Where are the Black developers?
Seems like a simple enough question. A while back on twitter, I queried this same thing. I was simply wondering where all the people who looked like me were in relation to gaming. Around that same time, I believe it was called into question during a discussion after E3 about the types of protagonists we were seeing in games. From there, the progression of the dialogue went from the consumer, to the game, to the developers. There is no question that most developers are making games to cater to a certain audience. They need the most inclusion, and the truth of the matter is most developers make games starring white-male heroes for the majority white-male consumers. This doesn’t make a game bad, hard to play, or even racist or exclusionary. It just means a Black woman like me has little to no representation in the majority of games outside of RPGs that allow character creation. Most people know the big name studios and producers, but developers are usually obscured from the spotlight. The more I asked myself “Where are the Black developers?“, the more I was drawn to find out more about them, the work they do, and their imprint on the industry and the industry’s influence on them.
For those of you who don’t know, Ourcade Games was founded on the idea that Black gamers needed a voice. Not that everyone else isn’t invited or included, but the Ourcade at it’s inception was where things could be done the way we saw fit; a centripetal focus on all things gaming from our perspective. This means for you, the reader, a new way to look at some things you may not have already thought of (think about our Hip Hop Captions post). It’s not overbearing or campy, nor are there overwhelming tones to our articles, but everything we do is influenced by our culture and how that ties into our gaming experiences. It was created with the Black video game lover in mind: a very necessary space where everyone who could hold a controller was welcome, but would be flavored by the fact that we wouldn’t be offering cookie-cutter content.
So with all that in mind, I began the daunting task of searching for some notable Black developers and studios. It is something that even as I type this introductory post is proving to be more than difficult; it seems insurmountable. I was given a website, and links to a whole list of Black developers, public relations teams, and artists within the gaming industry. The problem? A growing number of the developers on the site either had little to no contact information, or their websites were incomplete or defunct. Originally, I was irritated by the lack of upkeep, but then it occurred to me that more than likely, a lot of these developers are probably doing most of their work with little to no revenue generated by the games they were making. It’s a challenge that many independent developers face. I chose to shine a spotlight on a particular sect of that group of people, and I’d greatly decreased my chances of acquiring the information I needed to compile a comprehensive series of articles.
Not only that, but some of the games just weren’t good. With anything there is low hanging fruit, but it’s simple mathematics and the theory of relativity: one thing has to be better or worse than something else. I understand that these are labors of love, and this is not to be derogatory about anyone’s work, but we aren’t here to give out participation trophies. I could be a developer. Would anyone want to play, let alone pay for any game I made? It’s highly unlikely. I wanted to feature exceptional Black developers, when finding Black developers themselves was already taxing. I wanted to quit, but I found that this was too important for me to give up on. There are various outlets and writers, and developers themselves who have already written and spoken about the diversity of the gaming industry. Knowing who we were as a site and the audience we cater to, we knew this was an article that had to be written no matter how god-tier the actual act seemed.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll post an article periodically about this very essential group of people within the gaming industry. Hopefully, as you read the subsequent posts, you’ll be encouraged to support these developers and their work, just as much as you support big name studios or developers. I mean, come on. We’re the Ourcade. We wouldn’t steer you wrong.