Plenty of people in the worlds of esports and broadcasting wear different hats. It’s not that the jobs they’re involved in don’t keep them busy, but there’s something about the environment of that industry that attracts those who want to get involved in more than just esports. Maybe that’s why it’s a place where Erin Ashley Simon — a journalist turned part-owner of XSET, broadcaster, Twitch streamer, and online personality — thrives. Never one to slow down, Simon has done work for Call of Duty League, ESPN, and recently was a personality at the Crown Crossover.
“I was on episode three and I was with Chase B and it was really fun in the sense that whenever there’s gaming and events and initiatives, we don’t always get the opportunity to just game and chill and have a good time,” Simon told Uproxx about the Crown Crossover. “And have really, really unique and conversations [and] pretty much touching all the spectrums and especially for me, being a broadcaster, I don’t always get an opportunity to have something be so relaxing and fun.”
The Crown Crossover – Music, Gaming and Culture Series was a six-episode collection of streams on the official Crown Royal Facebook page, featuring musical artists like Quinn XCII, Joey Bada$$, and Chase B playing NBA 2K. Each artist connected with and competed against top gamers, including Simon, iPodKingCarter, Aerial Powers, and Mike LaBelle. It was something we’re starting to see more and more of as time goes on. Not only is the old stereotype of video games being a niche hobby for children going away, but it’s being replaced with massive cultural crossovers. For some this might be a surprise, but Simon thought it was an inevitability.
“I’ve always kind of knew that this was going to happen.” Simon said. “Because if you take a look for example, right, let’s just take a look at NBA 2K. The fact that they even had Allen Iverson on the cover, I believe, more than once — I think maybe two or three times — and he was someone who was very much changing the culture of basketball, everything from its style to its aesthetic and everything, the way that he played. The fact that they took it upon themselves to put him on the cover, that was a culture intersection and moment. … It was already coming and swirling together. Some of the biggest and best soundtracks came from video games. Producers, whether it’s Just Blaze or whether it’s Yuzo Koshiro, who’s a notable Japanese music composer. You can see the influence that was mixing between the techno scene that came from Detroit and then hip hop, and then electronic beats that were made from composers over there. This was already mixing and happening. I just think that we, as pop culture, entertainment, and gaming, we stopped trying to confine things into a box and just allowed for these intersectional moments to happen.”
We’re seeing more of these crossovers that Simon is talking about happen everywhere. Just look at Fortnite. They’ve hosted virtual concerts for Travis Scott and Ariana Grande. The developer of Fortnite, Epic Games, is partnering with Radiohead to host a PlayStation and Epic Games Store exclusive exhibition of Kid A Mnesia. They’re not just playing games and involving themselves within them just because it sounds fun. They’re doing it because games are where the culture is.
However, as video games continue to grow and change so does that culture. This is a culture that not long ago was associated with people living in their parent’s basement. That was always an unfair assessment of people who play games, but it’s an example of how quickly the culture around games has changed. Now, more than ever, people are rushing to be a part of them. They want to be a part of the culture. So how can games adapt alongside the influx of people joining the culture? Simon has a few ideas how.
“I obviously would love to see more diverse and inclusive matters within the gaming world.” Simon said. “Not just when it comes to the representation of people but just like for example, we started to see artists having music videos in games or, you know, crazy activations and concerts. I like to see gaming being pushed more in terms of how it can be utilized and what it can do and then another thing I want to see too is I want to see gaming publishers help to redefine what gaming is. We’re starting to see that little bit with some of the gaming streaming series. That are coming out whether it’s on Netflix or other platforms. [New] movies are coming out and so, the one thing I’m really happy about now is, unlike the 90s when we had some really horrible video game adaptation, the entertainment space has more people who are gamers, who understand gaming, so they’re handling it more properly. And so I want that to be pushed even more and I think, you know, gaming is a social platform and they can be utilized in so many different shapes and forms, and we’ve seen that with various different games, but I feel like we’re just touching that. We’re just on the surface of it. We’re not within the depths of how far and how big and how far-reaching it can actually get.”
As games continue to grow they’re only going to continue going in the direction that Simon is talking about. Whenever something gets as big as video games have become it’s almost forced to change. That’s because we’re well past the point of a “gamer” is a specific kind of person. Everyone plays games whether it’s the latest AAA release, the newest Madden, or the apps on your phone right now. Video games are culture and they’re here to stay.
“We have other passions, you have other interests and I think that the more that we’re able to show those different intersectional conversations and passions the more that gaming is going to be progressing.” Simon said. “And then the more that we’re going to change the viewpoint of gaming. I think that people don’t realize, there are doctors and scientists who are gamers. There are teachers who are gamers. There are celebrities who are gamers, right? It’s not just one way. There’s men, women, non-binary, transgender, young, old. From the U.S. to Latin America, from overseas. There’s not one way of being a gamer and there’s not one look to being a gamer. And there’s not one way of enjoying gaming.”