The Black Collegiate Gaming Association is helping students of color venture into the gaming industry not only as consumers but as innovators and contributors, too.
This month, the organization launched its inaugural “Corners 2 Colleges” HBCU program that equips students with the tools they need to thrive in the gaming industry. The week-long course allows high school students to experience a taste of the HBCU life as they work closely with gaming experts from all walks of the business. Participants are also provided mentorship from college advisors to help shape and prime their skills for future employment.
The Atlanta Voice noted, that some students are allowed to work on real projects for BCGA’s corporate sponsors like Hyper X Gaming and Intel. Upon completion, participants of the program are eligible to receive certification and a scholarship to one of BCGA’s member institutions.
Florida A&M University, Mississippi Valley State University, and Edward Waters University are among the HBCUs working alongside the organization to help spearhead the new initiative.
Keshia Walker became the first African American woman to own a collegiate esports gaming company when she founded BCGA in 2020. Walker told The Atlanta Voice that she was heavily inspired by her 11-year-old Nephew who dreamed of working in the esports field “but didn’t see HBCUs that had the opportunity” for him to build a sustainable career path towards his goal.
“I told my nephew I was going to do something to change that, and a week later, I started the Black Collegiate Gaming Association. My mission and life calling are to help more students of color to get into this space, whether they attend an HBCU or not,” she said.
The gaming industry needs more diversity. According to entertainment software association company Theresa, while the video game sector generates more than 428,646 jobs, only 2% of professionals in the space are Black. Women of color are also underrepresented in the field.
“ Over 60% of everything around games are purchased by Blacks and people of color, but we are underrepresented in decision-making in this space. BCGA was created to address that.“
This year, for Women’s History Month, BCGA held a month-long event called “Women Got Game” helping female students connect, learn and network with successful women of color in the space, from game developers to executives.
“This is a very male-dominated industry,” Walker shared candidly. “I have faced a lot of sexist issues. A lot of men in this industry are very threatened by women, and unfortunately, a lot of it is coming from men that look just like us.”
The industry titan added:
They are threatened by the fact that a woman is coming in and doing something about some areas that have been underserved for a long time.”
UC Santa Cruz assistant professor A.M. Darke, also hopes to bring more diverse design concepts and artists to the growing space.
In January, the video game designer announced her plans to launch The Open Source Afro Hair Library, a rich free database that will be filled with a diverse mix of Black hairstyles for video games.
Darke, who plans to debut the full database on Juneteenth 2023, felt compelled to create the “open-source platform dedicated to Black hair” after she failed to find Black hairstyles on popular 3D asset websites. Instead, Darke was shocked to see several offensive-looking caricatures of Black men and women from hyper-sexualized Black female tropes to “Jim Crow era mammies and the minstrels,” the 36-year-old told VICE.
“All of us can be caretakers, all of us can be stewards, all of us can look at the work and think about how to use it ethically and point out unethical practices,” Darke, who teaches Digital Arts, New Media, and Performance Play and Design explained. “I want to create a space that’s open for all Black folks to have this conversation about what we want this to be.”
Darke has set out to recruit a team of all Black 3D artists to create the free database that will be filled with usable 3D assets for gaming and animation. She hopes the initiative will help bring positive Black representation to the video game world.