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Breaking Barriers in Gaming

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Kate Sȧnchez’s gaming community is changing the narrative in a male-dominated world

By Delilah Alvarado, Photography by Vince Neonash

Kate Sȧnchez on a Panel at PAX South 2020 and at the Borderlands 3 Launch Party

Kate Sȧnchez has been paving the way for women of color in gaming and all things geek for most of her life. 

“I’m a big geek,” Sȧnchez said. “I spent a lot of time with all my boy cousins growing up, and their favorite thing was Star Wars. My first console I owned was a PlayStation that my mom saved up all year to get me and I had three games. I had Crash Bandicoot and I had Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II. I’ve always loved these things and they’ve always really shaped who I am.” 

Sȧnchez has built a platform that brings women and people of color together over all things geek and pop culture. She and her husband started a podcast But Why Tho? in 2017 alongside her full-time job. They quickly expanded the next year with a website. The site is fully-funded by the couple and actively works with people from many backgrounds all around the country.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant but I found a community because I made a community,” Sȧnchez said. “Here [the site]it’s just about people being their authentic selves, talking together, playing games together, writing about things, getting each other’s input and learning from each other and that’s something that we really pride ourselves on.”

Sȧnchez and her husband had plans to cover upcoming gaming conventions including the PAX series which revolve around gaming culture involving tabletop, arcade and video gaming. Due to COVID-19, those plans had to be postponed. Sȧnchez continues to do game reviews and is starting a project where she will be doing a game show on Twitch. 

Kate Sȧnchez gaming community

She actively interacts within the community through social media and gaming platforms such as Twitch and Discord. While she discusses many aspects and topics, she also actively calls for equality within the community being a Mexican-American woman. Her place has always been in this space, yet she has always felt that her presence can go unnoticed in a community predominantly run by white men. 

“It’s hard,” Sȧnchez said. “I’m always in this space where I’m essentially policing myself when I interact with folks. I’m a Mexican-American but I’m also not white passing, so with that it carries its own little piece. And so it’s rough, because online where my ethnicity is hidden, I get flack for being a woman. But then when my ethnicity is shown on my Twitter profile, my social presence, in-person at conventions, It’s also very clear that while people are thinking about diversity they’re not thinking about me.”

An increase in women in gaming has been occurring, but there is still more room for growth. Thanks to conversations such as #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a call for more representation in the industry. Before COVID-19, Sȧnchez was able to discuss these issues at conventions. 

“A lot of the time brown and black women are just kind of left on the sidelines to push for ourselves,” Sȧnchez said. “A few weeks ago, I tweeted out ‘hey, we need to focus on the fact that brown and black women aren’t talking right now, you are really only listening to white women.’ And I got blocked by some fairly prominent names in the community. It puts you in this space where you feel like you can’t push back on issues. It puts you in this space where you worry about speaking out about things.” 

Sȧnchez has had to learn to maneuver her way through the industry. Pressing issues without tarnishing her name or her community. She has been advised to not be so outspoken about issues. But in no way has been silent. 

“I have to be confrontational,” Sȧnchez said. “Because I have to stand up for myself. And not only do I have to stand up for myself, but I have to stand up for my community because I’m not going to choose to be silent when people I care about or support are being hurt.” 

She chose to not be silent a year ago and has not had any regrets or struggles from it. Along with making sure her voice is heard, extra work to prove herself becomes a natural part of it. 

“If I want my work to get out there I have to hustle,” Sȧnchez said. “It’s hard because my husband has to sometimes tell me how much harder we’re working because I don’t really realize it. Because growing up Latina you understand that you’re gonna have to work harder. I don’t know what burnout is because I’m kind of always at that stage.” 

Her work however has not gone unnoticed. The connections she has made have further proved that her content is being seen, as many fans and other content creators reach out to her. 

“Over the two years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve gotten DMs, thanking me for either speaking up and out about issues or I’ve gotten DMs from people who are struggling with some of the issues that I struggle with and I write about,” Sȧnchez said. “And that honestly is the reward for me.” 

Her biggest inspiration has been her Grandpa, who only had a 1st-grade education, was a migrant farm worker, fought in World War II, and started a family.

“Nothing about my family’s life has been easy and they didn’t quit,” Sȧnchez said. “So, why am I going to quit when I’m doing this to play a video game? It’s all about perspective for me. I just have the blood in my veins, and the people who came before me that didn’t stop.”

Sȧnchez doesn’t plan on leaving the geek community anytime soon. Even with the pandemic she is hopeful for her site and what the future will hold. 

“I know that I belong here,” Sȧnchez said. “I just gotta make some other people realize it real quick. while it does get hard, when you realize that you’re turning your passions into work it is also really fulfilling when you meet people who connect with the words that you write. I’m here for the long haul.”

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