The gaming industry and community consists of a diverse group of individuals of various genders and races, from all walks of life. However, the industry fails to adequately represent and reflect this complex mosaic. Erin Ashley Simon—Chief Culture Officer of XSET, the world's fastest-growing gaming lifestyle organization—is actively working to change that. She's implementing a myriad of initiatives to level the playing field and diversify the gaming industry.
Growing up, Simon’s family of game enthusiasts owned a number of different consoles. She played her first video game, Sonic the Hedgehog, on Sega Genesis, when she was just 3-years -old and has been hooked ever since. Once she reached high school, she started to connect with gaming communities around the world via Xbox Live, playing games like Halo 2, Halo 3 and Gears of War.
“In college, I combined my love for gaming and esports with journalism,” shares Simon. “As an adult, I became a multimedia personality, host, producer and consultant in esports, gaming and entertainment. My love and passion for each of these areas has shaped who I am today—pushing the culture forward while breaking barriers as an Afro-Latina woman in the industry. I have worked with leading organizations to provide more industry-focused opportunities for those from underserved, underrepresented and marginalized communities, and I am continuing to do this work as XSET’s Chief Culture Officer.”
Simon explains that while there are millions of Black gamers, they’re oftentimes not given the opportunity to become faces of the gaming industry or community. This is a discouraging barrier to access that she is breaking down in her current role. The company is actively focusing on overlooked communities in gaming, including women and Black people, to foster inclusivity in the gaming world.
“We hope to open up competition for these groups to further help create revenue streams, which is positive for everyone in the space, despite their backgrounds,” says Simon. “XSET was built to champion the principles of social good and inclusivity. Our team is on a mission to redefine what it means to be a gamer.”
To accomplish this, the brand creates content via online experiences and in-person events and offers unique merchandise featuring high-profile collaborations and exclusive pieces. The organization prides itself on its innovative and diverse talent.
Having recently acquired the women-led gaming lifestyle company Queens Gaming Collective, the gaming company has added a talented group of women gamers to its roster that includes Black gamers Alexis Jones, Avagg, BlackKrystel, Coco & Breezy and more.
“We are a diverse company, from our investor base, board and employees to our talent. However, we’ve always wanted to increase our number of women content creators," explains Simon. "Now that we’ve done just that, our goal is to find more opportunities for these ladies, inspire even more women gamers and advocate for them, while truly leveling the playing field.”
In the past year, the company also launched its Black Xcellence program, for which Black gamers submitted short videos via social media showcasing what their own gaming lifestyle brand would look and sound like.
“While it was incredibly difficult to do, we chose three to participate in the program,” says Simon. “This month, they’ll fly to our studio in L.A. for a workshop to develop their own brand and design, produce, market and sell an apparel capsule, of which XSET keeps none of the profits.”
Through initiatives like this, Simon hopes to continue promoting voices of underrepresented gamers and creators within the gaming industry.