It is apparent that the esports industry has a significant problem when it comes to diversity in terms of gender and race, and very often, it seems as though not enough is being done to address these issues. This makes the work that Amber Howard is doing as the new head of talent at TalentX Gaming all the more exciting. In a recent interview with Forbes’ Aaron Eaton, Howard delves into her experience and efforts to further the cause of diversity in the gaming industry.
Howard got her start working in Talent Relations at NFL Media from 2009 to 2013, moving to serve as Senior Manager of Talent Relations at talent management juggernaut IMG through 2015. She found her way into esports first by moving to the Machinima, an online entertainment network that’s a subsidiary of Warner Media, while also working for Abrams Artists Agency. Howard was in charge of developing Abrams’ esports and gaming division. In May of this year, when ReKTGlobal and the influencer development company TalentX Entertainment partnered to create TalentX Gaming, Howard was more than qualified to take on the position of Head of Talent for the newly founded management company devoted to esports and gaming.
As a woman of color, Howard’s position in the industry is a bright spot with regards to diversity, serving as inspiration for aspiring professionals in gaming. Her eye for talent and commitment to what she calls a “creator first” model is encouraging as well. In her interview with Forbes, Howard talks about how “The goal is to have a diverse roster of talent […] I think what’s missing is for the rest of the industry to see gamers from this bird’s-eye view and not put gamers in a box.” A key part of what Howard has to say regarding not putting “gamers in a box” has to do with the varied talents and abilities of gamers: “Gamers are sneakerheads, they are fitness junkies, they are musicians, actors and hosts […] gaming talents aren’t just sitting there playing video games. They are editors, developers, musicians.” Her perspective of talent in the gaming industry is holistic and, ideally, when combined with her lived experience as a person of color, can and will lead to much-needed change in the industry.
Still, it’s important to understand that it is not Howard’s responsibility to solve the gaming industry’s diversity problems on her own. Her position is a testament to her qualifications and demographics aside, she serves as a role model due to her experience and perspective. When asked by Forbes, “What advice can you give to young women of color, more specifically Black women, trying to blaze their own path in this field, similar to what you’ve done?” Howard offers the sort of advice anyone can find useful: “I know it’s cliché, but not being afraid to fail, because you will fail. But that’s how you grow. It’s how you learn and it’s how you come back even stronger.”
Her advice about “not being afraid to fail” may be universal, but it’s important to realize that just as esports and the gaming industry has underserved women and people of color, this is the sort of advice that those very demographics need most. In a world where it can often seem that even having the freedom to fail can be a privilege, the idea of “not being afraid” is, in and of itself, an inspiration.