Black-owned gaming companies might fly under the radar in an industry that lacks diversity, but they are nonetheless thriving; Deputy Editor Ilaria Riccio flags the ones that are currently changing the game.
The lack of diversity in the gaming industry is particularly evident “behind the scenes” – that is, in the companies responsible for designing, producing, and circulating games. In February 2022, website Nerdist reported that only 2% of jobs in the gaming industry are held by Black people. To counter these figures and enact change in a White-dominated industry, many Black game developers funded their own companies. Alongside Black people getting the platform in the gaming industry they deserve, these businesses carve opportunities for pushing for greater diversity across all sectors of the gaming industry. In this Black History Month issue, we include some Black-owned companies that are changing the game.
To counter these figures and enact change in a White-dominated industry, many Black game developers funded their own companies. Alongside giving Black people involved in the gaming industry the platform they deserve, these businesses carve opportunities for pushing for greater diversity across all sectors of the gaming industry
The games produced by NuChallenger benefit from the broad artistic background of its co-founder, Shawn Alexander Allen. Alongside being a game developer, Allen is also a writer and visual artist, which shows NuChallenger creating “dope games driven by art, music, and culture.” The company’s first title, Treachery in Beatdown City, was released in 2020 thanks to a crowdfunding effort. Allen’s attempts to change the industry manifest in his decision not to restrict his work to race and representation, as it “kept [him] in a ‘diversity’ corner, which helps no one.”
Aerial_Knight is the moniker of its founder, Neil Jones. Like others in this list, Jones founded the company as a result of his frustration at the overall lack of opportunities for people of colour in the gaming industry. Jones is specialised in 3D modelling, and his company primarily produces short-story games centred around characters of colour. For instance, Aerial_Knight’s 2020 debut title, Never Yield, offers a futuristic 3D reconstruction of Detroit for its Black main character to navigate.
Based in South West England, 3-Fold Games was founded by Chella Ramanan alongside another woman, Claire Morwood, in 2016. The peculiarity of the products of 3-Fold Games is its perfect blend of fantasy and reality, as in their magnum opus, Before I Forget. The game has a compelling premise, as it “explores what it means to lose your memories and how living with dementia affects your life and those around you” by having a woman living with dementia as the protagonist. The narrative was carefully developed with input from Gaming the Mind – an organisation promoting mental wellbeing through the gaming community – and medical professionals, helping it become nominated for a BAFTA.
Decoy Games is a two-brother project, Ahmed and Khalil Abdullah. Both brothers started the company with no prior experience in the gaming industry, but a love for gaming and a vivid imagination. These qualities paid off, as Decoy Games has received several accolades from different gaming awards. The company is also concerned with making a social impact by fostering an inclusive environment in-game and in the industry more broadly; Decoy Games has created platforms to ensure that all communities can have an equal involvement in the gaming industry.
Other Black-owned companies born over the past few years include Dynamic Ink and 3D Dojo Studios, which launched its first game, DA PAPER BOY, last June. Alongside these companies, the gaming industry can count on non-profit organisations that have made increasing diversity their primary objective; these include Cxmmunity, I Need Diverse Games, and POC in Play, co-founded by Chella Ramanan. Furthermore, the website https://www.blackgamedevs.com lists Black game developers and their contacts for companies and developers to hire them - and improve diversity within the industry.