The UK-Ghanaian gaming collective offers a safe haven for gamers of diversity

ACCRA : Behind a keyboard-locked door in Ghana’s capital Accra was a neon-lit hall of flickering processors, clicking keyboards and excited voices. The young crowd erupted as brother beat sister in a hard fought but cheerful round of Mortal Kombat.

British-Ghanaian gamer Annabel Ashallay-Anthony smiled at her brother Adam after the tournament match at a gaming hub organized by Melanin Gamers, a collective she hopes will change the gaming landscape.

Four years ago, Ashallay-Anthony and her two brothers formed a crew of video game enthusiasts dedicated to providing a safe space for online gamers of diverse ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities.

Melanin Gamers has since grown to more than 4,000 members worldwide and hosted tournaments sponsored by industry giants like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft.

After her brother Alan was harassed online because of the color of his skin, Ashallay-Anthony made it her mission to build a community where people can play together, away from the racism, misogyny, and homophobia sometimes associated with online gaming.

“Why is it always like, ‘Oh, someone’s saying something, you better mute your mic’? ‘Turn off your camera so nobody notices,'” she said.

“All of these things are things that the victim has to do because of the bully. So I thought why not get rid of the bully?”

Less than 4.5 percent of the world’s gamers lived in sub-Saharan Africa last year, according to Statista market data. But lower data costs could help the market grow 12 percent annually through 2026, according to research firm Mordor Intelligence.

Ghana is one of the leading countries. The West African nation had the continent’s second-highest gaming population per capita as of 2021, with 27 percent of citizens actively gaming, according to leading esports analyst Newzoo.

The country’s only two gaming hubs opened last year due to this surge in popularity, each serving as tournament and meeting venues for some Melanin Gamers events.

Showing Ghanaians that there are viable career options in gaming is as much a part of Melanin Gamers’ mission as anything else, said British-born Ashallay-Anthony.

One member doing just that is Ghanaian-Nigerian streamer Ritalucia Henry-Andoh. She makes about $100 a month streaming and commentating on video games and hopes to make this her full-time job by the end of the year.

Last month she hosted her own tournament with Melanin Gamers and others from Ghana and around the world.

“White, black, male, female, trans, non-binary — whatever you are, we will accept you because we are a crew of accepting people who find more accepting people,” she said.

“Gaming is for everyone and I think we should do more to be kinder.”