To celebrate Pride Month, we are interviewing some of our incredible Thought Leaders here at SODA. Meet Josh Rivers, who is a UX Research specialist. We were keen to find out what Pride means to Josh, as well as his background and career achievements.
Where did you study and what got you into design?
I received my Doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, prior to that I received a Research Master's in Social Sciences from the University of Amsterdam. It was actually my Master's fieldwork that led me to my career in Games User Research. At the time, I studied queer communities in the massively-multiplayer online games World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. Both communities voiced a number of concerns about how the game development teams didn't understand their struggles. I quickly realized that if I wanted to truly support my community in overcoming these hurdles, I'd need to understand game developers from within. Two years and multiple conversations later, I started my first job in Games User Research at CCP Games.
What have been your biggest career and personal achievements to date?
There are a few things I'm proud of in life. Professionally, I'm proud of playing a role in the complete overhaul of EVE Online's Tutorial, which brought in a new generation of players. I'm also proud of a project I undertook with the same team that led them to realize how the current character creator of EVE Online isn't particularly trans or non-binary friendly. There were plans to address that and the team seemed eager to do so, but that didn't materialize after I left. Still, I made a mark on that team's understanding of gender. That means a lot to me. Now personally, I'm proud of once flashing a 5.11 route at my local climbing gym on lead. To be clear, that's not an accomplishment, I'm just happy I can be a somewhat average rock-climber.
What are you currently up to?
I actually just transitioned into a new role as a Senior User Researcher II at NetEase Games, where I've gotten back into hands-on research with some of the world's most talented game development studios. Before this, I led a team of 7 UX Researchers at Solsten, a startup working on AI-driven audience intelligence solutions.
How would you describe Pride?
Pride is an interesting word. Having done my Bachelor's research on LGBTQ+ Pride parades, I'm almost always drawn to thinking about those festive moments of rainbow-filled celebration and public demonstration that we see fill the streets of our cities in summertime whenever someone says Pride. But it's more than that, isn't it? As I've grown personally and professionally, I've realized that Pride is more. It's resilience. It's fighting for those with less privilege than you. It's showing up as your unfettered self every single day in every situation. For me, Pride is being unapologetically the entirety of who I am as a queer non-binary man in every context in which I exist. Pride is not just fighting for queer rights at our societally-acceptable designated summertime timeslot, but fighting for our community every second of every day of every year by always being ourselves, even if that makes a few people uncomfortable.