Good Morning Obots!
Today we look at at urban-focused Nerjyzed Entertainment.
Nerjyzed Entertainment, LLC (NE) is a privately held video game and 3D animation development and publishing company founded in 2003, and headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nerjyzed (pronounced energized), is responsible for the development of Black College Football: BCFX: The Xperience, the first video game to solely feature sports teams from Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU’s). The founding members of Nerjyzed hold undergraduate and graduate degrees from HBCUs.
Jacqueline Beauchamp is the co-founder, chairwoman and CEO of the company. A graduate of Southern University, Beauchamp co-founded Nerjyzed Entertainment in 2005, in Dallas, Texas. The company quickly distinguished itself in the gaming sector with its first video game, The “Doug Williams” Edition of BCFx: The Black College Football Xperience. The product designated Nerjyzed the first African-American development studio to ship on next-generation consoles. It also made them the first to integrate two top-tier genres – football and head-to-head rhythm-based competition – into one product. The game showcased the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) football game experience, including the coveted battle of the bands, complete with interactive halftime shows featuring spirited drum majors, cheerleaders and band members. A first of its kind, BCFx seized shelf space at major gaming retailers: Walmart, GameStop, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, the Army & Airforce Exchange Service (AAFES), and online through Amazon.com.
MTV’s multiplayer blog spoke with Creative Director Brian Jackson (Howard University alum) about Nerhyzed’s mission and the future of African-americans in the gaming industry:
Multiplayer: Can you tell me more about Nerjyzed?
Jackson: Nerjyzed was founded about five years ago. It was founded by a group of people who came together and saw the need for more African-American representation not only within the industry, but within games themselves. Our CEO was one of the original founders, Jackie Beauchamp; she’s really been the person who’s been the heart and soul of what Nerjyzed is. They really wanted to bring to the forefront some of the things that we do differently that don’t necessarily include selling drugs or shooting people or anything like that. One thing we want to do is make sure that every game or every product that we put out has some sort of edu-tainment value. We want to make sure that we provide positive role models and positive content for the urban community.
We’re not just video game company, we’re a digital entertainment company. We’re going to be doing things, not only video games, but also documentaries. With our game we also released a behind-the-scenes DVD that explains how we came about making the game, the history of the company and stuff like that. We also have in the works a DVD called “Historically Black,” which describes the historical significance and the current relevance of historically black colleges and universities today. … Now we’re in the process of making sure that people know that Nerjyzed is not just a one-hit-wonder, and we’re not just a video game company.
Multiplayer: Why did you decide to make “Black College Football: BCFX: The Xperience”? Why was that a choice for a first game?
Jackson: The HBCU experience is actually an experience. It’s more than just a game because [for HBCUs], the halftime show is just as relevant as the game itself. What we noticed was that there was never a game that encompassed more than just the teams. There was never a game that had the teams, the halftime show and the overall experience that you could get when you go to the Bayou Classic or the Florida Classic.
Multiplayer: Was a sports game the first idea that came about?
Jackson: Yes, but we’re not only going to be a sports video game company. That was just the first one because that’s the one that made the most sense. 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. We want to make sure that the first game we came out with touched on something that was very near and dear to our hearts.
When you go to the Bayou Classic, you see the difference in that game in comparison to just a regular football game. You see the fans and the excitement. There’s an emotional tie you have, not only to the football team, but also to the band. When you go to some of the games, a lot of people will be out tailgating and not even watching the football game itself. As soon as the countdown to the halftime show comes, the stadium will be filled.
At other footballs games at halftime, that’s when most people go to the bathroom or buy food. At a HBCU game, that’s where the most important thing is [during halftime]. 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. Your band is the showcase of your entire school because your band represents your school.
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. You can actually reward your team for doing well with the halftime show. So that immerses the user into “Okay, if I do well in the halftime show, then I’ll get a bonus for my team.” Because they’ll get the crowd into it, and they’ll get the momentum on your side.
Multiplayer: What do you say to critics who say this game is alienating others by singling out black people?
Jackson: The whole concept about the game being racist is really a fallacy. The NCAA recognizes a black national champion, and right now our game is featured in the College Football Hall of Fame because they’re having an exhibit on black college football. We didn’t create the term “HBCU” or “black college football” — those were things that were already in place, and we just made a game to represent what that element was.
Multiplayer: Why do you think there are so many African-Americans that play games but it doesn’t seem like there are that many working in game development?
Jackson: It’s interesting that you bring that up because one thing that I did notice when we were on our road tour, and even after our road tour, we went to different high schools and middle schools to show of the game and tell people about the company. We found out that kids didn’t know that you could have a career in video games. They play the games all day, but it never dawned on them that there were companies that pay people to play video games all day. Whenever we were on our promotional tour or talking to young kids at schools or football games, we would tell them that if you stay in school, you can have a career in video games. If you just want to play video games, you can become a tester. If you want to create video games, you can become a programmer or designer. If you want to market or PR games, you can do that. Even if you want to be in accounting or finance, you can work for a company that does video games. It was very surprising to see that as many kids as we talked to, they just didn’t realize that there could be a career in video games.
Back in 1995 when I first worked for EA, I went to E3 that they had in L.A. every year. One of the things I realized my first year was that there was only a handful of African-Americans there. With the lack of the younger African-Americans knowing they can have a career in it and the lack of the adult African-American in the industry — there’s very few African-Americans in the industry. You could tell from the roundtable that we were at. Microsoft actually has a “blacks in gaming” event every year at GDC, and I’ll say there was probably between 30 and 50 people there.
Now, if you look at the number of companies, the number of people that are actually in the industry, and even if you triple the number or people that were at that event, that’s still a very small amount of African-Americans. So until there are other companies like Nerjyzed that will put out product that features exclusively urban content, you’re not going to get as many companies stepping out to make games like that.
Multiplayer: Do you think that the reason African-American kids didn’t realize there were careers in gaming is just because there’s no visibility at all in video games?
Jackson: Yes, I would agree whole-heartedly on that. Not only that, but if you pick up a video game magazine like Game Developer — which a lot of African-Americans don’t read — if you look at the pictures and they show post-mortems of the development companies that they feature in there, there’s not that many African-Americans that you’ll see. So you’ll never even think, “Wow I can do that, too.”
When I first got into the industry, I went to college, I had a degree in computer information systems and I was working for GE as a programmer, I was an avid gamer at that point. It hadn’t even dawned on me that I could do programming for games. Part of that is also because a lot of the companies that make video games are on the west coast. You won’t see a lot that are in the south or northeast. If you don’t grow in the Bay area, Texas or maybe the Chicago area, you might not know that you can go work for a video game company.
Multiplayer: What’s next for Nerjyzed?
Jackson: Well, we haven’t announced what our new product line is but I can say this: there will be some more games in the future that are of the sports genre. “BCFX” was successful and as a company we do plan on continuing that product line whether it’s this year or the next year. We also have some other titles that are non-sports related but are heavily competitive. And every game that Nerjyzed puts out will have an urban flair to it, but it will be fun for anyone who picks up the controller.
Read the full interview with Brian here.