We are in a pivotal moment. For decades, no matter the industry, people of colour have suffered through a lack of opportunity and a lack of respect, leaving them stuck playing second fiddle throughout their careers.
Following the tragic killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, people around the world have come out in their droves to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement as the community looks to fight for equal rights.
The games industry is no different, and here at PocketGamer.biz we wanted to do our part and help bring attention to the many incredible people of colour that help make up this sector. That is why we are committing to a new long-term regular feature to spotlight these people and their careers.
So, welcome to our new 'POC in Mobile' series, where discussion about finding a place in the games industry, the various challenges faced as a minority, and what truly needs to be done to make games more diverse will be the focal points of conversations.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you start off by telling us about your role in mobile games and what it entails?
We live in a time where you no longer need permission to get into this industry.Donald Harris
Donald Harris: I have been in the games industry for 15 years with experience in mobile, PC, XR, and console games. I started out in QA, and as I explored my way around the games industry, I found that I loved both production and business development. Currently, you can find me doing a bit of both at FarBridge.
Why did you want to work in the mobile games industry?
I wanted to reach as many people as possible. When I work with teams to create games, I want to help take people out of their everyday lives and create a worthwhile escape for them. Working on mobile games allows me to entertain the largest possible audience.
How would you recommend people get started in games? Any tools or literature you would advise?
Just do it! There are so many free tools and free tutorials to help get you started. We live in a time where you no longer need permission to get into this industry. The best advice I can give you is to just start making something super small and put it out to the world.
What did you study (if anything) for your role? Are there any courses out there that you would advise for aspiring professionals?
I mostly relied on my skills in sales to help with my career path. From networking to negotiations, I have used those skills to help me build a network in the game industry and then turn around and help build a business with the connections that I made.
What do you think should be done to improve diversity, not only across the games industry, but across all industries?
There is a lot that can be done to improve diversity in any industry. If you want to see real change it will need to start at the leadership level. Leaders hold the power to create and maintain an inviting culture. If you have a culture in which many different types of people can envision themselves, it will be easier to recruit and maintain a diverse team.
I will cover several strategies for establishing these inviting cultures as part of my upcoming Pocket Gamer Connects talk. For starters, studios need to make increasing diversity a company-wide goal and get everyone involved in the process from top to bottom.
I think recruiters can start by making it a priority to highlight the reasons why diversity is important in teams.Donald Harris
What are the biggest challenges you have encountered since joining the industry?
Sometimes people make assumptions about me and my background based on my appearance. I’m a six-foot, eight-inch black man working in the video game industry, and no, I don't play basketball.
I've worked hard to get into the industry and learn as much as I can about all disciplines of game development. It's always surprising when someone thinks I don't have a grasp on a particular subject and then I have to educate them.
What do you think can be done to help encourage more people of colour to get into games?
Easy. Show more people of colour as main characters in games - not as secondary options. More so, I'd love to see more folks who look like me visible at public-facing industry events like E3. Put people of colour on stage and let them represent your companies, and you will see more people of colour wanting to join.
Is there anything that recruiters should be doing differently to address the lack of diversity across not only games development but all industries?
I think recruiters can start by making it a priority to highlight the reasons why diversity is important in teams. Going another step would be to even maybe educate their clients on how and why a diverse team can increase revenue in the studio.
Since the recent surge in the #BlackLivesMatters campaign, what changes (if any) have you seen from across the industry to address the issue?
Mostly just acknowledgement. There could be real change happening behind the scenes but those changes may not bear fruit for months or years to come.
What advice do you have for other people of colour that are looking at getting into games?
My main advice is: don't wait and don't ask permission. If you are having trouble getting into the industry, try making your own game or join a community like ATX Game Makers. Our community is dedicated to increasing diversity in the industry by directly helping people get started on their career journey. You can find us here: www.atxgamemakers.com. Everyone is welcome.