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Microsoft - Xbox Ambassadors build community, reinforce inclusion and positive gaming

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Xbox Ambassadors build community, reinforce inclusion and positive gaming

Marissa Urban grew up with parents who had an Atari, raising her on Pac-Man and other games they’d go at until they won or crashed them. Urban remembers hours on Keystone Capers and Solar Fox. Eventually that progressed to owning every Xbox except the original, and playing all genres of games thanks to Xbox Game Pass: first person shooters (FPS) and role playing games (RPG), music, adventure, puzzles and more.

In high school, she learned how to code, eventually getting certified in systems engineering and networking. In college, she studied nuclear physics and music education. She relished jobs that required crawling through ceilings and installing cables. Now based in Atlanta, she is a consultant whose background includes teaching classes on software and doing one on one tech training for adults, teachers and professors.

“It’s such a shift within the tech community to be more inclusive and diverse,” says Urban, whose gamertag, SecretAsian29, is an homage to her heritage, which she discovered when she was 19. “I was adopted and it turned out my biological mom is Korean. Being the only blonde in my family, I had no idea.”

She became an Xbox Ambassador early on in its existence, finding it through “one of those random nerd rabbit holes,” and signed up. Over the years, she volunteered at local children’s hospitals, played games with patients (sometimes using features like Copilot to help another player), and partnered with local businesses to host gaming tournaments and fundraisers. She also provided online support for people who would get stuck in games, or needed a hard reset to their consoles. She passed along tips and tricks she picked up from playing all the time. Eventually she would earn a place as an Ambassador of the Month.

“Being an Xbox Ambassador means a lot to me,” Urban says. “It changed my love of gaming because now I can actually talk, strategize and play with other gamers.”

She’s met people from all over the world through the program, including a good friend in Iran, who introduced her to some of her favorite foods. She also went to conferences and other gaming-themed events. But because of the pandemic in 2020, the usual opportunities to meet people face-to-face have disappeared. But in its place, more people – especially those who aren’t usually able to travel for physical or fiscal reasons – were able to participate in online discussions and panels. An event that in the past may have 70 people at the most could grow to hundreds from all over the globe when the conversation goes digital. It’s something Urban hopes carries over to future events. She can also see the Ambassadors program evolving.

“The program has definitely inspired me in a lot of ways, specifically to take more action toward gaming for everyone. I didn’t realize there was an expectation that girls couldn’t game. It was a very rude awakening,” Urban says. “We’re all trying to figure out like where to go from here. What can we do to create an inclusive environment, whether that’s in real life, or virtually? What can we do to create those environments and foster that space and reach out to more people?”

Eden Hamblin standing with Phil Spencer
Eden Hamblin (left) standing with Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, at X019 in London (photo by Eden Hamblin)

Eden Hamblin, a U.K.-based first responder who found the program as a teenager, has seen it evolve from online support to being more community-based. For four or five consecutive years, Christmas Day was one of his busiest as an Ambassador, as he’d be helping people on live chat as they set up their new consoles.

In 2016, he started streaming for charity through annual GameBlast events, raising money for Special Effect, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities enjoy video games. This year’s GameBlast charity event is live, with games, challenges and giveaways throughout the stream.

A former teacher, that purpose resonated with the 24-year-old as he remembered seeing children who struggled with playing games suddenly being able to by using technology such as modified joypads, eye-control and the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

In June 2018, he wanted to do even more for Special Effect, so he came up with the idea of making keychains for gamers out of letters and numbers as a distinctive accessory for them – something he hadn’t seen for them before. This past holiday season, orders picked up as he shipped them around the world.

Hamblin also reaches out to the gaming community through chats on Xbox Live, charity events and streams, social media and, before the pandemic lockdowns, by bringing Ambassadors together for in-person events at the Microsoft Store in London. These are just a few of the reasons he earned a spot as Ambassador of the Month.

“None of these have XP (Experience Points) or physical rewards, but personal emotional rewards that make me feel good about the impact I’m having on other gamers and Ambassadors,” Hamblin says. “The Xbox community in some ways is tight knit, friendly; we help each other out. It’s enjoyable to speak to people around the world who enjoy gaming as well and helping others.”

While he’s always appreciative of the online community generated through Xbox, he is looking forward to when it’ll be safe to meet up with people face to face again, as many of his friends in real life play with him online daily.

“Being able to physically meet the people that you speak with online and have a conversation, go out for a meal with these people, it makes it more of a reality.”

Lead image: Illustration of four profiled Xbox Ambassadors by Karl Juridico.
Eden Hamblin with Phil Spencer



https://www.sickgaming.net/blog/2021/02/...ve-gaming/
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