Black developers push to diversify the creators behind the pixels


(NEW YORK) — The video game industry is one of the most lucrative tech sectors in the world, bringing in $159.3 billion globally, according to the International Trade Administration. But not everyone is getting a piece of that pot.

Only 4% of game creators identify as Black, according to a study by the International Game Developers Association.

Now some Black developers and historically Black universities are looking to change those statistics and, in turn, improve representation in the games themselves.

“We’re going to see diversity in all types of gaming, from the controllers that we use, to the storylines that are being told, to the characters that you’re seeing,” Jaycee Holmes, the director of curriculum for the nonprofit CodeHouse told ABC News. “More seats at the table means more quality gaming and experiences.”

Holmes’ brother Ernest, a software engineer at Google, co-founded CodeHouse to introduce more young Black students to the world of computer science and coding. Ernest Holmes told ABC News that he was shocked when he got to Google’s offices and saw there weren’t many minorities.

“I just do that. I want to be a part of the change to make something amazing happen,” he said.

CodeHouse has set up an annual event that invites 3,000 Atlanta high school students to meet with developers from tech companies such as Google and Netflix, and allows the young developers to get a hands-on look at how their apps and products are made.

CodeHouse isn’t the only organization helping to make these connections.

At Spelman College’s Innovation Lab, Black students are learning the foundations of video game creation. The school recently invited students from a dozen other HBCUs for a weekend crash course in game development and 65% of the students who attended had no experience in game design or development, according to Anetha Evans, a Spelman student lab leader.

Madeline Brown, a Spelman computer science major who won honors at the event, said she looks forward to connecting the world through her games.

“I wanted to be able to show a Black woman’s experience through gaming, and so I feel like gaming allows for people to step in somebody else’s shoes, and so it builds empathy with communities that you often times wouldn’t have interactions with,” she said.

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