Video game professionals discuss diversifying the industry at first Careers in Gaming Summit

San Francisco Bay University and Junior Achievement hosted the first Careers in Gaming Summit. The event saw 70 local high schoolers and 20 SFBU students attend.

By Jefferson Geiger

The video game industry is often on the cutting edge of technology applications with impressive graphics and design. However, it can fall short in other regards such as diversity. That’s why Junior Achievement of Northern California and San Francisco Bay University co-hosted the first JA Careers in Gaming Summit this March.

Held March 20 to coincide with the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the inaugural summit chose diversity as the theme to address the issue of racial disparity in the industry. For example, the percentage of Black game developers doesn’t match the percentage of Black video game players. 

“In light of our mission at SFBU to provide diverse learners with inclusive, innovative, and inspirational education, it is fitting that we facilitate a conversation about representation in the gaming industry and we encourage students to consider careers in gaming,” said SFBU Vice President for Strategy and Innovation Heather Herrera.

The summit opened with a keynote from Chris Melissinos, gaming evangelist for Amazon who curated “The Art of Video Games” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Melissinos was joined by panelists Trinidad Black of The Black in Gaming Foundation, Tasha Dial from “Clash of Clans” developer Supercell, and Stephen Mackenzie of e-learning provider RoboGarden.

“We need your voices, we need your art, we need your stories to continue to make this an art form for all,” Melissinos said.

Students attended workshops with HP’s Brian Lau and Project Beanstalk’s Isaiah Johnson and saw projects in different stages of development. The day closed with Aaron Rucinski of business consulting company Kearney sharing the various skillsets that lead to job opportunities within the gaming industry, like writing, illustrating, and music production.

“The students walked away with a comprehensive insight into the myriad ways that somebody could work in the industry,” Herrera said.

Participants also left with options for how to gain entry to their careers. One avenue available to SFBU students is the Startup Scholars program. Along with a full-ride scholarship and housing, students receive $10,000 for a passion project of their choice — a great way to invest in the latest software and hardware needed for video game development.

The popular event drew 70 local high schoolers and 20 SFBU students.

“The most memorable thing that I learned today was about the processes and the collaboration integral to gaming careers,” said one student. “Learning about the ideation process, companies, and their different roles was very enlightening.”

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