Maye Mac-Swiney was the youngest of her siblings. Open up the closet in her childhood home in Mexico and you’d find a TV amidst the hanging clothes with an Atari, NES, and Super Nintendo on shelves next to it. And, if it was a typical day, you’d find Maye, her brother, and her sister peering through those closet doors to play Duck Hunt, Mario Kart, or the myriad of other games sure to trigger nostalgia for a generation of gamers everywhere.
“My first memories of gaming are with my brother who was six years older and my sister who was nine years older than me,” Maye said. “The age gap was so big I had no hope of beating them at the time, but those are memories I’m very fond of. They were far ahead of me in school, they were focused on different things at different times. But gaming, that was the way I connected to them, even if they were beating me.”
Over the years, Maye caught up. Then she surpassed them. Making a career out of gaming certainly helps. She’s worked in the gaming industry for over a decade now and for the last few years has been working as the Marketing Communications Manager for Iberia out of our Barcelona office.
“After I graduated from the Universidad de Monterrey, I took a trip to Europe as a celebration for getting my degree,” Maye said. “At the time, my dream was to move to France. And after a while, I decided France wasn’t for me so I began exploring other cities in Europe. The last stop of my trip was Barcelona, and, to me, it’s the most beautiful city in the world. I made it my life’s mission to move there.”
In 2007, she made the move by finding a job as an event manager in Barcelona. She hasn’t left, and she doesn’t plan to anytime soon. After a few years of working in education, Maye received her first opportunity in gaming.
“I found a startup that had an officially licensed product for Minecraft called Gameband,” Maye remembers. “Even though I’d been a gamer as a girl, I’d fallen away from it a bit as the years went on. But when I got this job, I fell in love with the industry. I loved seeing the passion of the players and seeing kids' eyes light up when they would go to Minecraft events and meet developers. Over the years, that’s what I’ve looked for in gaming, I always want to stay in touch with players.”
At Riot, we believe it's important to have dedicated Rioters in the places where players play. Across our 20+ offices around the world, Rioters help build tailored experiences and make sure players in their regions' voices are heard by Riot. The team in Barcelona is dedicated to players in Spain, Portugal, and Italy specifically.
Commonalities Between Cultures
With her roots in Mexico and most of her adult life in Spain Maye has spent most of her time in two cultures with intertwined histories.
“I see a lot of similarities between Spanish players and players in Latin America,” Maye said. “We are both very passionate. We are very proud. We can be very loud. And I think because we share a language there is a level of mutual support between our two cultures. When I’m watching VALORANT esports, you’ll see Spanish fans rooting on the LATAM teams and vice versa. There’s a bond there that’s been built through the language, through our cultures, and through our passion.”
While Spain and Mexico share a language, over the centuries Spanish has been shaped into a variety of unique styles throughout Latin America.
“The first time I came into Barcelona, I was like, ‘it’s going to be easy, they speak the same language,’” Maye laughed. “I quickly learned they actually speak Catalan in Barcelona, people here speak a mix of Catalan and Spanish. And even if they did just speak Spanish, there are a lot of differences between Spain Spanish, Mexican Spanish, and Latin Spanish. It’s a source of funny misunderstandings at the office all the time because I would say a word they’ve never heard before.”
While she’s lived in Barcelona most of her adult life, at the end of the day, Maye is still proudly Mexican.
“I have two nationalities, Spanish and Mexican, but in my heart, I’m Mexican,” Maye said. “We’re a proud people but also not afraid to laugh at ourselves. And I identify a lot with that. I’m not afraid to have a joke or a funny moment, but I’m extremely proud to be Mexican.”
Improving Representation in Games
For a long time, stereotypes were how Mexican people were portrayed in games. As a young woman growing up in Mexico, Maye didn’t see herself represented in the games she played for a long time.
“When I was growing up, there was no representation for me,” Maye said. “You barely saw women in games back then other than Princess Peach being saved by Mario. Mexican culture was always represented as a Tijuana-like city with murders. And now we have games like Guacamelee, a beautiful indie platform fighting game that uses Lucha Libre fighters. To me, it’s comforting to see more of that representation happening.”
For most of Riot’s history, our characters came from the world of Runeterra. And while these characters were often inspired by real-world locations and cultures, their homelands were distinctly Runeterran. With VALORANT taking place in a proxy Earth that, somewhat models our own, VALORANT Agents take representation in our games to the real world.
From the heart of Mexico, Reyna is a ruthless leader in the VALORANT Protocol and can be seen recruiting new agents, agents like Gekko. The newest addition to VALORANT, Gekko is a second-generation Mexican-American who lives in Los Angeles.
Creating representative characters isn’t something Riot takes lightly. Riot Unidos, our Rioter Inclusion Group for Latin American Rioters, helped advise throughout the design process of Gekko. The Riot Unidos logo was even featured as an easter egg in the Gekko release trailer.
“No matter how long you’ve been out of the country or away from your family, there’s always something pulling you back,” Maye said. “Riot Unidos helps give me that sense of home within Riot. I see people that have also gone through the struggles of moving for work and moving away from home. They are incredibly talented people who are influencing our games and products and are bringing their perspectives. They’re making sure there are people who look like us in our products. It makes me feel like our culture, our point of view, and our perspectives are valued. That translates to our products. So knowing a player, someone who was in the position I was in as a kid, can see themselves in the games they play, that makes me happy.”
There are still plenty more stories to be told and plenty more players to reach. Maye still fondly remembers when she was a kid in Mexico trying desperately to beat her older siblings at games inside a closet that felt like the Worlds stage. By working directly with players in Barcelona, games, and the people who play them, have become a throughline in her life. She wouldn’t want it any other way.
More Than a Label is a series of stories from the Rioters who make up Riot Unidos, our RIG for Latin American Rioters. These stories aim to showcase the wide range of perspectives, cultures, and insights that make up the Rioters in Riot Unidos. The first article in this series featured Priscila Queiroz and her lifetime of building fandom in Brazil.