Interview

POC in Mobile: Konsole Kingz founder Cj Peters on the need for more representation in games

POC in Mobile: Konsole Kingz founder Cj Peters on the need for more representation in games

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.

This week we spoke with Konsole Kingz founder Cj Peters about starting out in games as a minority and why representation matters in the industry.

I think companies big and small need to proactively seek out the diverse talent they desire to have.
Cj Peters

PocketGamer.biz: Can you start off by telling us about your role in mobile games and what it entails?

Cj Peters: I wear many hats but if I had to narrow it down, I would say my main roles are game producer and UX designer.

Why did you want to work in the mobile games industry?

Coming from a background of making games personalisation assets for consoles and being around the console landscape, mobile games offered an overall better price point from a development and resources standpoint.

How would you recommend people get started in games? Any tools or literature you would advise?

Before diving into tools, I would 100 per cent recommend people to network, network, network. Attend any game development events where you can meet or talk to people that are making games. This will give you a much-needed insight on all facets of the games industry.

Join organisations as well. After that, I suggest learning industry-standard tools and languages such as Unity - even if you are not a developer.

What did you study (if anything) for your role? Are there any courses out there that you would advise for aspiring professionals?

At Louisiana State University, I studied Information Systems and at the Art Institute of Atlanta, I studied graphic design. These things combined helped me to understand how to create and produce technical projects with a team, as well as how to communicate with developers and designers.

Konsole Kingz was founded in 2004 working across both console and mobile

Aside from that core knowledge I received from high learning institutions, my interning at a game studio really helped to hone and apply my skills to the games industry.

What do you think should be done to improve diversity, not only across the games industry, but across all industries?

I think companies big and small need to proactively seek out the diverse talent they desire to have. The talent is out there, yet a lot of the time the talent doesn't have the resources to communicate with the correct stakeholders.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered since joining the industry?

The first biggest challenge I encountered when first deciding to join games was educating people in the industry on what it was I was actually trying to accomplish. I created my company, Konsole Kingz, clearly out of necessity due to the lack of representation.

None of the faces I saw in games media looked like me nor talked games the way I did culturally. It literally took me going to E3 and CES three years in a row just to get people to take me seriously. After finally speaking to the 'right' contact at Microsoft, it took me another year to finally convince the firm to let Konsole Kingz create content for Xbox Live.

If there were other things that happened in the games industry as a response to #BlackLivesMatter, they were not effective enough to reach me.
Cj Peters

What do you think can be done to help encourage more people of colour to get into games?

I think the simple answer to this question is what led me to form my company – representation. Younger people of colour need to see and learn about people of colour in games, so they can see that it is possible.

This has to go hand-in-hand with the STEM and STEAM initiatives that are taking place in educational institutions, because although gaming is fun and entertaining, it's also highly technical and creative. Our young people of colour must be taught and put on this early in their developmental years.

Is there anything that recruiters should be doing differently to address the lack of diversity across not only games development but all industries?

Recruiters can only do what the clients ask of them, so many companies have to change the culture they are creating or fostering. Once that happens, the recruiting should follow suit.

Since the recent surge in the #BlackLivesMatters campaign, what changes (if any) have you seen from across the industry to address the issue?

I think the #BlackLivesMatters campaigns and Covid-19 have made companies and people, in general, more aware of what has been going on for years within the Black community. Specifically, I point out Covid-19 because it has literally made the US shut down.

When people are not in their normal life routine, they have more time to really observe what is going on around them. The George Floyd murder happened during that time and unfortunately became the straw that broke the camel's back.

The only thing that has reached me from the games industry was a #BlackLivesMatter Game Jam I participated in as a mentor from the University of Texas. If there were other things that happened in the games industry as a response to #BlackLivesMatter, they were not effective enough to reach me.

What advice do you have for other people of colour that are looking at getting into games?

Know what you are getting into and study the landscape so you know how to function in it or how to short cut around it. Black and Brown people are a minority in the games so that itself tells you what issues come along with that.

Konsole Kings' most popular title Black Spades is available across iOS, Android and Amazon

However, by all means, join the games industry and try to join it from a position of ownership, small or large. If you can't join from a position of ownership, then learn what you can so one day you can be in a position of ownership. Because that is ultimately the key – ownership.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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