Finding The Spike Lee Of Video Games
Joseph Saulter, the African American video game entrepreneur and educator, wants to see a gaming industry that reflects its customer base - not to mention the country.
Few industries are as disconnected from their customers as the video game industry. Gamers are disproportionately African-American or Hispanic, according to a survey by the Kaiser Foundation. Yet these are precisely the demographics that are underrepresented within the industry itself: both among the developers of games, only 2% of whom are black, and among the characters presented in the games they make. Most game protagonists are white males, and a USC survey revealed that a measly tenth of characters were black, and most of these were either athletes or gangsters.
Joseph Saulter wants to change all this. The entrepreneur behind Entertainment Arts Research, Inc., which Ebony Magazine recently singled out as one of the first black-owned publicly traded gaming companies, has made it his quest to make the gaming industry more reflective of its audience.
Now is a big moment for Saulter, whose company is set to release a major game in July (a parkour game for iOS, discussed below). Several other ambitious projects are in the works, including a game that takes place in Chicago’s South Side in the mid-20th century. “It’s a history of the black community, it’s a history of jazz, it’s a history of the arts and of the revolutions that went on in that period of time,” Saulter says of the game, Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, a project of artist Philip Mallory Jones, who based much of the material off of oral histories with his mother.
Fast Company caught up with Saulter to learn more about his vision of the future of video games, and what it will take to launch a “Spike Lee of video games”—a black game designer who’s also a household name.
Didn’t know video gamers were disproportionately of colour. I guess because of the dominant racist bro culture that seems to dominate how it looks to the avg person.
OH WHAT WAS THAT????
PEOPLE OF COLOR MAKE UP THE MAJORITY OF GAMERS NOW???
BUT ALL THESE WHITE DUDES ARE COMPLETELY IGNORING WHO IS PUTTING MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS???
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER FUCKING WHITE MALE TELL ME HOW UNREALISTIC IT IS TO PUT POC ON THE COVERS
When I found the Kaiser Foundation survey (because I want to use this as evidence in the future when dudebros get all white supremacy and crap) the survery is actually about children’s video game habits. The actual words in the survey are that black and hispanic children between 8-18 play more video games than their white counterparts of the same age group. Which in itself shows how vital it is to have multi-racial protagonists, this kids are looking at these characters as heroes and self representations.
Also, more games in the T and E ratings. All the cool games are in the M category and there are some M rated games I wouldn’t even play, let alone imagine letting my kids play. Don’t censor them, just someone make more age appropriate games for goodness sake.
Also, if black and hispanic children are playing more games, that could be a bad thing - indicating that they don’t have access to parks, sports facilities, movie theatres etc.
But yeah, some great discussion here. I personally have been trying to think of a good way to make a non-violent FPS - maybe a firefighting game (you’re still shooting, but water at buildings and trees) or a pollination game.
And definitely check out the art for Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, it’s gorgeous.
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