In this Asian Women in Games series, we interview women who are currently in the gaming industry to learn more about them, their journeys, and their culture. We want to showcase the amazing women who are already driving change and representation in the industry by being themselves!
This week, we speak to Anna Erlandsson, Nordic Community Manager at Bethesda. With a start in writing, and then developing her passion in gaming culture and larping, Anna shares her experiences and journey with us! Learn about how she organized more than 30 community events during the pandemic, and how she recognized that she doesn’t always have to be a superwoman.
Tell us all about Anna!
I’m a passionate nerd that loves everything and have way too little time! I started with a dream of writing and telling stories of people. After realizing that writing was going to be pretty rough, I became a journalist and that was almost as discouraging! But I learned a lot. I had to write under pressure and cover basically everything between heaven and earth. Somewhere there, I started to work with social media and the digital web—mostly because no one else thought it was fun.
But side by side with my professional job, I had always been a nerd. I grew up with Sailor Moon and Pokémon and I ran down to my cousin’s place every afternoon to watch him play Super Mario World on his SNES. The luckiest day of my childhood was when he gave me his old NES and I could play at home.
And I never grew out of my nerdy side. I started larping and could finally be a ranger, an elf, and a vampire. I discovered roleplaying games and died horribly in D&D 4th ed. I continued to love anime and video games. I also found board games and spent way too much money on Magic the Gathering.
I realized that all parts of the nerd community suffered from the same issue: there were lots of men and very few women. So I decided to try and change that by starting a feministic initiative to get more women and non binaries into nerdy hobbies and to have a safe space.
Around the same time, I also grew tired of being the only Person of Color in my hobbies—especially in larping. So I started to lecture about it with a friend and from that it started to spread. My nerdy side grew bigger and bigger until I took a proper leap. I left the world of journalism and started to work on gaming culture in Sweden fulltime.
It was amazing. I could combine all that I’ve learned over the years to try and make the best gaming culture ever; to make it more inclusive and to make sure that young people felt that their love for all kind of games were deemed as a proper hobby and part of the culture in Sweden.
And one day, I got an email that Bethesda was looking for a new Community Manager in the Nordics. I had no experience working as a community manager so I was hesitant to apply. But then I realized I had been helping to build one of the biggest gaming communities in Sweden for over ten years! So I thought: “let’s just give it a shot!”
That was my best decision ever. 3 years later, I still love it so much!
What about community management in gaming do you like the most?
I love to talk to all the wonderful gamers across the Nordics! To hear what they are passionate about, what they feel we can do better with, and what they love. They are truly the best!
I also love my work with streamers and influencers. The people I collaborate with are so damn inspiring and I admire them for going for their dream!
In short, the people that make up the community is what I love. I long for us to have events again so I can go out and organize meetup for them all!
In the past year you’ve organized more than 30 digital events as part of your job. How in the world did you accomplish this and how difficult was that given COVID-19’s roadblocks?
Hahaha, yeah…the pandemic…. When I started the job, I had lots of experience with organizing events—small and big. I looked forward to do the same for Bethesda.
But when the pandemic hit, it was a real moment of panic for me since I’ve never organized any digital events.
I am, in fact, not great with some elements of online tech so I had avoided them like the plague. But with the plague actually being here…I just had to deal with it and solve it.
And it actually turned out to be just the right thing for the Nordics. Since we have five different countries with lots of different languages, it made it hard to have a physical Nordic event where all Nordics feel they can attend. If we have it in one country, it will naturally be the community living in that country that attends.
But with digital events, I saw a chance to actually make the Nordic community connect with each other—and the same goes with streamers.
I started to put them together for streams, organize bigger digital events for all Nordics, and played with my community during these events.
It was difficult but after each event, when I saw how happy my community was, it was all worth it!
In your blog post about “Being a Superwomen or how to carry it all and never be carried”, you share your struggles with becoming a workaholic in your quest to be a great organizer, problem solver, and fixer. What message would you like to share with other amazing women who might find themselves in this situation?
First: you are not alone in feeling this way.
Second: it is not your fault that you feel like you need to be a superwomen.
In many parts of the world today, women are put under a lot of patriarchal pressure to be perfect and to handle it all from a very young age. This shapes and forms us in different ways and often lead to women trying to carry it all.
So with that, remember that you are not alone and it is not your fault for being a fixer, workaholic, and someone who has to carry a lot of emotional burden. But you should also know that you do not have to be perfect all the time.
My dad said something once that stayed with me: “You don’t need to be the perfect girl all the time. Otherwise you will just be burnt out. Just be yourself and never try to be anyone else. Then you are the best.”
You’ve spoken up about inclusivity such as racism in the world of LARPing back in 2017, and you’ve continued to be quite involved in various conventions and LAPRing events. Do you think things have gotten better? Why or why not?
Hmm… this is a difficult question. I think it has gotten both better and worse. Better because we have more people that speak up against racism and there are way more PoC that are integrated into gaming culture. It also warms my heart to see young PoC getting involved in hobbies I love—it is such a big difference from when I started.
However, things have also gotten worse because we are still talking about the same things as we did ten years ago. I feel that we have not moved forward fast enough and I am constantly tired over the surprised reactions from white people when PoC point out racism. It is not a new thing. I hope for white allies to actually stand up and kick out Nazis from spaces where they hurt PoC. The gaming world is no exception.
Is there a video game title or character that you think accurately and respectfully portrays your culture?
This is a difficult question. I’m adopted from Sri Lanka and have family there that I visit when I can. But there are not many games made about Sri Lankan culture—it might even be none.
With that, I have to look to non-Sri Lankan PoC characters when it comes to representation in video games.
What is one thing from the Sri Lankan culture that you want to share with everyone?
Oh oh oh! I love Sri Lankan food that is very distinct from Indian food! There is a great thing called egg hopper that I can eat for days! And milk rice is another favorite—with green beans and chili.
And I love the sari so much. I have way more than I should especially since I live in the cold north and I can NEVER wear a sari here!
Where can people continue to follow you and your journey?