinatown. It was a great concern to me."
Both employees chose to get more involved in company initiatives.
"We've done quite a few internal events for employees, we've hosted numerous healing circles, created various safe spaces for our communities to speak up and share the lived experiences," said the EA employee, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. "We even created a virtual vigil, which was to honor the victims and recent deaths within the Asian communities, and that was led by our executive team."
Electronic Arts donated $400,000 to organizations committed to stopping hate, including the nonprofit Ascend Impact Fund, dedicated to raising awareness of "the history and prevalence of anti-Asian racism," Chief People Officer Mala Singh said to The Post in a statement. EA joined Ascend as a repeat donor.
Singh said that EA is also offering to match employees' donations to charitable organizations supporting India's covid-19 health crisis.
"It isn't just simply donating capital and dollars but also donating time, skills within our workforce and resources," the anonymous EA employee added. "EA absolutely isn't perfect, but EA has taken a real 'learn as we go' mind-set. From the C suite to the senior leaders to the individual contributors, we've all taken an approach where we're all learning, staying open, and we're doing everything we can to educate each other."
"There's still a long road ahead, but we understand the responsibility that we have," they said.
The Washington Post