Level Up! provides safe space for all diversities in gaming

Megan Behnke, News Writer

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The UW Oshkosh Women’s Center is providing a safe space for women and minority gamers with the weekly Level Up! event held every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.

Women’s Center Program Assistant and Level Up! founder Eliza Farrow said they have always been interested in video games, and it’s something people don’t look at as critically as other media.

“When Alicia Johnson came on board as director, she really pushed me to make commitments to helping out and learning about media literacy, diversity, representation, community,” Farrow said.

UWO psychology major and Level Up! intern Mckayla Zellmer said there’s never a shortage of topics, and the discussion always goes until the end.

“There’s plenty of content that people don’t think of until you’re sitting there,” Zellmer said.

Farrow said the students are very engaged in the discussions.

“A lot of people really look forward to it every week because it’s a place they can come and feel safe and talk about something they like,” Farrow said. “It builds numbers in terms of people coming.”

UWO women and gender studies major Zach Simonson said this wasn’t his first time attending and explained why he keeps coming back to Level Up!

“The first time, I actually interned at the Women’s Center to help run this,” Simonson said. “I heard about it with my friend, and they said it was really good. It talked about stuff you don’t normally hear about in gaming.”

Farrow said the center always wants to educate and reach out to as many people as possible.

“The goal is to shift the culture and you can’t do that with just a few people,” Farrow said. “That’s why we tell people to go out and talk about what they learned to their family and friends.”

UWO anthropology major and Level Up! intern Samantha Moore said she wanted to make an impact when she became an intern.

“I feel like it’s impacted me so much, and I wanted to help impact other people,” Moore said. “It’s a way for me to do that, and I can also get that experience and contribute.”

Zellmer said it’s important to discuss topics like online toxicity, gender roles and gender identity because there is under-representation in video games.

“Bringing more light to the lack of diversity and showing that it’s not that there’s a lack of people in these groups playing the games, it’s that there’s a lack of representation of those people in these games.” Zellmer said.

Simonson said Level Up! goes into topics that people don’t often care about in games.

“Capitalism in this one,” Simonson said. “Accessibility is another one, portrayals of body types. It’s a lot of different things that a lot of people don’t know what to think about in gaming. It makes for a really interesting conversation when you look at it. We all come in and talk about it together.”

Farrow said it’s important to talk about topics that include representation because the media we consume has real-world impacts.

“All our media influences us in some ways,” Farrow said. “It’s really important to take a look and see what video games are saying, and what are they teaching us. If we’re not careful and we’re not actively thinking about it, what are we consuming?”

Moore said there is so much pushback when it comes to representation in video games.

“I think it’s really important to make a safe space for people to express these feelings and analyze this without fearing the repercussions.”