A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the second annual Game Devs of Color Expo, held in the Schomburg Center in New York City. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate developers and their projects, all while creating an open environment for discussion regarding diversity in games, including their characters, stories, and developers.
“It’s not a new idea that black and brown folk are making games. We’re here, we’re doing it, and we’re going to keep doing it,” said Shawn Alexander, a game developer speaking during the conference’s opening address.
This conference comes at a time when there is a widespread demand for diversity across several industries, including the gaming industry. For the past few years, the gaming community has pushed more inclusive games and developer teams. From the outside, it seems as if gaming is changing; two of the most popular games of 2016, Mafia III and Watchdogs 2, featured black male leads.
And yet, the industry still has a major problem with diversity. In a 2015 survey, the International Game Developers Association found that only 3% of developers were African American, while only 7.3% were Hispanic or Latino. In general, there is a huge lack of protagonists that are black or brown.
That’s why the Game Devs of Color Expo was so refreshing to me as a person of color. Every single game shown in the arcade either featured people of color or was made by people of color (or both!). Games like The Ultimate Clapback, Don’t Look Away, and Try to Dress Up (video below) all displayed the immense amount of talent that developers of color have to offer the gaming industry.
Beyond the arcade, several speakers and panels featured gamers and developers of color like Tanye Depass (founder of I Need Diverse Games), Mitu Khandaker, (Chief Creative Officer of SpiritAI.com and Professor at NYU Game Center), and Charles Babb (Chief Experience Officer of Fairchild Consortium). They spoke about surviving the gaming industry, how to create and design diverse characters, how to polish and launch your game, and so much more.
One speaker, Ethan Redd, spoke about his difficult upbringing and the struggles he had to face in order break into the gaming world. Despite coming from a low income family and having no formal training, Ethan still managed to thrive as a web designer and developer.
Overall, this conference was an unbelievably inclusive space that allowed so many developers of color to shine. I can only hope that the conference continues to grow and grow for years to come.
You can check out the entire conference’s talks here.