The Power Up discusses diversity in gaming with Evil Geniuses CEO and Kiro’o Games founder

Our host Narz is bringing you a breakdown of everything happening in the world of gaming, introducing you to rising stars in the industry and special guests every episode in this collab with Complex Networks.

There’s an old joke among gamers: You’re more likely to find dragons, space aliens and elves in video games than you are to find any humans who aren’t white

That also goes for the video game industry as a whole. People who play video games comprise a diverse audience, but the developers, journalists and executives behind the scenes remain overwhelmingly white and male.

Narz spoke with some figures in gaming who are trying to change that.

Nicole LaPointe Jameson is the current CEO of Evil Geniuses. When she took over Evil Geniuses in 2019, the 30-under-30 executive became the first Black female CEO of an esports company.

In Jameson’s interview with Narz, she emphasized the importance of an esports brand having a very clear voice. For Evil Geniuses, it’s being the bad guys. Since its founding, EG players have always been viewed as the heels in a weird sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Jameson has leaned into this characterization during her tenure.

The EG CEO also touched upon the discrimination she faces in the industry as a Black woman and how she wouldn’t be seen as a “typical gamer.” In other words, not a white guy.

“Making sure we rise above, we don’t tolerate that and we still win, that’s the biggest move forward we can do today,” Jameson said.

Narz also spoke with Olivier Madiba, the founder and CEO of Kiro’o Games. Kiro’o Games is the first game studio in Cameroon and made waves with its freshman release Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.

Aurion was a groundbreaking title that was praised for its engaging story, accomplishment (it’s the first African RPG ever made) and vibrant art direction. Even more impressive is that Madiba had no formal training in game design or programming — he picked it up from cybercafes in Cameroon in 2003.

But developing the actual game was a tough trek. Mandiba spoke about how difficult it was to secure funding for the game, which was eventually saved through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

“I can tell you that funding a game company as an African studio without any traction is like the dark soul of gaming funding,” he said.

Another objective Mandiba had when developing the game is the universality of it. Though the game focuses on African culture, it’s intended for all audiences to enjoy, with a core message about our shared humanity and struggles. The Black world and characters of Aurion aren’t suffering from the horrific aftereffects of European imperialism, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own share of villains.

“It’s not really a view of an African power beyond other powers, it’s more a sporadic problem,” Mandiba said.

In closing, Narz declared that Jameson and Mandiba’s stories should encourage female gamers and gamers of color to enter the industry. It’s not an easy industry and the odds are definitely stacked against us, but it’s still possible.

“Dream big everyone,” Narz said. “If I can do it, if all these people can do it, you can do it, too.”

If you liked this story, check out another episode of The Power Up where Narz talks about the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S console war, digital pop group K/DA and hip hop in gaming.

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