Too Many African-American Gaming Consumers, Not Enough Makers

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

 

Black Americans touch many facets of the film and sports industries, but when it comes to gaming, they are more often consumers than makers, promoters or distributors of the products.

In 2017, the 25 top public video gaming companies had combined revenues of $94.1 billion — a 29-percent increase over 2016, according to Newzoo. By comparison, the movie industry in 2017 reported $43 billion in revenue, IBISWorld reported. The sports industry worldwide anticipated $91 billion in revenue, according to Statista.

Darryl Hughes and Edye Deloch-Hughes of Chicago, IL, are looking to change the game. This husband-and-wife team is training a new generation of diverse gaming developers. They co-founded Hughes Who Technology Studio, and they advocate for youth through their business.

“Some argue that racial diversity is more important in video games than in TV or film.” – Sandy Ong, Newsweek.

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Darryl Hughes workshop. Photo provided

Hughes Who, a division of Hughes Technologies, is a minority-owned game development company. Darryl and Edye Hughes combine gaming production and creative skills with a background in parent advocacy to inspire, motivate and educate around 1,000 students, especially those who are struggling academically.

Darryl has more than 30 years’ experience as a game developer, creative director, and art director. He has executive-produced 2D and 3D animation for gaming and animation companies with successful slot machine and video games worldwide.  He has worked with Burrell Advertising, WMS Gaming, Warner Bros., and others. He’s an inventor with 12 game patents and teaches at DePaul University. Many of his students have gone on to work for Disney, Warner Bros., Blue Sky Productions, Blizzard Games and Pixar.

In this Feb. 16, 2018, photo, University Prep Academy High School students react in Detroit to an announcement that all 600 students will see the film “Black Panther.” As the film debuts in theaters across the U.S., educators, philanthropist, celebrities, and business owners are pulling together their resources to bring children of color to see the film which features a black superhero in a fictional, un-colonized African nation. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Edye Deloch-Hughes has more than 25 years of experience in advertising, creating multicultural broadcast and print campaigns. She has done work for Walmart, the U.S. Postal Service and the Illinois Department of Transportation, among others, and served as president of a local chapter of the African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education in Oak Park, IL.

In Chicago, 20.4 percent of Black males and 17.1 percent of Black females do not have a high school diploma. The Hughes have found little community support to push their efforts forward. Bootstrapping their programs to reach as many students as possible, they’re determined to make a difference and impact not only a city but an industry that lacks diversity.

The Hughes talked to Moguldom about their work in Chicago and the need to diversify the gaming industry.

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Game developer, educator and youth advocate Darryl Hughes, co-founder of Chicago-based Hughes Who Technology Studio, a division of Hughes Technologies. Photo provided

Moguldom: With your backgrounds, you have helped hundreds of students in the Chicago area. How has the local computer science and business community responded to your efforts?

Darryl Hughes: We have not got much support from the community. When you put it out there that you are trying to do this for under-served or inner-city students, we don’t get many responses back. We have met with several city officials in our area and showed them the work we have been doing for many years, and the students’ work, and how it helped them perform better in school. We never hear back from them, even after numerous emails or phone calls.

Moguldom: What are some of your projects?

Darryl Hughes: We went to a dialysis center on the North side of Chicago, where we worked with minority kids who were on dialysis. They helped us create a stop-motion animation PSA (public service announcement) for the American Kidney Fund. The kids had fun and it was for a worthwhile cause. We are doing a gaming workshop with the DuPage County NAACP in-connection with the Illinois Math and Science Academy and an animation workshop for the Aurora SciTech Museum.

Moguldom: What impact do you see on other students who see their peers’ coding games?

Darryl Hughes: I have found going into many schools, especially Chicago Public Schools that have a high number of minority students, a majority of these students are very interested in doing games or being in the creative industry. Their schools do not have the resources (computers, software, etc.) or staff to introduce or get them involved in these type of after-school activities. When I go to speak at these schools, our students are shocked to see a Black man is a game developer. Unfortunately, we are a rare breed. Our goal for our program is to change this. When students see others like them doing these type of things, it does influence them. Our kids need to see a different kind of role model instead of the ones in the streets of their neighborhoods.

Moguldom: How can parents encourage their kids to code and create games rather than just play them?

 

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Edye Deloch-Hughes, co-founder of Chicago-based Hughes Who Technology Studio, a division of Hughes Technologies. Photo provided

Edye Deloch-Hughes: First, parents need to be educated on the benefits of gaming and how their kids can get involved in the business of it rather than just playing games. Google can be your best friend. Google anything you want to know about gaming, coding, and careers in gaming. This is the perfect time to team up with children to find out more about the industry. Some kids learn better when they see it than read it. Check out YouTube videos. Type in “coding for kids”. You’ll get a plethora of resources. Download some apps on the computer and mobile device that can teach coding and game development such as Coding.org and Scratch.com. The old trusted library is a great source for books on the subject. Check out the museums in your community. There are a host of workshops throughout the cities in the U.S. that teach coding for kids.

Moguldom: There are fewer female game developers than male. What does it mean for Black girls to see themselves coding in the gaming industry?

Edye Deloch-Hughes: It means empowerment. It means a door is opening that was shut tight — a door no one thought to open. Now it’s ajar, and the breeze of possibilities is blowing their way. It’s an awesome feeling. Coding is awesome and so is game design, art, modeling, and production. There are so many aspects to gaming. Coding or programming is just one of them. The thing is, there still aren’t enough girls who know about this — especially those of color. Hughes Who hopes to change that.

Moguldom: Where do you see Hughes Who Technologies in 10 years?

Edye Deloch-Hughes:  In the next 10 years, I see Hughes Who conduct more animation and game development workshops with younger kids in the school system here and in neighboring states. I envision Hughes Who graduating our next batch of certified gamers of color, working on VR (virtual reality) projects for edutainment and health care, with alumni helping to develop these games and experiences.