Gamer Dhayana Sena Never Thought She Could Turn Gaming Into a Career — Until She Did
POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of October to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent in the Web3 space throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here.
Being a woman in games can be a challenge. Being a woman of colour only adds to that challenge. So how have I, a South Asian woman, ended up where I am today as an award-winning influencer and diversity advocate in the Australian games industry? The answer is quite simple: by being driven, tenacious and adapting to change.
Growing up in the 90s, I dreamt of working in games and entertainment. However, given that none of my friends were gamers and I had not seen anyone like myself in games, I never thought it would be possible for someone like me.
It wasn’t until I met my partner, who introduced me to other female gamers who felt the way I did, that I realised that there was a disparity in genders within the gaming industry, and that gaming could be more than just a hobby.
Breaking Into the Gaming Industry
With a strong desire to change the status quo and given my background in public relations, I felt that the only way for me to break into gaming as a potential career was to try my hand at reviewing video games. Though living in New Zealand, where the gaming industry was small, I struggled to find local outlets that were open to content that catered to beginners, casual gamers, and women.
Refusing to accept defeat — and since I had a personal blog that featured my film, comic book and anime reviews — it felt only natural to publish my video game reviews on there. With live-streaming also growing in popularity at the time, I also added live-streaming gameplay sessions to my repertoire.
Through posting content, streaming consistently, and putting my publicity background to use, I built up a decent following which translated into an engaged community.
Wanting to Make a Difference
Interacting with gamers from around the world and learning of the struggles that women and minority groups faced due to the stereotypes of what being a gamer meant, I was determined to do more and be the representation for young girls that I never had growing up.
It was this fuel that led me to become New Zealand’s first female partnered streamer on Microsoft’s now-defunct streaming platform, Mixer. I also run Streaming 101 classes and girl gamer meetups, live-stream games for Microsoft as part of their Game Masters programme, and work with the Xbox Ambassadors to support new gamers through answering forum questions and hosting a weekly programme called ‘Rookie’s Run’ on the Xbox Ambassador’s Twitch channel.
My desire to help encourage more women and minority groups to feel comfortable pursuing their passions even led me to create the unofficial Women of Xbox community, which aims to support and empower female gamers.
The work I was doing to encourage more diversity in gaming through my streaming, community work, social media advocacy and running events led to me being the first in Australasia to be given the Xbox MVP award.
As the years went by, I realised I didn’t need to be employed by a gaming company to be ‘working’ in the gaming industry, and found that carving out my own path allowed me to do far more for the gaming community than I likely would have been able to as an employee.
Of course, carving out my own path was not without its challenges. Like many others in the gaming industry, particularly those from minority backgrounds, I too experienced harassment, setbacks and one of the toughest challenges of my gaming career, the closing down of Mixer, the streaming platform I’d built my own platform on.
The shutting down of Mixer was meant to be the end of my journey, but the passion I had for the community that I had long served, and the industry I had dreamed of working in was too strong to simply walk away from.
Through adapting my content from streaming and reviews to more social media content creation, I went from a partnered streamer to an influencer and diversity advocate, working with brands, organisations, and schools both locally and globally. Now, I highlight gaming, entertainment and technology products and services, run community events, and consult on diversity and inclusion issues.
Today, seven years after publishing my first video game review, my work has been featured in multiple publications and I have been honoured with awards for my contributions in gaming. While I have not yet achieved my goal to see the gaming industry be truly inclusive, I am glad to see the industry changing for the better. I am grateful for the work I have been able to do, especially given that once, I never thought any of this was possible.