shanabryant.jpgThis past week, I spoke with different black professionals in the games industry.

In talking about how few African-Americans were in the games industry, a few interviewees suggested that the QA department was a good way to break in.

Today's interview is with Shana Bryant, someone who actually works in Quality Assurance -- a Manager of Compliance QA in Midway San Diego to be exact. I met Bryant at GDC in February at the IDGA minorities gathering, where she told me she was going to try to count how many other black women she saw during the conference.

In an e-mail interview, I asked the 28 year-old what she thought about people who think there's no need to make any major changes to diversify the industry:

"There's nothing wrong with a little change. Our industry can either accept what we have and rest on its collective laurels while our capacity for creating a new and exciting game development experience silently plateaus, or we can continue to move diligently toward improvement, champion good design, and reward the risk-takers. A world without games like 'Katamari Damacy,' 'Okami,' 'Psychonauts' or 'Ico,' regardless of their sell-through numbers, is a world that is decidedly more drab, in my opinion. This is not to knock the 'Bioshock's or 'Call of Duty 4's of the world, but it's important to note how the sleepers can also help define the direction of our industry."

Continue reading to see her thoughts on being a minority in terms of race and gender and just how many other black women she saw at GDC...

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residentevil5-02-2811.jpgEarlier this week, I posted an interview with gaming journalist N'Gai Croal of Newsweek.

During our conversation about the portrayal of black people in games, we talked about the controversy surrounding the "Resident Evil 5" trailer that debuted at last year's E3.

It depicts a white protagonist going into an apparently poverty-stricken village (the location is unspecified) and killing throngs of black zombified men and women (see the trailer yourself).

Croal's reactions were so detailed and thoroughly-described that we decided to highlight them in their own post.

Multiplayer editor Stephen Totilo wrote about his uneasiness upon viewing it, and commenters from other outlets discussed whether or not the trailer was racist. Some agreed with Totilo, but quite a few people disagreed. Earlier this week, developer Morgan Gray explained that he didn't have a problem with it either.

Croal's first reaction to the trailer was, "Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game." He explained his thoughts on the trailer and how he would have preferred Capcom to treat it:

"It's like when you engage that kind of imagery you have to be careful with it. It would be like saying you were going to do some sort of zombie movie that appeared to be set in Europe in the 1940's with skinny, emaciated, Hasidic-looking people. If you put up that imagery people would be saying, 'Are you crazy?' Well, that's what this stuff looks like. This imagery has a history. It has a history and you can't pretend otherwise. That imagery still has a history that has to be engaged, that has to be understood. ... If you're going to engage imagery that has that potential, the onus is on the creator to be aware of that because there will be repercussions in the marketplace."

Here are more of his thoughts on the matter...

(As with all of the articles in this series, we strongly suggest you read the piece in full before commenting.)

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felice-standifer.jpgThis week I've been posting interviews with various black professionals in the games industry.

We've heard from Newsweek's N'Gai Croal, Crystal Dynamics' Morgan Gray and Nerjyzed's Brian Jackson.

Now we have Felice Standifer, a producer at Sony Computer Entertainment of America. Working in the industry since 1993, Standifer has been a producer on several racing titles, including the "ATV" series and "MotorStorm" as well as the non-racing "Eye of Judgment."

During our conversation, we talked about her personal experiences working as a black woman in the industry. I asked her if gender or race has played a more significant role in her career:

I would say gender [has affected my career] more so than race. I think sometimes [people] aren't sure if you really play games or if you really know what you're doing. So I wouldn't say race, I would say gender because you still run into those kinds of people that can be surprised or "What kind of games do you play?"

Read on to learn about how she was mistaken for a booth worker at E3 and why she has a problem with "Grand Theft Auto" ...
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bjax_cover.jpgIn this week's special Multiplayer series, I spoke with different black professionals working in the game industry.

First, Newsweek's N'Gai Croal talked from a game journalist's point of view. Then "Tomb Raider" producer Morgan Gray shared his thoughts from the game development side at a major studio.

Today, Brian Jackson, creative design director at urban-focused upstart Nerjyzed Entertainment, gave me his perspective on working in the industry. I first met the industry veteran, who's worked at EA, Microsoft and Bethesda Softworks, at a GDC roundtable called "What Would a Black, Latin or Caribbean Game Really Look Like?"

When we spoke on the phone several weeks later, he talked about why he and his company decided to make "BCFX -- Black College Football: The Xperience":

"I feel that the other football games that were out there just put out a quality football game. As far as I could tell, they didn't want to go in any deeper than just a football game and the things that are associated with a football game, like managing stuff that's within the realm of playing the football game. With 'BCFX,' we actually made the halftime show into a mini-game. ... If you looked at the way that the schools in our game were portrayed in other video games, how they didn't really capture the essence and the spirit of black college football. ... At a HBCU game, when you're playing your rival, if you actually lose the game but your band is better then your rival's band, you actually feel as though you've won the game."

Read on to see learn more about Nerjyzed's vision, why Jackson doesn't like Jar-Jar Binks and how he almost created a hip-hop fighting game before any of the Def Jam titles.

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morgangray.jpgYesterday, I interviewed renowned gaming journalist N'Gai Croal about stereotypes and diversity in games.

Croal's interview is part of a special week-long series called "Black Professionals in Games." Today the series continues with Morgan Gray, Senior Producer at Crystal Dynamics. The 31 year-old San Francisco native, who's half-black and half-Caucasian, is a seasoned gamer who's tired of being the regular white guy:

"I am sick of playing the average white dude character. And I'm sick of playing a black stereotype. ... As a player I want to have more experiences other than the futuristic super soldier white guy to the unlikely hero white guy. There's that line where you're playing you, and you're playing the character. It's sort of like, are you behind the character pushing? Are you holding hands with the character in your mind? And for me, I'd like to get more of relating to this character."

And here he is on one of the most popular characters from "Gears of War":

"Here's the thing: Cole Train on his own, no harm no foul. But what is Cole Train? Cole Train is basically like every other effin' black character in a video game. Like here comes the urban stereotype. Where is this 1990's -- not even 2000 -- black slang, where does this fit in this futuristic world that doesn't even take place on Earth? They go really far to do a lot of fictional justifications for this culture that they've built, and they go right back to this urban stereotype for the black character.

I'm not knocking Epic; the game was fun and gorgeous. But it's just a lack of thought, right? All it does is reinforce dumb stereotypes and it sort of reinforces casual racism."

Read on for Gray's thoughts on how game developers can increase social awareness and diversity, black characters in Japanese games and why "GTA: San Andreas" was "scary."

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ngai-croal.jpgLast year, I interviewed five different women working in and around the video games industry.

Throughout my conversations in the special week-long series, we also spoke about diversity in general; all kinds of people play games, but it doesn't seem that all kinds of people make them. This idea led me to my latest series where I talked with several black professionals working in the industry. They reflected on their personal experiences, talked about diversity and shared their hopes for the future of the industry.

First, I sat down with prominent games journalist N'Gai Croal, General Technology Editor at Newsweek (and friend to Multiplayer). In his tiny, video game-filled office, the Canadian-born, 35 year-old told me his career in journalism began in part because of race. A writer for the Stanford University newspaper during his undergraduate years, Croal once wrote a column criticizing Newsweek's cover story about gangster rap. Soon afterwards, the then editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine contacted Croal about his column and offered him an internship. Croal didn't accept at the time, but after a brief stint at The Washington Post, he's worked at Newsweek ever since.

We spoke about everything from his career to his thoughts on specific video games ("Gears of War," "GTA: San Andreas") to how diversity could benefit the industry...

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