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3 Iconic Black Movers & Shakers Within The Games Industry

February is Black History Month, and we here at GNN would like to shine a spotlight on the Black community represented within the Video Game industry. As the video game industry continues to grow beyond other forms of media and slowly spreads its influence over streaming, films, and television, it also has expanded and changed expectations of what a developer or programmer should look like. Only in the last few years has the game industry itself really opened up to minorities in most positions. So here we have three black gaming icons spread across the history of videogames who have left their mark on the gaming world.

Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson stands as a towering figure in the history of video gaming, not just as a prominent African American engineer but also as an innovator whose contributions have fundamentally shaped the way we play and engage with video games. Born in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, Lawson’s fascination with technology and electronics led him to a career that would make a lasting impact on the gaming industry. His most notable achievement, the creation of the game cartridge, revolutionized video gaming by introducing a new level of flexibility and accessibility that was previously unimaginable.

Jerry Lawson honored with his own Google header. Image from AfroTech.

Before Lawson’s innovation, video games were hard-wired into consoles, limiting players to the games that came with the system. In the early 1970s, as Chief Engineer and Director of Engineering and Marketing for Fairchild Semiconductor’s video game division, Lawson led the development of the Fairchild Channel F system. This was the first console to use interchangeable cartridges, a concept that allowed players to buy individual games that could be played on a single system instead of buying multiple systems. 

This not only expanded the library of available games but also paved the way for the development of a broader gaming culture and industry, with game developers now able to sell their creations separately from the console and not worry about developing hardware.

Despite facing the challenges that came with being a minority in the technology sector, Lawson’s contributions have earned him posthumous recognition and respect within the gaming community. In 2011, he was honored by the International Game Developers Association for his significant contributions to the industry. 

Sarah Bond

Sarah Bond’s rise within the gaming industry to become the President of Xbox marks a groundbreaking achievement that cements her status as an important black figure in gaming history. Her journey is not just a story of personal success but also a beacon of inspiration, showing the impact of diversity and leadership in technology and gaming. Originally Bond worked at T-Mobile as Vice President of Corporate Strategy before making her way to Xbox as Corporate Vice President.

Xbox President, Sarah Bond. Image from BusinessJournal.

One of Bond’s most significant contributions to Xbox, and the wider gaming industry, is her role in expanding Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that has transformed how people access and play games. Under her leadership, the service saw exponential growth, broadening the Xbox ecosystem and making gaming more accessible to a wider audience. 

Her efforts in negotiating partnerships and expanding the Game Pass library have not only increased the service’s value but also highlighted the potential for subscription models in gaming. She also represented Xbox numerous times during the acquisition of Blizzard-Activision in several court proceedings. Bond’s influence extends beyond product innovation; she is also a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion within the gaming industry. 

As a black woman in a predominantly male and white industry, Bond’s accomplishments serve as a powerful example of breaking barriers and challenging norms. Her success at Xbox and her influence on the gaming industry at large underscore the importance of diverse leadership in shaping the future of entertainment. 

Abubakar Salim

Abubakar Salim, with his interesting careers as an actor and entrepreneur in the gaming and entertainment industry, is a significant figure in the narrative of black excellence and innovation within gaming history. Salim’s transition from on-screen acting to becoming a pivotal voice in the video gaming world, and eventually founding his own game studio, Silver Rain Games, illustrates a journey of creative exploration, representation, and leadership.

Salim first gained widespread recognition for his compelling portrayal of Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins. But you might have seen him in 24: Live Another Day, Spotless, or Jamestown. Beyond his acting accolades, Abubakar Salim’s impact on the gaming industry is shown through his entrepreneurial venture, Surgent Studios. 

Founded with the intent to create immersive stories that resonate with a diverse audience, Surgent Studios is a testament to Salim’s commitment to innovation and inclusivity in gaming. Through his studio, Salim aims to provide a platform for underrepresented voices and stories, pushing the boundaries of traditional gaming narratives and developing a more inclusive gaming ecosystem. The first game under this brand, Tales Of Kenzera: Zau, is Salim’s loveletter to his father and the stories his father told him as a kid. It’s due out April 23rd.

Salim’s on-screen achievements, coupled with his contributions to the gaming industry through voice acting and his game studio, position him as a Black icon in gaming history. His work not only entertains but also challenges and enriches the gaming community, making him a powerful advocate for diversity, representation, and creativity.

Closing Thoughts

What do you think of our picks? Who would you add to the list? Sound off in the comment section, we love reading your thoughts. I would have added more but didn’t want to make this piece too long. So any omissions should not be regarded as a slight of any kind. Be sure to follow Geek News Now on Facebook and Twitter/X. As always, stay geeky out there!

 

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