@cypheroftyr has no idea we are posting about her today so keep it on the low.
This truly lovely and revolutionary blerdgirl would never brag on herself, so in case you have no idea who she is, here’s what matters.
@cypheroftyr is a secret superhero. She has been tweeting since 2008 and serves as a @GaymerX diversity liaison, EIC of @OutofTokensCast, and co-host at @ChromaticLifeFM.
Her superpower is unity.
She created #INeedDiverseGames as a simple and effective way to draw marginalized folks into the gaming spotlight and lovingly dismantle the hilarious stagnation that seeks to keep gaming culture frozen in time like some weird-ass, eccentric billionaire in a cryo-coffin.
Q: How badass is that? A: ALL OF THE BADDEST & ALL OF THE ASSEST.
When we last tuned in, our shero found herself suddenly liberated from her soul-sucking income situation. Though by night she engages in her fight against tyranny, hate, and boredom, she is, at present, still forced to support her food-and-shelter habit. Those secret lairs and mild-mannered workaday identities are not cheap to upkeep, yo.
So we at Dark Matters beseech you: rush to the aid of our hero @cypheroftyr in this hour of seeming doom. Help unchain her from that ever-menacing Kryptonite we know as rent and groceries and such so she has a minute to make #INeedDiverseGames an ongoing concern. Join her fight for justice in gaming diversity.
Our Shero’s Patreon Page: LOCATED RIGHT HERE
Dark Matters: Which came first? Out of Tokens or INeedDiverseGames?
Tanya: #INeedDiverseGames started October 2014 and Fresh Out of Tokens came in June 2015. I’d been talking about starting a podcast for a while, and then I was going to chat up Chris Algoo about Brooklyn Gamery and it came together to be our first episode.
Dark Matters: Was that your first foray into podcasting?
Tanya: Of doing a podcast? Definitely never thought about it till I was on some podcasts and thought: This is pretty cool, I’d like to do this too.
Dark Matters: What podcasts were you doing and what were you talking about?
Tanya: I was on @thenerdsofcolor, @spawnonme, @justicepoints, @lessthanorequal, and a few others to talk up #INeedDiverseGames, convention talks—what I was trying to do with the organization and community that was growing from the hashtag.
Dark Matters: At what age did you take an interest in games?
Tanya: Pre-teens—we were poor though, so I didn’t get my own console until I was grown—spent time with friends and their consoles. Also arcades. I grew up on quarters and a lot of weekends spent trying to master things like Excite Bike, Pacman, Street Fighter.
Dark Matters: What was the first game you purchased for your very own? And what was your first console?
Tanya: Oh wow…for my own—that’s a reach back in the memory crates. Probably Super Mario Brothers. And first console: SNES.
Dark Matters: Were you always into nerdy genres growing up? Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.?
Tanya: Oh yes, grew up on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, fantasy & sci fi books.
Not really into horror much.
Dark Matters: When did those experiences start to overlap with a consciousness about representation?
Tanya: Mmm, that’s hard to say. It’s probably in my late teens/early twenties. Wokeness came with young adulthood.
Dark Matters: How did you get involved in social media? Both in general and specific to gaming.
Tanya: As for general social media stuff, I started on Twitter in ’08. Livejournal about 15 years ago…no, 16. I started a blog to chronicle my year studying in Japan.
As for the gaming stuff, that hashtag going buck wild and trending is what really got me more into the gaming side of social media. I was (and probably still am) a lazy tweeter. Before #INeedDiverseGames, I would use my Twitter account annually during WisCon and maybe if something caught my interest. Now it’s part of the daily work.
Dark Matters: What were you doing in Japan, pray tell?
Tanya: Studying Japanese history, culture, and language. I was a Japanese studies/Communications dual major for a while in UG.
Dark Matters: WOW. Did that ever overlap into your interest in games?
Tanya: Not really, unless you count really being into Final Fantasy games when I was younger. I have most of them from FFVII through FFXIII.
Dark Matters: Tell us about developing a consciousness about representation in games.
