The Business of Diversity

The Business of Diversity

Ashburn-based staffing company enters video-gaming industry

Historically, the video-gaming industry has been driven by young, white males and no one seems to know why.

In 2005, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) conducted a survey of almost 6,500 people working in the video-gaming industry and found that 88.5 percent of those surveyed were male and 83.3 percent were white.

"There has been this stereotype of who was a game maker, but there was no data," Jason Della Rocca, executive director of IGDA, said. "So we wanted to take a one-time snapshot of the industry. And, yes, it turned out that the stereotype was true."

NOW, ONE LOCAL company is working to change that stereotype.

Corbel Systems International, an Ashburn-based company, established a partnership with Nerjyzed Entertainment in Baton Rouge, La., to provide consulting services to the video-gaming industries. Both companies are owned and operated by African-Americans.

Alfred C. Turner, chief operating officer of Corbel Systems, said he hopes to help create more of a minority presence in the development and programming of video games.

"When I first started, I didn’t know there was a market out there for this industry," he said. "But one of the constant comments I get is, 'We need people.'"

Floyd Jones, chief operating officer and president of Corbel Systems, said video-gaming offered the company an opportunity to tap into a new market.

"We look for a strategic partner [in the industry] and are dedicated to helping them build their company and future resources on a long-term basis," he said.

Entering the video-game industry has also given Corbel Systems a chance to recruit well-rounded programmers, Jones said, with skills that can be used either for video gaming or in a more traditional information technology company.

TURNER SAID HE does not understand why minorities have been so underrepresented in the development of video games.

"There is no rational for it," he said. "The amount of response we have gotten shows the need for the services."

While there is no real statistical data to support the lower number of minority game developers, Rocca said the overlying themes of many video games could be a factor.

"The themes are primarily about white males," he said. "It is an art where the creators puts in their own views, embeds themselves into the game. Then it becomes interesting and compelling to the people who reflect the creator. Then maybe they themselves want to become a developer and the cycle continues. So where are the themes or stories to inspire the minority population to become a part of the industry?"

IGDA HAS BEEN working with the minority community trying to increase the diversity among game programmers and developers, but Rocca said it is a slow process.

"We want to expand the cycle," he said. "There is a definite motivation. If we can bring in all these different people it will bring a larger audience to games in general."

There are two components that will have to work together to bring more minorities to video-game development, Jones said.

"The perception that the industry is only for producing entertainment products has to be balanced with the educational value of the products marketed in the industry," he said.

Turner hopes to be able to expand Corbel’s reach not only to minorities already in the workforce, but minority children pursuing jobs in technology.

"We want to help youth with developing careers and with scholarships," he said. "I came from a place where I didn’t have a whole lot of resources. I want to make sure that the next one who comes up behind me doesn’t have to struggle."