Last week marked the final episode of the Less Than or Equal podcast. After one hundred episodes of pursuing equality in geekdom by celebrating the diverse and their accomplishments, host Aleen Simms is — at least for now — hanging up her mic.
This is a bittersweet accomplishment, as LTOE and Polygamer have walked parallel paths since our debuts in the summer of 2014. I launched Polygamer that July, not aware that Less Than or Equal had debuted just two weeks earlier. I’d been inspired by a PAX East 2014 panel I’d moderated and which had featured Brianna Wu. I knew Brianna had then gone on to launch the Isometric podcast; it wasn’t until Aleen tweeted at me that I realized there was a third pillar in this new house of diversity podcasting.
@Aleen Oh! I was not aware of this show. Looks like another case of geniuses operating in synchronicity. Downloading now.
— Ken Gagne (@gamebits) July 12, 2014
While I’ve focused my podcast exclusively on the video game industry, Aleen covered geekdom at large. Many of LTOE‘s early episodes also touched upon video games, to the point that the show was sometimes classified as a video game podcast. But over time, Aleen’s guest lineup grew to include authors and software developers, cosplayers and card-players, roller-derbiers and cheerleaders. Whatever overlap remained was friendly: Less Than or Equal picked up Polygamer alumnus Matt Conn, while I interviewed LTOE graduates Ben Chicka, Serenity Caldwell, and Tifa Robles. One of her guests was even the voice you hear at the opening and closing of every episode of Polygamer.
Our friendly rivalry extended offline as well: I first met Aleen in person on a trip to Phoenix, when she invited me to be a guest on episode #14. She, her husband Justin (who doubled as LTOE‘s editor), and I fell into an easy camaraderie, bantering about gaming and technology while commiserating over the then-recent emergence of the GamerGate movement.
@Jasyla_ Aw! @Aleen is the best. I can’t wait to see her again at #PAXEast! pic.twitter.com/ubSGiqhR5V
— Ken Gagne (@gamebits) December 29, 2014
I saw Aleen and Justin again just a few months later when they came to Boston for PAX East 2015. I was glad to have their support and to see their faces as I looked out at the audience of my panel on indie games, which featured LTOE alumna Anna Megill.
A lot has changed in the podcasting scene since then. Besides LTOE, Isometric also ended this year after a hundred episodes, leaving just Polygamer standing of those three shows that launched in the wake of PAX East 2014. And Justice Points, a podcast of social justice and feminism in gaming, ended in December 2015 after 2.5 years and 125 episodes.
But the end of one era marks the beginning of another. Just as I left Open Apple, a retrocomputing podcast I co-founded, before launching Polygamer, and the end of Isometric paved the way for Disruption, so too is this not the last of Aleen: not only does she remain the co-host of JEMcast, but she’s hinted at a new, co-hosted podcast currently in development.
Nor is it the end of equality and diversity in podcasting, as new podcasts continue to emerge. I’d hoped Less Than or Equal would end its run by pointing listeners to similar shows, but if you’re reading this post, then you’ve already found one. Here are several other podcasts with which you may want to fill the LTOE void:
- Spawn On Me is the premier show about gaming featuring people of color.
- Fresh Out of Tokens is a weekly show hosted by Tanya DePass, diversity maven extraordinaire.
- Engage! is a family gaming podcast co-hosted by Stephen Deutzmann, editor of Engaged Family Gaming and guest of Polygamer #44.
- Minus World, formerly Super Bonus Gaymer World, is the unofficial podcast of GaymerX and its organizers, including Matt Conn, guest of Polygamer #1 & Polygamer #32.
- Gayme On is a podcast that discusses gaming and other geek culture topics from a queer perspective.
- Gayme Bar also offers gay video game commentary.
- Not Just a Game so far has only three episodes of variable audio quality, but the content itself, produced by a researcher and lecturer in ethics, is fascinating.
- Diversi takes a more academic approach to Diversity 101. It launched in late 2015 and had a strong showing before going on hiatus just four months later.
All these podcasters are accomplishing something important: they’re expanding the boundaries of gaming and technology by featuring the stories and perspectives of marginalized voices. Few people know the challenge and reward of such work as well as Aleen Simms. She’s now extended that dedication to a career path many of us have only ever dreamed of: entrepreneurship. The time she once devoted to LTOE will now be spent empowering her as an educator and organizer for such initiatives as App Camp for Girls.
My hat’s off to you, Aleen. Thank you for two years and a hundred episodes of powerful podcasting. Less Than or Equal has reshaped storytelling in the tech industry, and as you now set out to redefine yourself, remember to occasionally check in by asking: Who are you?