Erin Ashley Simon defines the meaning of ‘gaming culture’
Born to a Black father and a Puerto Rican mother, she’s making significant strides to elevate and equalize representation in the space.
In the past few years, Erin has grown from collegiate athlete (University of Kentucky) to on-air personality and streaming host (for the likes of VENN, Bleacher Report, Cheddar, and ESPN) to an executive at one of the world’s fastest-growing gaming and lifestyle organization (XSET).
As her career extends into new areas, she keeps the up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, and Start close. Because gaming is no longer a niche vertical or a hidden secret. Gaming has become a major part of our culture. And, Erin – in her evolution – is a big part of that.
We recently caught up with the CCO (chief culture officer) about how she Sonic’d her way here and what’s next.
Cutting right to the chase, you’re an Afro Latina. You embrace the culture. Has it always been that way for you?
Erin Ashley Simon: I’ve always embraced my cultural identity. People do try to box you in, referring to you in ways that they can understand. They’ll ask or say that I’m this or just that.
But I’m Afro-Latina. My mother made me cherish both sides of that identity and make them one. I lean into this every day instead of correcting others.
You are a former D1 soccer player. What was that experience like, and what did it teach you?
Erin Ashley Simon: First of all, it was an incredible experience. It taught me a lot about discipline, work ethic, and collaboration. It provided me with friends and memories, and life lessons.
It also introduced me to journalism and interviewing, specifically in the sports industry. My soccer experience is a big reason I continue to be involved in the UK (University of Kentucky) community.
What do you do best?
Erin Ashley Simon: This is a challenging question. My POV on what I do best differs from what my peers, colleagues, friends, or family might say. But, I pride myself on being a connector, someone who brings good people and good things together.
How and why did you get into gaming?
Erin Ashley Simon: I’ve been a gamer all my life. My brother Ian introduced me to it.
Growing up, most moms struggle with the concept of gaming as a career. But my mom supported me. My family embraced the prospect. Their trust has helped my confidence.
What was the first game you played?
Erin Ashley Simon: Sonic the Hedgehog on SEGA Genesis. Maybe that’s why I’m constantly on the move today!
Did you have a moment where you thought, “hey, this could be a career for me”?
Erin Ashley Simon: Yes. When I signed with CAA, I realized, “Heck yes! This is my job!”
What do you bring to your role as CCO that separates you within/amid the space?
Erin Ashley Simon: In gaming, there aren’t many Black or Latin women in the executive suite. There should certainly be more, and this is something I’m hoping to help change.
As CCO, I’m always looking for ways to align our organization, or even gaming overall, with other pockets of culture that align with our values – that yield more inclusion and collaboration.
I think I’m a strong, active listener. I’ve always been this way. But, I sharpened this skill during my time as a journalist.
Through listening, I can learn about this community and those looking to make an impact within it. This helps us develop meaningful strategies and ways to infuse positive values of equality and partnership.
Do you believe gaming is a lifestyle?
Erin Ashley Simon: YES! 100 percent.
I believe gaming has always been a lifestyle. Athletes game in between practices and travel and after games. Rappers and DJs bring their consoles or PCs into the studio or on tour.
In recent years, we’ve seen many more crossovers and collabs, platforms, and activities where gaming has shown up or tapped into new and different ways.
Take a look at what Riot Games just did with Lil Nas X and League of Legends. Or the NFL’s Tuesday Night Gaming platform, which brings together competitors from the gridiron and map. Gaming has become ubiquitous in so many spaces. It’s fun. It’s incredible.
I hope that new entrants in the space recognize the legacy and the history of gaming. Because there’s a lot there.
Biggest accomplishment in the space to date?
Erin Ashley Simon: I’m proud of what I’ve been able to bring to this industry thus far.
I’ve been privileged to host on some of the biggest networks and as part of some of the biggest events in gaming and entertainment. Just recently, I started on a new series developed in partnership with the NFL. And, I’m soon to announce another opportunity on ESPN.
Representation matters and I hope that I’ve brought a little inspiration to other Afro-Latina women trying to break through.
Do you anticipate gaming will always be a part of your life? Are there other areas you’d like to build around?
Erin Ashley Simon: Gaming will always be part of my life. My mom raised me to be a renaissance woman. I have multiple interests. And throughout my career, I’ve made it a point to try new things.
This has led to success and fulfillment. So, why stop now? There are so many incredible opportunities out there. I’m just getting started.
What do you say to those following you, aspiring to the success that you’ve been able to achieve?
Erin Ashley Simon: You have to start somewhere. You’re not going to be great right away. Don’t waste time hoping to get what you need. Build. Use what you have and tap into the resources available to you. You can do it.
That said, I always encourage people to practice gratitude and stay grounded. Nothing is promised, and in a sea of rejection, that gratitude will carry you to the next wave of success.
There are 10K80 minutes in a week. Where do you expend or reserve that time?
Erin Ashley Simon: I love this concept. I treat my passions like a business and operate from the 80/20 rule – just with a few personal modifications. I attribute 50 percent of my time to work, whether in front of or behind the camera, admin efforts, and helping to develop deals or partnerships.
Then 25 percent goes toward exploring opportunities that may carry more risk, whether investing or otherwise.
That final 25 percent is reserved for rest! I try to take one to two weeks off every quarter. Saturdays are my off-days and help me ensure a baseline of rest and check-ins.
I’m all about working smarter, not harder.