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.
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 '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 games and what it entails?
Khoa Mai: I work as a cloud engineer at Hatch. My job is ensuring reliability and scalability for our streaming infrastructure, which allows our customers to not only play games but to make sure they can play them smoothly.
My first written program was a hotkey remapping tool for making playing Dota easier.Khoa Mai
Why did you want to work in the games industry?
I've worked in the autonomous vehicles, mobile messaging, and finance industries before I made my way to the games industry. However, my first written program was a hotkey remapping tool for making playing Dota easier. Games have enabled me to learn computing, programming, and more so when the opportunity came about last year, I decided to join Hatch and learn more about the industry as a whole.
How would you recommend people get started in games? Any tools or literature you would advise?
There are lots of ways to get involved, just follow your passion and figure out what you are good at. If you are good at drawing, then you can learn about graphic design and become a design artist. If you want to be a game developer, then you should probably learn programming and computer graphics.
What did you study (if anything) for your role? Are there any courses out there that you would advise for aspiring professionals?
My job is mainly about infrastructure, so a good way into this is by starting to learn programming, networking, operating systems etcetera. Nowadays, you can learn lots of those skills via online platforms like Coursera, Edx, Udacity and MITx. I'd recommend starting with the course programming languages (part A, B, C) in Coursera, then move onto distributed systems with MIT 6.824 and operating systems with MIT 6.828 courses.
What do you think should be done to improve diversity, not only across the games industry, but across all industries?
Becoming well known and popular is usually the goal for lots of firms. I think diversity enables companies to reach the mass and understand what people want, and therefore connect with more customers.
Due to Covid-19, lots of companies are now committing to remote working entirely. I think this helps since it removes the location barrier. Companies can also hire employees across the world with various colours, genders, cultures etcetera.
What are the biggest challenges you have encountered since joining the industry?
The biggest challenge I've faced since joining the industry is my lack of knowledge about computer graphics, which will hopefully be improved over time.
Good content such as online courses, books, papers, and blogs should all be available at a reasonable price...Khoa Mai
What do you think can be done to help encourage more people of colour to get into games?
I think it is important to get everybody in not only in games but in providing people with computer and internet access. As a result, people will have more chances to learn and get into any industry they love.
Computer and internet access are just the bare requirements, though. Good content such as online courses, books, papers, and blogs should all be available at a reasonable price as well.
Is there anything that recruiters should be doing differently to address the lack of diversity across not only games development but all industries?
I'm not sure, but I guess it's about giving opportunities, so recruiters should be a bit more open-minded before discarding potential applicants. I know some really good engineers, yet they don't know how to polish their CVs, so maybe recruiters can try to have a conversation instead.
I have also seen some recruiters only checking for buzz words in CVs, however, if the applicants have solid foundation skills, then I believe they should be able to have a fair chance just as much as anyone else.
Since the surge in the #BlackLivesMatters campaign that took place last year, what changes (if any) have you seen from across the industry to address the issue?
I think it does raise awareness, which is a good thing. Furthermore, companies are paying more attention to diversity and therefore seem to be hiring more people of colour.
What advice do you have for people of colour that are looking at getting into games?
Know your passions, know your strengths, then focus and try your best to achieve whatever you want. Work smart before you work hard. Start now. Don't cut any corners and always remembers that everything good takes time.