Happy Hump Day!
Today’s featured “gamer” is Joseph Saulter.
Joe Saulter is the chairman of the Game Design and Development Department at American Intercontinental University and CEO of Entertainment Arts Research (EARI), the first African-American owned 3-D video game companies in the nation. He is also a co-founder of the Urban Video Game Academy, headquartered in Atlanta, GA.
Joe has collaborated with Sony, Vivendi, Warner Bro, Blizzard and software developer Softimage on numerous gaming ventures. He also serves on the steering committe of the Bill Gates Group initiative Blacks in Gaming.
Joseph launched EARI to take gaming into markets the industry has overlooked and ignored, including faith communities and the authentic urban scene. His goal: to create an industry powerhouse built on games and interactive media that serve genres, communities and people who rarely see themselves and their experiences reflected onscreen. He is also the author of a series of texbooks on Gaming Design and Development, published by McGraw-Hill.
Joe spoke to joystiq.com about the lack of diversity in the gaming industry during Microsoft’s Blacks In Gaming 200 meeting:
He says, “It’s great to see that things are happening and we are getting toward the vision, but it’s still not the reality.” He says the potential influence that diversity would bring to the industry isn’t being recognized. Explaining he’s spent his life as a black man, he half-jokingly says when he looks around the game industry he feels himself asking the question, “Why should I have to be a white man? … Meaning I bring a unique characteristic in my African-American culture. It would be nice to bring my cultural expertice into an arena. We go into this white business — and it’s not that the business is white. It’s that the culture in the business is white. I’d like to see people create what I am in games and be accepted for what I do.”
Saulter says the industry is like a “horse with blinders” on when it comes to issues of diversity. It’s not that they are outright ignoring minorities, it’s just that the focus is so straight ahead and narrow, companies don’t take the time to reach out. He says there are programs like the Urban Video Game Academy based in Atlanta, Maryland and Washington D.C., which attempt to get kids into game design and should be looked at as an opportunity by developers to find potential talent. He compared getting a job in the industry like riding a horse. He believes that minorities don’t care if they get knocked off the horse, that’s only fair — but they’d still like a chance to ride.
On March 7, 2012 TV One and EARI announced a partnership creating a partnership formed to create the Urban Game Jam, a game design and development competition for African American game developers. Urban Game Jam is designed to promote diversity in the gaming industry and offer urban game developers a new, high profile opportunity to exhibit video games and music produced for the industry. The announcement was made at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
“African Americans play video games in huge numbers, but represent a tiny portion of the game developing profession,” said TV One Digital Media Vice President Allison Rand. “There has been research showing that this trend may lead to the scarcity and/or stereotyping of black characters in video games. We are very excited about this contest and this partnership with Entertainment Arts Research and look forward to helping stimulate and encourage the proliferation of content by black game developers.”
“We have an opportunity to add a symphony of innovative, creative content to the video game industry, said Joseph Saulter, CEO of Entertainment Arts Research Inc. “Technology has opened a window for diversity and African American game developers are changing the complexion of the industry with culturally sensitive video games and musical style. The Urban Game Jam is our way of introducing the video game industry to amazing African American comic book characters and science fiction stories from a universal perspective.
“We hope this contest will generate participation from innovative content developers in game design, programmers, artists, and musicians, and bring to light both new talent within the industry, and recognition to some talented individuals who may have been working for quite some time to break through,” Saulter added.
Below is a picture of participants in the Urban Video Game Academy: