Krystal is a Media and Technology thought leader. Entrepreneur, engineer, producer and activist, she has made her marks at every and each organisation who has had the opportunity to count her as a member.

Personally, I am always amazed by her enthusiasm, her forward-thinking and her pragmatism.

Here, Krystal shares with us her journey in the Gaming Industry.

How did you get into the video games industry?

I love entertainment and new media, prior to games I worked in the film and television industry. Games pretty much go hand in hand with film, tv and animation, so it was a natural fit.

I was also a big fan of unity software and used it in graduate school and hackathons for AR/VR projects.

I attend a lot of the industry conferences, follow different companies, engineers and tech evangelists on social media. I was able to get an informational interview through networking with members as a part of the Blacks In Gaming organization. 

That ultimately led to me to joining Unity as a producer on the Spotlight team.

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain black women talents?

I think overall, their recruitment efforts need to focus on Black women and speak to the culture in the gaming industry being a safe space to work.

I also think they need to start earlier in university recruitment and also recruit professionals in other industries.

Seeing Black women represented, treated well, given equitable pay with opportunities to grow in their career is crucial.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

Research as many companies as you can before applying, look at their financial statements, read about company culture, what initiatives they support and what their long-range plan is.

There are so many different entry points into the games industry, and the large part of them are not only technical roles. I would say figure out what you want, the range of roles can vary from place to place and then pick what type of company you want to grow your career at for example a game studio, a game publisher, an e-sports company, or even a media company that has a game development division. I also can not stress enough the importance of social media; there are so many job postings that have a direct connection to the recruiter or hiring manager. It’s a great opportunity to break into the industry.

Let meet Tiffany Witcher, who is sharing her journey in the gaming industry.

Please introduce yourself.

Tiffany Witcher

My name is Tiffany Witcher, and I am a voice actor, charity streamer and small dev. I have voiced in over thirty indie titles, animations podcasts and more. I have also raised above $7000 for different organizations and different charities. 

I am currently working on my visual novel about cute dysfunctional retired magical girls.

I’m always looking for new people to work with.

How did you get into the video games industry?

I got into the industry through voice acting. I voice in over two dozen games currently many that can be found on different platforms. A majority you can get on Steam. As a kid, I’ve always wanted to get into gaming since playing Duck Hunt on my Mother’s Nintendo.

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain black women talents?

I think making more diverse workspaces, games and opening up to listen to black women that want to get in this space. Now we’re in a better time. I wish this were happening when I tried to attend a few gaming schools. I didn’t have useful resources to do such now I see that’s getting better, but we’re still not there.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

As for advice to get into the industry today, I highly suggest finding some high groups that can help assist you. Such as Black Girl Gamers, I Need Diverse Games, Black Game Pros and more. I also would say look into what you want to do like coding. There are some fantastic free ways to learn to do some coding.

We are excited to share Patience‘s story as it shows perseverance and that hard work pays off.

Hi Patience, please introduce yourself.

Patience Ashiokai Ocquaye

My name is Patience Ashiokai Ocquaye. I’m a black game designer and developer from the UK. I’m currently a Junior level designer at King games in Stockholm working on Crash bandicoot: On The Run!

I am extremely passionate about the representation of black women within the gaming industry, and I wish to inspire more people to jump in and create some cool games. 

How did you get into the video games industry?

The desire to make games started when I was a child, I was utterly addicted to anime, and it inspired me to pursue game design as a career which led me to university. At university, I learned how to use the Unreal engine, build 3D models as well as texture and animate. When I finished my degree, I decided I would do my masters just to solidify the knowledge that I had and the direction I wanted to go into. 

I graduated in 2017 with hopes of becoming a game designer within a few months but I soon realised that I would need to create a game to showcase my skills. I began by creating and publishing my first app game called the ‘Kuki Game’ using Unity that was inspired by the classic Space Invaders. 

Unfortunately, after its release, it still wasn’t enough to get me a job within the industry but that didn’t stop me. I decided to work part-time and create my second app game called ‘MindTheGap!’ which was a bigger success than I had expected. I was able to get 1000 downloads, and I was a finalist in the Indie Prize showcase in Shenzen China 2018 and the UK 2019 which led to my game being published on the Chinese servers by Apptutti. 

During both of these games, I was applying for jobs like crazy, non-stop cover letters, non-stop applications, non-stop everything. I was able to make it to the face to face interviews, but I always lacked industry experience, which let me down. After I graduated In 2017, I applied to work on Candy Crush and Farm Heroes at King 3 times, and I was rejected three times, but in 2019 they saw my passion for games and design that made them put me on a team better suited for me which is creating new games. 

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain black women talents?

I think it’s about representation and inspiring those who see them, they should show more diverse people working within the industry so it can motivate people to see themselves within the creators. 

Gaming events should have multicultural speakers from different backgrounds and jobs sharing their success stories more often as well as expressing how they feel within their environment. 

The work atmosphere must make black women feel comfortable and free to express their true selves and not feel the need to conform, fit in or dress differently. 

I think the game industry needs to be more adaptable to the current times. It needs to evolve with the generation to the point where anyone no matter what race, sexual orientation or disability should feel comfortable, free and love going to work in the industry so they can go beyond their full potential. 

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

Don’t give up. Your passion, your drive and your motivation to learn, mean everything. Rejection doesn’t mean the end; it means that place isn’t right for you. Don’t let anybody tell you; you can’t because you can do anything.  

Keep your head up, keep doing your “thang”, voice your opinions and be proud of what you make because you will get to where you want to be.

Many in the games industry worldwide may know Sithe Ncube, an ambitious young lady, Founder and Director at Prosearium, regional organiser of the Global Game Jam for Sub-Saharan Africa, Director at Ubongo Game lab among other things.

If not, I invite you to read about Sithe’s journey, her entrepreneurial initiatives in the games industry.

Please introduce yourself.

Sithe Ncube

My name is Sithe Ncube. I’m a Zambian, and my hometown is Lusaka. At the moment I live in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I’m in my final year of a degree in Computer Science and Information Systems where I’m researching Natural User Interfaces for Meditative Games. I love games, and I’m always excited about their social side that encourages us to interact with each other and learn about each other. I’m currently working on an initiative called that aims to document 1000 African women and their contributions to games. I believe that Africans of all backgrounds should be able to receive benefits from the games industry, and that’s what I hope my work in the next few years contributes to.

How did you get into the video games industry?

I’ve always loved games, and I’ve been playing games my whole life with my brothers. But it never crossed my mind for the longest time that the games industry is an industry that could be accessible to me. In 2013 I learned about a Zambian game developer called Ifunga Ndana who created his own RPG style fighting game in Java and had other experience making small games. That is precisely what opened my eyes to the fact that it was possible for Zambians to make their games and the prospects of that were quite spellbinding to me. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any other game developers, so I decided to create a small community called Ubongo Game Lab dedicated to game development. In that community, we hoped to learn more about game development ourselves and pursue our own goals creating games, but we also hoped to find other game developers in Zambia. I didn’t know it just yet, but this community engagement is what catalysed my interest in being more involved in the African game development scene and being a part of the efforts to move things forward. Whether it’s changing people’s perspectives of game development on the continent, bringing more opportunities to people who are working hard with no support or creating more inclusive spaces.

When we got involved in Global Game Jam after helping organise the first Global Game Jam site in Zambia, I was invited to be a Regional Organiser for Sub-Saharan Africa. The opportunity exposed me to more communities on the continent and got me more excited about the work in games happening in Africa. From there, it was just a matter of time before I got involved in the South African game development community and events like A MAZE. / Johannesburg and A MAZE. / Berlin.

In your opinion, what efforts can the video game industry make to attract and retain black women talents?

Deliberate efforts and programs to address the lack of black women joining and remaining in the industry would be best. And there is no better time than now. Over the years, I have benefitted from programs that encourage women’s participation in technology in a way that has made me feel more comfortable and confident in my abilities and the value that I have. These programs were scholarships, workshops, fellowships and awards specifically requesting women in tech to participate and share their experiences. But other initiatives have been around for years geared explicitly towards increasing women’s participation in tech. And I believe those initiatives have made a difference. So making more deliberate efforts to support black women in games is something much needed, through funding opportunities, scholarships, fellowships, programs, hiring, etc. The key is to be deliberate about this, and once you have these women together, the most important thing to do is LISTEN to them and keep listening. If it means changing the culture, we have around games, that is something we can work towards step by step. The benefits of having more black women in the games industry, are far more beneficial than clinging to what many might see as a comfortable space that unfortunately excludes a lot of black women whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

For anyone interested in being in the games industry: make friends with people of all genders and experiences and be an ally with everyone. All around the world, people are struggling and silently suffering in this industry though its products are joyful and entertaining experiences valued by many consumers across the globe. The games industry is still growing, so there is an opportunity to improve the lives of those that work in it. Make friends of diverse backgrounds, inform your perspective and understand what’s happening around you. And if you’re ever in a position to speak up and make things better for people, try to do that. I would love to see an industry growing where more people have each other’s backs. That starts with everyone, so when you become a part of the industry, be prepared to listen to the experiences of people around you.

To contact Sithe: Twitter: @_LadySith or email [email protected] about the 1000 African Women in games.

As touched on in our previous post, players hold an essential place in the gaming industry.

Streamers are players who broadcast their gaming session and themselves through a live stream or pre-recorded session, via platforms such as Twitch, Youtube Gaming or

Branding for streamers is crucial. Therefore, let us introduce our next guest who is a streamer you can find on Twitch under the name: Mojo_Jojo97.

Who is Mojo_Jojo97, and how did you start streaming?

I am a graphic artist and Twitch streamer.  I have been an avid gamer for as long as I can remember. I began streaming two years ago, just a way to share my artwork. Today I stream and I started with a Nintendo64 that I shared with my older brother and sister. Today, I play a variety of games, from horror games, multiplayer shooters, and indie games. 

What are your thoughts on the presence of Black Women in the games streaming industry?

My experience in the gaming industry lies in being a consumer and a streamer.

The streaming community is a whole subcategory of content on its own, and we already talk about representation within games. Something that I have noticed within the streaming community is that as a whole, tended to shy away from conversations around the visibility of black content.

There is a difference in how visible black streamers are on the platform. This lack of visibility translates into a lack of representation in other areas such as in partnerships, sponsorships, features, et al.

Many fellow black women content creators have shared experiences of having to face higher barriers to opportunities. When representation isn’t translating to actual growth in opportunities, the effort resembles more of a performative boost rather than a gesture of good virtue. The lack of opportunities can also come as a result of the lack of diverse influence within the company culture itself. Now more than ever (and how it should have been from the start), black women who are speaking out against their experience with gatekeeping and lack of access to opportunities need to be heard AND sought after. Evaluations will then be able to be made on how maybe the lack of black women within areas of companies shapes the exclusive nature of the communities they market too. 

 Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the streaming industry today? 

I don’t have much advice yet, to be honest. I’m still exploring gaming and streaming myself. I have no idea what the future of gaming is going to be as black women but with black voices being amplified and empowered across the digital world.

I can only expect to see positive changes in the future. 

Let’s introduce Ray Rossetti, 3D artist and animator, who wanted to become an artist since childhood.

Please introduce yourself:

Hello, My name is Raquel – or short Ray – Rossetti. I’m a 25-year-old freelance 3D artist and animator with a multicultural background. I was born and grew up in Germany. I have now been working in the German games industry for around a year and a half. So I’m still at the beginning of my career.

How did you get into the video games industry?

Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to become an artist. I always used to draw and write stories. When I was around 12 though I played a game that mesmerized me, from the narrative to the visuals, that was the point when I thought to myself: “this is what I want to do”. I want to create characters and bring them to life in breathtaking worlds, creating art that others will enjoy as much as I did and stories that are inspiring. However, my actual journey to specifically become a 3D artist started several years later when I got an internship at a VFX company in my hometown. I was part of HR since I had no clue about any software or pipelines, but I was able to get to know every department in the production pipeline and was able to gain insights of the 3D artists and compositors. Shortly after, I applied for a newly founded Game school and graduated with a Bachelor in Game Arts in 2018. Later, I was lucky enough to more or less slide right into freelance life due to upcoming game projects by startup companies and small studios. My journey into the games industry has still not ended. There is always something to learn, people to connect with and of course…games to play.

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain black women talents?

Games used to be a male-dominated industry, however more and more females are joining in worldwide. Games bring people of all kinds together. And that is how the industry should be as well. It shouldn’t matter who you are, as in which gender you have or what the colour of your skin is. It should only matter that you work hard for your skills and show ambition. I can only talk from my own experiences and have only scratched the surface of the industry, but I hope we are already in this way.

Still, I think for every industry, it is crucial to give everyone that shows ambition a chance and a voice. It is easier for people to be encouraged to get into an industry if they see themselves represented and welcomed. On the one hand, these kinds of online and offline panels and talks are a great way to give diverse people a platform to talk about and exchange their experience at work. On the other hand representation in media, in games. Meaning positive representation of various characters that don’t feel forced, but natural is something the whole entertainment industry has to work on. But that is a different topic.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

When you found your passion, you are already one step in. Play with it. Be creative, do little projects at home and finish them, find ways to collaborate with other creatives and don’t be afraid to talk to people in the industry, connect with others online, ask for advice and feedback in and outside of your community. There is much potential in games. More and more studios get founded every year, and you might have the chance to find or found one of the next studios that will actively shape the industry yourself.

You’ll never know if you don’t try. It is a bumpy road to get into and to stay in the creative field. Some jobs are more secure than others, and recurring self-doubt for your craft or project is not uncommon. But find a balance between your work, passion and life and don’t let yourself be discouraged. So in short: Just start somewhere and don’t necessarily wait for the “perfect” opportunity. If you want to be in the games industry, but feel like you wouldn’t belong because maybe most people you see are male or white or whatever. Find a way to own your uniqueness. If everybody is or thought the same, there wouldn’t be any new innovative designs and ideas coming around. I believe that is the beauty in creating and shaping a diverse field.

asmine’s perseverance and tenacity helped her break into the gaming industry as a writer. Here, she shares her journey with us.

Please introduce yourself.

Hi! My name’s Jasmine Moore. I’m an American writer at Frontier Developments, working on a major content release for the iconic space simulator, Elite: Dangerous. Though I’m new to the AAA scene, I’ve always been a storyteller, specifically for prose and screen.

How did you get into the video games industry?

Breaking into the industry was a real test of will. Video games, as a university discipline was just emerging when I entered college. Though I knew my passion lied in the industry, I didn’t have aspirations of being a designer or programmer. I’ve always wanted to write game stories: plot out big missions, stage setpiece cutscenes — design an interactive plot and watch it weave into something unforgettable as the player ventures through.

I briefly studied animation and digital art in hopes of “breaking in” via an auxiliary department, before recognizing that wouldn’t net the best results. Instead, I decided to wade into the industry as I truly am: a black writer with an interest in production and audio.

Growing up, I identified with fantasy games like Fate and Diablo, venturing deep into obscure MMOs and spending countless hours in open-world RPGs like Fallout and Dragon Age. As much as I loved immersing myself in those worlds, the inescapable fact was that there weren’t many characters who looked like me.

Sure, we had Sheva from Resident Evil, Aveline from Assassin’s Creed, Vivienne from Dragon Age and Ikora Rey from Destiny. But by the time these characters emerged, I was already an adult. What’s worse, these women had painfully flat characterizations when contrasted with their co-stars, often relegated to the “strong and stoic” archetype, if given one at all.

That along with the often cruel community reception was a harsh reminder that despite progress being made, black women are still the other in gaming.

I remembered the slurs levelled at me from a young age while running raids, the harassment, and dehumanization I faced when trying to enjoy what is billed as a universally-enjoyable activity.

Turning that tide, however minutely, was what spurred me to enter games as a career.

It wasn’t easy. Every article or how-to resource I read was vague at best — “play games and go to cons” — or discouraging at worst, with one piece spending a quarter of its length convincing the reader that becoming a games writer is a fool’s errand.

My attempts at head-on research were clumsy, so I decided to gain intel from the backend. Before my current role, I took a job as a creative recruiter for the top Silicon Valley companies, gleaning all the insight I could into the professional landscape surrounding tech and entertainment.

What I quickly learned was that I wasn’t good enough, yet. Regardless of your identity, life as a creative is a constant push-pull between raw talent and knowledge of how to harness it.

Sure, I could write. By that time I’d completed a fantasy novel, several minicomics, and host of transformative fan works. But was it packaged in a way that companies without the knowledge of me could digest? No. And that was the work I needed to do.

So I spent a year refining my portfolio. For every Creative Director or 3D Artist I got hired, I dedicated twice the time to studying their work, learning how to make myself professionally viable in my field. Granted, it wasn’t a 1:1 relationship. But the lessons I learned in copy, presentation, and style were invaluable as I developed my catalogue.

In time, I came up with a broad-spectrum game plan. First, I compiled a list of top studios I wanted to work for. Then, I wrote glorified fan-fiction, spinning a hobby I’d loved for years into mini screenplays for my favourite games. I polished a novel excerpt, added my previous work in advertising (with a narrative slant), and crossed my fingers.

It took about a year for me to gain traction. None of my dream studios advanced my application, likely due to lack of experience. In the meantime, I ventured into Reddit’s I Need A Team forum, looking for indie projects I could attach myself to for practice.

The whole process was daunting. I worked on two indie projects as the only woman and POC onboard. At first, I was afraid to voice my opinions, anxious about incurring wrath or being kicked off of the team.

To my pleasant surprise, both teams were receptive to my ideas and expertise as a writer, even giving me some control over aspects of creative direction. True, these were demos that never came to full dev fruition, but it gave me the confidence necessary to “run with the big dogs.”

So I did.

These projects under my belt, I updated my site and started tackling the AAAs. It was difficult, especially given the swath of titles used for my role at different studios. For some, it’s “Narrative Designer.” For others, it’s “Game Designer”, “Game Writer”, or just “Writer.”

Still I pushed, spending hours scouring speciality job boards, sending InMail, and honing my portfolio until I landed the interview (and eventually, the role) at Frontier.

In the time I’ve spent at a AAA studio, the most significant oversight I’ve seen in inclusion has been the lack of familiarity creative leads have with the scene of their disciplines. Many directors in design, art, narrative, et., don’t have their finger on the pulse of the creative community on social media (Twitter and Instagram in particular). If they do, they usually only follow the top influencers within those fields, thus missing the talent showcase hashtags, which are the primary avenue for creatives of colour looking to get discovered.

The good news is that diversity is more often on teams’ minds, with more representative skin shaders, character models, and body types being added to games to reflect the real world.

The bad news is that when it comes to including black women, we’re often overlooked in preference of a black man or another woman of colour. It in itself is not an issue as I believe representation across all races, genders and sexualities is an essential part of changing the landscape.

However, there is a certain blindness these teams display when faced with the task of incorporating a black woman in their universe.

How dark is she? How large? Is her hair pin-straight, or does she have an “ethnic” hairstyle? Can we name her ‘Tiana’, or is that stereotypical? Is her backstory as a grizzled war veteran honorary, or are we pushing the same “strong black woman” narrative that continues to damage and exhaust the community?

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain talents from a diverse background? And for black women?

These are the questions dev teams subconsciously ask themselves. The answers are often insufficient, and without representative voices to present an alternative viewpoint, the easiest path to “inclusion” is taken.

It is not enough. To attract and retain black female talent, you must show care for the black female gaming experience. Ask us how it feels to exist in a fantasy or sci-fi universe; take time to hold workshops or online critiques for black portfolios, providing valuable feedback about what you’re looking for as a studio in conjunction with how they can land their desired role.

Show care, because ultimately black women buy your games. We write stories and draw art based on your universes. We invest in your properties. It’s only fair for game studios — that spend millions rendering picture-perfect graphics for a sky or deer or water or fabric — learn how to tell compelling stories about black women, render our hair properly, and show us respect as human beings in the worlds they craft.

It starts with a conversation, along with sharing the insider information, so many industry contacts hoard for their closest associates. Games are a lucrative, evolving medium with plenty of room for everyone. Evolution only occurs when fresh voices from all walks of life are given a shot at making their mark in the field.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today? To anyone of colour looking to enter video games, I’ll level with you: it’s tough. I’m often the only woman in a meeting. I’m *always* the only black woman. I’m younger than half my colleagues, from a different country with life experiences they can never truly understand.

I’m often anxious, constantly overcoming the desire to stay silent or shy away from making myself heard in hopes of being “acceptable”. But I’ve learned there’s no merit in that approach.

Make yourself heard. Ask questions. If you’re an incoming hopeful, know that you don’t need formal game design training to make it in this industry. Stay hungry and seek out arenas to test your skills. Link up on indie projects, join interest groups, and don’t shy away if you’re the only person who looks like you on the team.

Whether you’re an artist, writer, coder, or composer, there is room for you in games. All you have to do is keep knocking until a door opens.

Sylvia or QueenArrow is well-known is the African E-Sport Community, as a professional gamer she signed to Brutal Democracy. She tells us about her passion and experience in the gaming industry.

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Sylvia Gathoni. I’m better known as QueenArrow within the gaming community. I am a Tekken 7 player and content creator from Kenya signed to Brutal Democracy Esports.

How did you get into the video games industry?

I have been gaming since I was young, but I joined the games industry in a professional capacity in 2017 nearly a year after I started university. I signed up for the Mortal Kombat XL tournament at the inaugural East African Gaming Convention, and I came in fourth. It spurred my interest in playing video games (fighting games) professionally. From there, I moved on to Tekken 7 and the rest, as they say, is history.

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain talents from diverse background and for black women? 

I’m going to start this off by giving my observations about the esports industry since that is where I am well versed. Video games, and by extension esports, was not meant for women, more so, black women. The industry was created with straight white men from ages 16-40. We women have had to fight (and continue to fight) for a seat at the table.

It’s not that esports teams have this terrible idea that they are going to exclude diverse talents/women from the space; I think they are just doing things without necessarily thinking about them.

Additionally, they work with what the market is showing them: that white/Asian men between the ages as mentioned earlier are the ones interested in esports and as such, will sign said men into their teams. To remedy this, I think they need to do outreach and start researching more into getting people from diverse backgrounds and also get a diversity trainer who can help them sign deserving people with such experience. Moreover, I feel that there needs to be a different way to market video games/esports in a way that can be attractive to those from diverse backgrounds so much so that they say, ‘Yes, there is a place for me in the gaming industry.’ This ties in with my previous point about signing more black men and women to these major esports teams and brands like FaZe, Cloud9, Red Bull.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

My advice to those looking to be part of the industry is one, know your shit. That way you won’t take anyone else’s shit. Two, always be hungry to learn and broaden your horizons. Three, keep an open mind as this will help when you’re most frustrated and four, keep your eye on the ball.

You can contact Sylvia via Twitter: @MalikaSiheme98

Mélissandre and I share a passion for diversity in the gaming & tech industry. Naturally, we caught up for a chat about her, how she got into the gaming industry and her advice to get into the gaming industry.

Please Mélissandre, introduce yourself: who are you?

My name is Mélissandre Monatus. I happen to think that first names and names are heavy with meaning. I would continue by giving a pretty awkward answer based on my personal history but which to me is my ‘true’ answer. My first name comes from my mother, a white woman from the French peasantry; she gave me my first name after heroin taken from a random photo novel of her time, changing the spelling slightly by adding an ‘S’, (so it sounded S rather than Z).  It had been an issue to register on my birth certificate until a few years ago actually as it was not a familiar name. My surname, on the other hand, comes from a French officer whose responsibility was to randomly establish a civil status for thousands of slaves following the abolition of slavery in 1848. Thus, my black father’s direct slave ancestor was given the name “MONNATUS” on February 21, 1849, in Martinique; MONNATUS’ with the double ‘N’ became MONATUS over the centuries for no apparent reason.

So, in short, I am a mixed-race woman born out of a wealthy but painful global History, which led to the emergence of a new society (that of the French West Indies), a new culture (the creole), with a mystery on where in Western Africa, me and thus my ancestors could be from.

It is how I define myself for now. My career path, somehow, leads me closer to always better understand who I am.

How did you get into the video games industry, what was your career progression like, and what is the work experience you are the proudest of?

While studying marketing, I had to find an annual internship for my two years of study. The first year was in luxury cosmetics. The second-year was in a game and software publishing company named Anuman Interactive (a start-up at the time) where I worked as a Junior Product Manager. From that point, it became clear to me that this was the sector I wanted to go for! That experience had been mainly my Sesame to join one of the leaders in the videogame industry, Activision UK (near London).

From there, I chose to pursue my career in this industry (in London, then Paris). Maybe also a little out of rebellion? Indeed, my father was against the idea of me playing video games; which I thought was unfair at the time. He thought that videogames were useless; and that I should learn how to develop them instead (although one does not go without the other, I was in lousy disposition to succeed as a developer).

But funny enough, it was precisely at Activision that I had the chance to work on Lucas Art’s game catalogue, and therefore on one of my favourite games I was not allowed to play (which I still managed to play secretly of course): Monkey Island. I felt that I took my revenge because somehow I did work on this game, although not as a dev, and I was proud of my accomplishments.

In short, I had the opportunity to work for major publishers such as Activision Blizzard, Capcom Europe, or Wargaming Europe. Then I decided to turn to independent studios such as Wako Factory or Lightbulb Crew.

Today, I am a freelance working for independent studios or start-ups related to the video game & esports industry. I also practice as a teacher in high schools specialised in the business of videogame and esports. Also, I happen to work toward projects related to Africa and also associated with the French West Indies.

One of the jobs I am most proud of is the implementation of the Africa Corner program, on behalf of the Ivorian company named Paradise Game. Paradise Game’s mission with the Africa Corner’s agenda is to give visibility to African studios/developers and their video games internationally across business events and consumer shows, such as DevCom, Game Connection and the main one, Paris Games Week. It had never been done to display between five to twelve African studios and their games coming from different part of Africa.

In your opinion, what efforts the video game industry can make to attract and retain talents from a diverse background? And for black women?

It is a rather complicated question to answer because women have already little presence in the video game industry. It is estimated that their presence is about 15% in France, which is very little, so to have black women in the video game industry in France is even more challenging.

Awareness is gradually changing and already present in the United States, where large companies from inside or outside the industry have understood that diversity is an excellent benefit. Inclusion helps to make more significant games because different visions are an asset and result in more fabulous ideas. I believe that is of high importance to bring diverse backgrounds, cultures, way of thinking to unique projects, especially when making cultural products like videogames.

Unfortunately, for this to happen, I still look at the US. There, they understood it because they had been obliged to respond to the equal opportunity laws and ethnic quota policy. So we will find black women in the industry in the long run in France, too. Maybe by resorting to quotas? We are currently a small number. So there is room for growth.

The last point, in my opinion, would be the ability for women to project themselves into a male-dominated professional environment. 

Perhaps, for me, it has been easier to integrate such industry, because, through my studies, I evolved in schools with extreme male dominance (a choice imposed by my father). Simply said, we were two girls per class, and we were maybe ten in total throughout the whole high-school. So I was trained pretty quickly to this type of environment.

But I have to admit that it allowed me to gain self-confidence and to tell myself that I am as capable as any man.

Working in a male environment also meant working harder than any man, which was exhausting because if I felt legitimate, I still had to do more to be considered as equal to them. Get my voice heard, for instance, especially that I am a petite woman.

Luckily associations like Women In Games work actively around those issues, and they bring solutions by educating the industry leaders, and workers, and women who feel like jumping to the industry but are not quite sure how. They train them in different ways so that they eventually feel as legitimate as anyone else to work in that industry. 

To retain talents, equal salaries between women and men for the same job would already be a good start!

As for specifically black women, I only would say the same: feel legitimate, be proud of who you are; use your differences, your history, your background and showcase them as significant assets to create new opportunities.

To illustrate my point, I would refer to Madame Muriel Tramis as the best example I can think of:

She is a French black, Martiniquaise of origin who was decorated in 2018 with the Legion of Honour for her career in the videogame industry. She created many games like Adi /Adibou, the famous educational videogames for children, as well as games about her culture and history (e.g., Freedom, à videogame about a slave who tries to escape a plantation). Or about the societal transformations of the West Indies after the slavery abolition (i.e. Mewilow videogame). And even erotical videogames where women are the leading characters with assertive and uninhibited sexuality (e.g., Emmanuelle, Geisha, Fascinatio). 

These are among other many examples where she has been a real pioneer. But most importantly, she used her differences to produce great unheard-of games, and new ways to talk about subjects considered taboo in her time!

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

I would answer that it is through hard work, talent, passion and self-acceptance that one can integrate the videogame industry. Even if actually, that can serve in any other industry, I would add that this is in the videogame industry that I feel it is ‘more’ tolerated to find all types of people from various backgrounds (that be ethnics, genders, disabled people…). And especially within the indie game section of that industry, because they understand better to my point how important it is to welcome differences to enrich gameplay, artistic styles, original game scenarios. Indies studios dare to create games for or about minorities.

I have personally evolved in marketing, communication and media. And in my fields, I reckon that companies prefer people who have long term experience in their industry. So, I believe that working as an intern the sooner possible and make your way up would help.

Also, having a minimum of cultural background, being curious, interested in diverse topics (literature, cinema, music and any other arts) are a must. To my point actually, most people in that industry have greater general culture and openness than any other sectors I have worked in.

Finally, networking is also critical. So taking part in videogame festivals, conferences, events, join online groups, take part in workshops and game jams, would also greatly help (obviously when COVID19 pandemic is sorted.)

With this advice, I trust anyone can access and succeed in that industry.

I hope that my advice will help people to get into the industry, and specifically support black women in their career option.

To contact Melissandre:


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Melissandre_m

I met Nousra, at the Dakar Digital Show, last December in Senegal. We were both taking part in a panel discussion on gaming in Africa. Nousra’s joie-de-vivre and calm demeanour are attractive. Nousra and I talked about different topics as we are both French emigrates. We also happen to notice the lack of women “like us” in the games industry.

I recently caught up with Nousra, and she was happy to take part in the initiative to highlight black women in the gaming industry positively.

Introduce yourself:

Nousra Soulaimana

My Name is Nousra Soulaimana. I’m from Comoros with French nationality, and I’m a Senior Sales Account Manager at Gameloft Africa. We make games for everyone no matter the genre, the country or the device they use. 

How did you get into the video games industry?

As far as I remember, I’ve always loved the “geek world” (the new techs, the comics, the anime, and the videos games).

The only thing is that, as a mediocre student, I wasn’t allowed to play as much as I wished I could.

By luck, when I got my master’s degree, Gameloft offered me an international opportunity to travel around Africa to sale our games.

My dream came true: being able to sale a product I believe in while fulfilling my passion for travel.

 What is your perception of the African video game industry? What is it your vision regarding female gamers?

 When we think of video gaming, we believe nerds, geeks. The first image that comes to mind is a male teenager going through puberty. But the reality is different; the numbers are different. 

First, in 2019 Newzoo counted 2.5billions gamers worldwide. (1/3 of the global population)

Newzoo has also revealed that over 46% of gaming enthusiasts are women. That’s perhaps as many as one billion women interested in games.

BUT, if you ask the vast majority of those women if they are gamers, the chances are that they will reply no. No mostly because, they don’t label themselves as gamers, nerd or geek while still loving the industry.

In Africa, the tendency is still the same and even worst.

If you ask young people (boys & girls) if they are gamers, the vast majority will say no because they don’t have a laptop or a console at home, so they are not “real gamers”, when in fact they spend time in front of their mobile phone playing various games. 

In some areas, phones are the only link to the rest of the world and the only way to get access to entertainment. In those areas, you can even see some grannies playing games, but this is not the kind of stories people will often hear.

 The democratization of the video games industry happens thanks to smartphones & video games provided through it. Gameloft played its part by being the first company to provide six games into the 1st App store.

A new category of gamers was since born: casual gamers. They now need to own their label worldwide, especially women.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to be part of the games industry today?

First, if you are a casual gamer, assume the label, play with it and band yourself with it.

Second, share your story. We need more visibility from people from a diverse background.

 When we think of the gaming industry, we always focus on the development of the games (designers, developers), when in fact you can be a legal counsel, an accountant, a great storyteller.

 The video game industry in its life cycle is still under growth & already represent hundreds of billion dollars. It is not just a hobby anymore. It is a real industry that is structuring itself a little more every day. So everyone or any type of corporation can play a part in this industry. 

You can contact Nousra on Twitter: @Snousra

Cholwe Shabukali from Team Gematrix will open the series of interview leading to the next panel: Women in Games: The overlooked Audience.

Gematrix is a home-grown award-winning eSports team that is owned and managed by a phenomenal lady called Cholwe.

Who is Cholwe Elen Shabukali? My names are Choolwe Elen Shabukali; I am a 25-year-old Zambian lady currently pursuing a degree in Public health at the University of Lusaka. Despite my profession being in the science fields, it has not hindered my passion for pursuing an entrepreneur lifestyle. 

How did Team Gematrix come to life?

