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5 Black Women Game Developers Making Waves in the World of Video Gaming
As gaming companies continue to promise more diversity and inclusivity in their employees and hiring practices, Black video game developers are still lacking representation in the field.
According to a 2021 report by the International Game Developers Association that represents the industry’s demographics, the percentage of Black game developers in the industry was only 4%. Relatively small compared to the 67% who identified as white, the statistic was also an increase of just 2% from 2005.
As the statistics show, in a field dominated mostly by white men, Black people, specifically Black women, have had a harder time getting a place in the professional gaming world.
Here are five Black women who have broken barriers and made headlines for impacting the field of video gaming.
- Jay-Ann Lopez: As the CEO and founder of online space and platform, Black Girl Gamers, Jay-Ann Lopez has made a name for herself as an advocate for more diversity in the gaming world. Through the work of her organization, Lopez has helped build an online community of over 8,000 Black women who are interested in gaming, earning her awards such as the Black in Tech Gaming Award and MCV Women in Games Campaigner of the Year. The online community is a safe space for the women to play and interact with other Black women gamers through events such as their Black Girl Gamers Online Summit.
To ensure that efforts are made to make other gaming spaces as inclusive as Black Girl Gamers, Lopez has led her organization into partnerships with other companies that have prominent gaming communities, including Facebook, Twitch and Belong Gaming Arenas. Through their partnerships, Black Girl Gamers and Lopez have helped influence game design by giving their partners ideas on character development, storyline development and more.
- Tanya DePass: As the founder of non-profit “I Need Diverse Games,” journalist Tanya DePass has also made a name for herself as an advocate for more inclusivity and diversity in gaming. The non-profit also provides a safe space for gamers and helps bring gaming opportunities to gamers from marginalized communities.
One of the main opportunities that “I Need Diverse Games” provides is through their work with the Game Developers Conference Scholarship program. Through the program, the non-profit gives 25 gamers the opportunity to attend the Game Developers Conference, one of the most prominent conferences for game developers to discuss their work and ideas.
The non-profit also gives gamers the chance to take part in other conventions, such as GaymerX, OrcaCon, HavenCon and others, in an effort to boost diversity. Along with her work with “I Need Diverse Games,” DePass is a producer on “Rivals of Waterdeep,” a Twitch broadcast, where she discusses important topics such as race, feminism and diversity.
- Sarah Bond: As corporate vice president at Microsoft, Sarah Bond has already greatly impacted the gaming world. With her role as the person that oversees Xbox Game Pass and determines partnerships, Bond is responsible for getting games out to billions of gamers and is credited with building up the gaming service platform to its popularity now.
Under her jurisdiction, Bond has helped release games such as “Back 4 Blood” and “Halo Infinite” amongst others. Along with her formal position, she’s also been a voice for Black representation at the company as an Executive Sponsor for Blacks at Microsoft, a resource group for Black employees at Microsoft. For her work, Bond was recently named as one of Variety’s Top 500 Entertainment Business Leaders.
- Stephanie Ijoma: Stephanie Ijoma gained recognition in the gaming world as the founder and CEO of NNESAGA. As a streamer herself, Ijoma created the company in 2015 when she noticed a lack of Black representation in the companies that created the games she played. Based in the U.K., the organization helps bring together Black gamers and other gamers from marginalized communities in a safe, inclusive setting.
To increase representation the gaming industry, Ijoma and other leaders at NNESAGA offer training, gaming events, workshops, consultation and more as they open up the floor to anyone that wants to join in on the gaming conversation. She is also the co-founder of ION, a marketing agency that’s worked with companies such as Playstation, Xbox and Ubisoft to diversify and increase inclusivity in gaming.
- Keisha Howard: As founder of Sugar Gamers, Keisha Howard has gained global recognition for her work, serving as a TEDx Speaker on gaming on two separate occasions. Created in 2009, Sugar Gamers initially served as a place where women who were interested in gaming could find other women with the same interests. Since its inception, the platform’s community has grown to include people from many underrepresented groups in gaming.
As part of the community, members of Sugar Gamers are given the opportunity to participate in the creation of a variety of projects. One of the projects is Project Violacea, a game with women’s POC representation that follows a group of revolutionaries trying to overthrow a dictatorship in a dystopian future. For her work, Howard has been honored with multiple awards, including an induction into the International Video Game Hall of Fame.