5 African-Americans revolutionizing the gaming industry

BY Preta Peace Namasaba September 14, 2023 1:17 PM EDT
Latoya Peterson of Glow Up Games

African Americans are the second largest ethnic group to play video games, after Asian Americans. Surprisingly, despite this prominence, only 2% of professionals within the video game industry are Black. This underrepresentation becomes particularly striking in light of the booming global video game industry, which saw revenue soar to nearly $160 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach a staggering $200 billion in 2023. It’s an industry that Black individuals are, unfortunately, missing out on. Additionally, this lack of representation contributes to stereotyping and negative portrayals of Black characters in video games.

However, there are notable African-Americans founders, designers, and artists who are committed to revolutionizing the industry. Here are a few you should know:

1. Jaye Watts

Inspired by the convergence of esports and community, Jaye Watts, a graduate of Stanford Electrical Engineering, established Coexist, where she currently serves as CEO. Coexist has evolved into a comprehensive, all-encompassing ecosystem that fosters personal growth and professional development for gamers worldwide. Jaye Watts also wears other hats as the founder and CEO of Proud Wineaux, a bespoke food and beverage event specialist. Her influence extends to her role as a sponsor at the Creative Artists Agency and as the Events Coordinator for Arts and Culture at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. She’s also a Grammy Award-nominated artist.

2. Andrew Augustin

As the founder of Notion Games, Andrew Augustin is a gifted video game designer and 2D artist. His journey into the world of art and gaming began at a young age when he self-taught graphic design, video game creation, and animation of print and digital cartoons. Augustin’s achievements include a full scholarship to the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas, where he earned a post-baccalaureate certificate. Currently, he serves as an assistant professor specializing in game design. His impressive portfolio features titles such as The Sims 3 Pets (Xbox 360, PS3), Super Ubie Island series, Up Up Ubie, and Sheep Herder Nay. Andrew Augustin holds the distinction of being the first Black man to make Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the games category and actively gives back to the community through school talks and teaching game design and animation. He is also collaborating with Microsoft to bring Super Ubie Island to Xbox.

3. Dennis Mathews

Dennis Mathews is the co-founder and CEO of Revelation Interactive, a company at the forefront of entertainment software and technology. Armed with a degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering from Saint Louis University, Mathews is an expert in evaluating and integrating new technologies and platforms, including AR/VR. His diverse skill set extends to the casino, entertainment, game design, and oil & gas industries. Dennis Mathews is a fervent advocate for inclusion in the gaming sector and holds an executive position at Black in Gaming, an organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for people of color in the video gaming industry. He also serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Play The Crowd and Codicast Interactive.

4. Bryant Young

Bryant Young is a Software Engineer at Riot Games and is the CEO of Fishean Studio. His notable creation, “Our America,” is a VR Experience that delves into the encounter between a father and son who are pulled over by the police on their way to school. Young’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Monmouth University, a Bachelor of Arts in Game and Interactive Media Design, and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California. His career path encompasses roles as a Software Engineer at Fox Next Games, a Teacher at Gameheads, a Mentor at Codementor, and a Game Developer at Sunken Places. During his tenure as an instructor at Gameheads, a tech training program, Young empowered young people of color with the essential tech and life skills needed to excel academically and professionally.

5. Latoya Peterson

Latoya Peterson, recognized as one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 rising stars in media, is the Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer at Glow Up Games. This creative R&D storytelling studio leverages mobile, AR/VR, and AI to craft innovative narratives. Peterson’s career also includes her role as the Editor of Racialicious, an award-winning blog that explores the intersection of race and pop culture. She has held key positions such as Deputy Editor of Digital Innovation for The Undefeated at ESPN, Deputy Editor for Voices, and Senior Digital Producer for Al Jazeera’s The Stream. Notably, Peterson produced the acclaimed OMG a Girl YouTube series, shedding light on girl gamers in 2016. Her credentials extend to prestigious institutions such as Stanford University, where she was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, and Harvard’s Berkman Center, where she served as an affiliate. Additionally, she is part of the selection committee for the Museum of Play’s World Video Game Hall of Fame, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to the gaming community.