Team Gematrix was founded in 2018 by me (Cholwe Shabukali) and my co-founder Musole Prince. We are both avid gamers and share a keen interest in eSports, the idea of having an organisation that could allow ourselves and other local players to compete in eSports tournaments became our driving force. 

To find the best candidates/players for the team, we hosted a tournament that was open to all Zambians. It was from this tournament that we picked our top players, namely Justin Banda (aka Mr. 5000) and Mwelele Zaza and signed them as eSports players for Team Gematrix. We made our tournament debut at the Pro Series Gaming (PSG) tournament in Nairobi, Kenya a month after our official announcement as a Team.

Asides from having our players contend in tournaments locally and internationally, we also host online and offline tournaments on console and mobile platforms. In partnership with Edutainment Health Foundation an NGO based in Lusaka, Zambia, we plan on providing gaming workshops to young women that have undergone various forms of abuse.

These workshops will serve as entertainment to help their recovery process and hopefully became new hobbies. 

 As Team Gematrix, we will soon be launching eSports clubs in select schools that will teach members various skills such as web designing, basic programming and tournament management in preparation for career options in the esports ecosystem.

What do you attribute your success?

The little success that we have attained has been through hard work and mostly learning on the job. However, most of it can be attributed to my Mentor Mark Mondoka and the Bongo-Hive organisation, a startup incubator based in Zambia. Bongo-hive provided us with free access to legal aid and masterclasses on how to start and run a business. It was through bongo-hive that my co-founder and I met Mark Mondoka, he gave us one on one sessions and guided our every move. He also advised us on how to tackle specific business challenges.

Can you give me an overview of esports and the game development scene in Zambia?

The gaming community in Zambia is strong and growing. However, the eSports scene is relatively new. As Team Gematrix we were the first eSports team to be formed in Zambia. Because of this we have had challenges in getting particular help such as endorsement deals or partnerships that could further help the organisation flourish more, instead, we have had to create a path and prove that eSports in Zambia can become a success. As of now, more eSports teams and organisations locally have started emerging. I’d like to believe that our impact is felt across the country and that all the works we have done have been able to inspire and motivate other gamers or eSports enthusiasts. 

Much like the eSports scene, game development in Zambia is also on the rise, and most Zambian developers such as Mwaba Creedos Mugala, who has gained international recognition for his efforts in developing an original Zambian game called Project Lumpa. On an annual basis, organisations such as Agora Code Community & Nerd Otaku Zambia also host the Global Game Jam in January. At the Game Jam, people come together and are split into teams and make cool games in 3 days with little to no coding background.  

Please share your experience of being a woman in games in Zambia and the international scene?

I have learnt a lot about myself throughout my entrepreneurial journey such as running and growing a business, networking and managing people in an organisation.

Some of the worst experiences I have had are of people continually reminding me that I am just a young woman. I should focus more on “being” a woman than running a business; this has been the case when it comes to pitching for sponsorship or endorsement deals for the team. I was advised quite a lot of times that having someone older than me and male (preferable white) in the meeting room would increase our chances of closing deals and that potential sponsors and or companies would take us more seriously. 

It made me feel like my hard work as a young black woman isn’t enough and that I have to be something I am not just to grow our team further. 

What are the two main challenges that you encounter as a black woman in games? In your opinion, what are the solutions for those challenges?

The two main challenges that I have encountered as a black woman in eSports are: –

  1. As pioneers of eSports in Zambia, we have had to break a lot of barriers and change a lot of stereotypes towards eSports and the notion that gaming is just a hobby to pass the time. 
  2. Despite having multiple starts up incubators in Zambia, no institution teaches how to start up in eSports. The eSports industry has a lot of different aspects than your average business venture, because of this is I have had to learn on the job. My opinion for a solution would be to keep an open mind, be ready to adapt and learn, read a lot about business, network with people in the industry, and not be afraid to ask for help. 

This series is to highlight women of colour in games and encourage them to look into this industry. What would be your advice?

The advice I would give would be to stay healthy, it’s always harder to pave away than to follow one, but we have to be the ones to start so that the people whom we inspire will be the ones to make our roads even better. It applies to business, to learn to work with what you have, block out any noise and distractions that aim at pulling you down or stopping you from your goal. Work hard and work smart.

Please share with us how we can support you in continuing this fantastic job.

As Team Gematrix, we have been blessed with the opportunity of being the first African eSports team to attend the World Esports Championship in Las Vegas, and we hold a total of 6 African esports championships. 

We have had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it possible for our players to attend specific tournaments. Despite the limited resources we have had, I believe we have continued to impact many people in our community.

I firmly believe that with proper resources, we can achieve even more significant milestones, the support we need is adequate seed capital to facilitate our operations and business models. We need strategic partnerships that can help us achieve specific goals – no business should be an island; we would also need support in acquiring endorsement deals.

Cholwe can be reached via email, and you can follow Team Gematrix on Facebook.