When I was growing up, gaming came into my life in the form of a Nintendo and hasn’t left since, but as I grew I began to feel more and more like this was community in which I was: 1, an outsider, and 2, invisible — because of my sex and race. This didn’t just stem from personal experience either. Yes, sure, I held resentment towards the young boys that never shared their consoles when I visited or the ones that thought my love for gaming meant my unicorn hand should be promised to them in marriage. But I noticed that a lot of other gamers had something that I didn’t. Something that would help make my gaming experience ten times more enjoyable, community.
So in 2015, after abandoning my own personal gaming channel pursuits and being fed up of experiencing both direct and indirect misogynoir whilst gaming/streaming/breathing as a black female gamer; I created the Black Girl Gamers community on Facebook, inviting a few women I had met via Blerd (Black Nerd) Twitter.
Three years later, the word had spread and the community surpassed 1500 members attracting the interest of platforms such as BBC 4 Women’s Hour, Broadly/Vice, GAME digital, Blavity and more.
“Jay-Ann Lopez’s online community Black Girl Gamers is a safe space for women of color who feel otherwise excluded from gaming” – VICE
During this time I became more vocal about the lack of authentic representation of Black women or characters in games. The reason for the inauthentic representation is clear; there is also a lack of diversity behind the screen…
…the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) surveyed 963 people working in the games industry and data from respondents found that when it comes to diversity, 74% of workers are cis males, 61% are white/caucasian/European, and 81% are heterosexual – Mashable.com
If you combine this with the fact that even POC in the industry may have subconscious bias to view whiteness as the norm, then it becomes clear that the apparent “push for diversity” is a superficial attempt.
After understanding the state of “diversity” in gaming, or lack thereof, it’s obvious to see why games and development companies lack adequate representations of Black women/men and/or people of colour. This negligence that Black people, Black women in particular, feel in the gaming/streaming community isn’t new though. We experience it in many facets of life until we say “F*ck it, I’m doing it myself” — this is how BGG came into existence.
Concept development of our BGG characters. Art by Chris Brunson (@zionarca).
Black Girl Gamers has developed from solely being a safe space to being a progressive one; with this website providing a platform for Black women to voice their opinions about all things gaming. Granted, there will be some opinions and sentiments that not all Black women will agree with because we are not a monolith – and that is the point of BGG; to increase the visibility and influence of the variety of Black Women that support the gaming industry wholeheartedly.
In addition to our gaming content, store and website, we aim to nurture relationships between BGG game developers and companies in order to help facilitate the goal of equal and authentic representation.
I am so grateful to the BGGfam; our supporting network consisting of people from all walks of life that understand our goal and are not threatened by it. To those who find an issue with this community, that’s okay, it’s not for you.