History of Video Games | Highlighting Black Creators

Welcome to HeR News! Here you can find the latest hot topics, and news–from all things Nancy Drew to updates in the gaming industry, history of video games, and any trending conversations we feel like Nancy and our team should contribute to. 

Part of our aim with this new blog is to bring attention to women and diversity in the gaming space. We’ll be discussing topics such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and any other relevant events that happen throughout the year. 

In addition, we’ll share the latest updates about HeR Interactive and work with bloggers across the industry to discuss upcoming shows, games, and books in the mystery-adventure and educational genres. If you have ideas for blogs that you’d like to contribute, please email them to us at marketing@herinteractive.com. Here are some thought starters to help you know what we’re looking for, but be creative! 

The Top 5 Hardest Nancy Drew Puzzles, How Nancy Drew Inspired Me To Do…, 10 Things I Learned Playing Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew Games and Their Book Counterparts, How Playing as a Female Heroine Changed Me, How I Use Video Games in My Classroom, History of Video Games, My Favorite Female Protagonists, etc… 

*Please note that articles written by individuals do not necessarily reflect the view of the company, but that the company would like to share these for added perspective and discussion.

As video game enthusiasts, there are experiences that we all love. There are memorable characters, new challenges and rewards, engaging stories, vibrant graphics, sounds that bring the game alive, and captivating worlds we are drawn into. The history of video games is fascinating and with this important month set aside to honor and celebrate Black History, the history of African Americans in gaming is as exciting as the games themselves.

In the world of video games, black engineers, writers, content creators, and voice actors have an undeniably important presence which will be celebrated in this series of blog posts about Black History in video games. Perhaps you were as jolted as I was as a result of the tragic events in 2020 that highlighted racial injustices and inequality. Black lives absolutely matter, and to take time to learn more about the roles, contributions and challenges African American individuals face in video games is very important to explore. Taking the time to reflect, research, and learn should not just be done during Black History month, but every month. 

Honoring Black History Month Old Game Console

Like solving a puzzle

For me personally, the great awareness of racial injustice was never more clear. So often we can get overwhelmed wondering what role we can play to achieve equality, or how to equip young people to work in the vast number of amazing jobs in the video game industry, to create culturally relevant roles and stories that involve the black creators in the process to create authentic characters – and then, just like solving a puzzle in a game, the solution was so obvious.

The best impact we can make is intentionally doing our part in every area of life, especially in the work we do in video games. We actually have the power and platform to be a meaningful part of change for the future. Black History month is a way to honor the history of talented and creative African Americans who have contributed to video games and who have made contributions to the history of video games. Black History Month gives us all an opportunity to aggressively find ways to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive game world. By looking at the past, we can all be a force of change in the present and in the future as players, fans, creators and game companies. 

Where it all started:

For Black History Month, let’s travel to yesteryear in the gaming world, shall we? It’s the year 2003, I’m the young age of 7 years old. My older brother is sitting next to me showing me the ropes of playing his favorite video game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even in the year of 2003, when removable game cartridges had been around for several decades,  I was still amazed at the fact that a system existed where you could insert a different piece of plastic and be transported to another reality. 

Brother and sister playing classic retro video games together including Legend of Zelda

That iconic Legend of Zelda game actually is what launched my passion and interest for video games, and soon after, Naughty Dog Studios’ highly successful Jak and Daxter series pushed me even further into the gaming world. And, what would my teen life and now be without losing myself in a great mystery game, finding clues and feeling as if I really am Nancy Drew? 

Fast forward 18 years, and I still have the same zeal and passion for the world of video games, but now, I have had the professional opportunity to experience script work, voice acting and marketing work in the industry. Having an inside knowledge of the millions of puzzle pieces that are required for game production shows me that engineers, casting directors, etc., all need to be and can be intentional about racial diversity and inclusion every step of the way.

It is important to know history and honor the Black pioneers who made it possible to enjoy gaming as we do today.

So what engineering genius is behind that piece of plastic that went into a machine that so intrigued me at the age of 7?

Jerry Lawson: A pioneer in the gaming world

The innovation was made by Jerry Lawson in 1976. The black engineer who worked in computing became a game pioneer. His work helped create the first ever console with removable cartridges.

Jerry Lawson: A pioneer in the gaming world
Jerry Lawson, Inventor of Channel F; Photo from Youtube

Although the engineering and technology of companies like Atari quickly picked up and took over the pace of the genius innovation, Lawson went on to establish the first African-American owned video game company named Videosoft in the early 1980’s. And, eventually, Videosoft created video games for Atari’s 2600 model – as this article from Museum of Play writes.

Showing even more how celebrating the past encourages the future of game makers, each year the IGDA Foundation presents the Jerry A. Lawson Award for Achievement In Game Development. The award highlights the accomplishments of a person who identifies as a minority in game development. The list of outstanding advancements is worth exploring to see the people behind the games we love! Here you can find a list of IGDA awards given to incredible black contributors in the industry, as well as past contributors that paved the way for great work today.

Current people paving the path:

Conquering the challenges to level up diversity in video games

Other African-American pioneers in the video game creation and or development sector that came after the historic force of Jerry Lawson include names like Gordon Bellamy of the Madden NFL series, Marcus Montgomery of Rock Band 3 and Zombie Gunship Survival, and Morgan Gray of the Tomb Raider series.

In the modern time, one notable instance of a black-owned, successful video game company is Nerjyzed Entertainment Inc. established in 2003 by Jacqueline S. Beauchamp. Nerjyzed aims to create a fairer, more positive, and more educated representation of African-Americans in the video game and entertainment world –  CEO Beauchamp has a strong background in technology and multimedia. Her passion for the unique culture of black college football drove her to bring the company’s most recognized video game project to market, Black College Football: the Xperience. The game  delves into the life of a college football player and a band member at a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). An in-depth play through and guide to this game can actually be found by this vastly popular content and gaming YouTube channel, Rooster Teeth.

Co-op Gameplay- working together to solve the challenges

It is important to continue to educate ourselves on the historic steps and modern steps that black engineers and creators like Beauchamp have made and are making in the history of video games world. Working together, we know that those within the corporate gaming environment have a great opportunity to make their system more inclusive, so that racial input and influence are authentic. Equality and representation that are incorporated in the workplace will manifest in what is created by working together.

As players of video games or PC games, and people in the industry, we are able to be at the forefront of impacting the game world for change by creating stories and characters that foster racial equality and establishing work spaces that are inclusive.

Change will be in the stories we tell and, in the games, we fan over with our friends. As players, we can give a shout out to games that are getting it right and share that with friends.

We can advocate for equality when we experience a game that is not representative of a diverse population. Companies can level up with diversity in the boardrooms too, where jobs are created. All game makers can be more intentional about creating systems to train and equip people of color with skills to be video game makers, ensuring that black voices are in the video games we all love to play.

Black History Month famil playing video games together.

Black History Month is a time to look to the history of video games and also the future of gaming. We can all take time to learn more through one of the forces in the video game industry that aims to help increase opportunities for people of color in video games now and for the future.

POCinPlay is a solution-driven U.K.-based nonprofit. Keeping our eyes on great organizations and companies like POCinPlay is a continuing part of learning and celebrating Black History Month in video games.

Happy Black History Month, we are excited to honor the many Black video game legends who have shaped the video game industry not just this month, but year round!

 

~ SB

Posted in: HeR News Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

-->

Follow Us