As a black woman and a lover of video games I have always been seen as rare and or non-existent. As a result, the hashtag that I created, “#BlackGirlsAreTheGame” was born. It all came together through the collaborative effort of gaming grassroots organizations like Brown Girl Gamer Code, Black Girl Gamers and Thumbstick Mafia. The goal is to bring awareness to the contributions black women have made in the gaming industry. The need for this hashtag arose when online media, Blavity went to Twitter and created #ChangeTheGame and stated “Black Girl Gamers are like Unicorns, but we exist and we want to build a community”. The issue with this tweet is that it calls black woman unicorns and attempts to build a community on an already pre-existing solidified foundation.
The problematic issues of being unseen, others not understanding that our community already exist; I couldn’t take it. Immediately, we got to work with the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreTheGame. Which created a welcoming space for black women from all backgrounds to share their experiences. We discussed the stereotypes we heard about our community such as:
Not playing video games, not existing, only playing The Sims, playing video games to gain male attention and so much more.
We talked about some of the positive experiences we had like: making new friends, finding more women to game with, having a way to destress. We were even able to discuss the black women gaming groups we were all apart of. After this Twitter chat we invited women to join the community groups we were apart of and continue using #BlackGirlsAreTheGame to share their experiences.
This conversation sparked a fire in me. I realized that I did not want to stop there. I wanted to share the hashtag with more people, hear more experiences and provide even more resources.
I recruited Brandii, Kei and Queen, from the black girl gaming community and collaborated to create a presentation and roundtable expanding on the Twitter chat. One of the ways we’ve improved on the hashtag was to make people more aware of the black women who work in the gaming industry for example:
Zora Ball: World’s Youngest Game Programmer
Meeya Davis: Detroit Native, voice and Motion capture of Tilly Jackson from Red Dead Redemption 2
Lisette Titre- Art director who worked on Montgomery: Tiger Woods Golf, The Simpsons, Dante’s Inferno, Dance Central 3, The Sims 4, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, and Transformers Age Of Extinction for Android and iOS. Her most recent project is Psychonauts 2 with Double Fine Productions.
Although successful we yearned to share #BlackGirlsAreTheGame with more audiences. An opportunity to be a panelist at Youmacon emerged and we took it.
At this round table we did not limit ourselves to the presentation that we created. People often went beyond the questions we asked but allowing the attendees to engage with us more allowed us to gain perspectives from several different people. We heard how aspiring developers didn’t learn about black developers in their classes.
Which leads to the lack of representation of black women as playable characters in video games. Although we have seen some companies step up such as:
Nintendo (Twinttelle from ARMS and Marina from Splatoon)
Ubisoft (Aveline de Grandpre: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation)
Capcom (Sheva: Resident Evil)
There is still a need for companies to do a better job of creating characters undeviating from black women. And I believe hashtags such as #BlackGirlsAreTheGame are great for awareness but more needs to be done.
There are several factors that contribute to the lack of representation of black women in the gaming industry.
Black women have always been involved with gaming. The fact that their visibility is not always prevalent is not because they are unicorns only emerging from their pink mystical pools to play The Sims once every full moon. It’s due to the lack of representation, women developers not being put in the spotlight, or maybe you’re just not looking in the right place. Hint: She’s definitely not gonna be found sitting in your room talking to your incel friends.