Tanya: LIVEJOURNAL! My gateway drug into fandom culture. I miss it still. And at some point when I was really into Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Realizing we only got a black dude who was a boxer, a blatant rip off of Tyson, but still. Granted fighting games aren’t the best place to look for good representation, but it’s what caught my interest and made me think. Same with Jax in Mortal Kombat.
There was also Barrett from FFVII. Like on the one hand he’s a loving dad, which we didn’t see a lot of in games, let alone from a black dude—but omfg he was like the stereotype of stereotypes, ya know?
Dark Matters: What inspired you to bring the quest for representation to social media?
Tanya: I was legit irritated around five-something in the morning about the old thing going on around Ubisoft’s declaration that they couldn’t animate women in Assassin’s Creed—and then the whole inches from having playable women in Far Cry 4.
It was like I was fed up and that popped off in a few tweets, and—well, here we are.
Dark Matters: Do you ever get harassed online about the work you do?
Tanya: Sometimes, I get a few randos that slip by the block filters and right now I’m blocking over 100K accounts due to using block lists. If I didn’t? I couldn’t be on Twitter. My mentions were an effin mess for a couple hours before I got those block lists going. If I go directly to the tag I’ll see some of what is normally filtered out by blocking tools. That’s one area (of many) where Twitter fails its users in terms of protecting them from harassment.
The resistance to representation seems not just wrong-headed but futile. The rise of representation seems so slow but feels inevitable.
Dark Mattera: Tell us what’s next for you. And how did you connect with Gaymer?
Tanya: What’s next is more writing, boosting folks who may not otherwise get noticed. Especially our POC streaming folks. So many great streamers of color I know and follow but when we see things like Twitch meet-ups—TwitchCon—the majority of featured streamers are white dudes and occasionally a few white women, which fits beauty standards.
As for how I got with GX, I think Toni and Matt noticed #INeedDiverseGames, and we got to talking and I may have offered to help out. It was cool to do so and I got to use the knowledge I’ve gained working on other conventions to work for GX. Looking forward to how we can improve the diversity for next convention already.
Dark Matters: Let’s talk about the event you just participated in. How did you get connected with it, who threw it and what was the official name and theme? Did you jump up and down and squee like we did???
Tanya: (Laughing) I was approached by a faculty member at my prior university. She knew me via Carly Kocurek (@sparklebliss) and my work on diversity in gaming. I was totally stunned, like: uh sure, I can do that.
Even better news was that Microsoft footed the bill because I couldn’t have gone otherwise. But, I did and it didn’t seem quite real till I got there. I was super nervous and had a bit of imposter syndrome as well because so many known people were there.
Dark Matters: We were fangirling you totally. You BELONGED there. A sign you are headed where you oughta be for sure. Were you on a panel?
Tanya: We did mini talks and then a Q&A. (Click HERE to check out the recap of the panel “Harassment, Threats and Trolling Online.”)
Dark Matters: How did Microsoft do addressing harassment and other issues, in your opinion as far as this event went?
Tanya: Having the panel itself was a step in the right direction.
Dark Matters: How is the mainstream media doing, presenting online stalking and harassment as an ongoing issue? I feel like a lot of us barely hear about the reality of it.
Tanya: Mainstream media isn’t doing shit unless it’s a white woman being harassed or some new, hot, at-the-moment celebrity being harassed. It’s failing.
Dark Matters: Did you feel you took home anything from experiencing the presentations there? If so, what stuck with you as the most significant?
Tanya: Oh yeah, I learned about machine learning, Google Deep Dream—learned so much from the presenters. I had a chance to meet people that I normally wouldn’t ever come in contact with in everyday interactions. I made some great connections. Got a chance to chat with Anita Sarkeesian, and she’s pretty damn amazing. Funny, charming, smart as hell.
And so we leave our shero to her continuing adventures with a wave bye-bye and a heartfelt holler of, “Thank you, Queen! Be seeing you!!” Because we just feel that lucky.