Ghana gaming collective offers haven from abuse

STORY: Behind a keypad-locked door, Annabel Ashalley-Anthony is taking on her brother Alan in Mortal Kombat.

That is, of course, the video game.

This is Melanin Gamers.

It's a collective dedicated to offering a safe space to online gamers regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

It was set up by British-Ghanian gamer Ashalley-Anthony and her two brothers after Alan was harassed online because of the color of his skin.

"Why is it always like, 'Oh, someone's saying something, better mute your mic'? 'Do this, do this, do that. Don't stream with a camera on so no one knows.' All of these things are things the victim has to do because of the bully. And I'm like, 'Well, get rid of the bully!'" The bully is the problem, so why is the victim bending over backwards doing all this stuff?"

Melanin Gamers has since accrued more than 4,000 members worldwide.

It has hosted tournaments sponsored by industry giants like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft.

One member is Ritalucia Henry-Andoh.

By streaming and commentating on video games, she makes around $100 per month - and aims to make it her full-time job by the end of the year.

"I want to say that gaming is for everyone. It's not just for the cis white man any more. It's not. It's for everyone as it always has been, as it was intended. And I think we should do more to be kinder as a community. Just be kinder."

Henry-Andoh hosted her own global tournament last month.

She says when she encounters bigotry she will try to educate, but also won't hesitate to kick people out.

"Because the space is for me and my people. And if my own people don't feel safe in there and I don't feel safe in there, what am I even doing with my time?"

Less than 4.5% of the world's gamers lived in sub-Saharan Africa last year, market data from Statista has shown.

But cheaper data costs could help the market grow, and Ghana is one of the countries leading the way.

According to Esports analytics company Newzoo, the West African country had the continent's second highest per-capita gaming population in 2021: 27% of citizens actively playing.

Under the neon lights of Melanin Gamers, they can do so safe from abuse.