Game Changers 2021: Part One

Game Changers 2021: Part One

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Like 2020 before it, 2021 has been a year that some will remember as a time of stress, frustration, and further revelations of the games industry’s shortcomings when it comes to providing a diverse, inclusive and welcoming place to work.

While it is still important to scrutinise the negative aspects of the business behind video games, it’s also important to highlight the positives: sharing and celebrating success stories, and honouring groups and individuals that work hard to bring about much-needed change.

And so the GamesIndustry.biz Game Changers returns. As with last year, this initiative profiles individuals and organisations making progress in vital areas like diversity, accessibility, charity, mental health, progressive politics, lifting emerging markets, uniting communities, and more — people whose stories can show us how this industry can be that better and more inclusive place.

We solicited nominations from our own panel of contributors who helped us with last year’s Game Changers, and opened up this year’s nominations to the public as well. From that pool of nominees, the GamesIndustry.biz team chose to celebrate this year’s Game Changers for reasons each profile will explain.

Below are the first four Game Changers, with more to follow every working day, with a full wrap-up coming later this month.

Star wars Rejess Marshall, Iron Galaxy

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Rejess Marshall, Iron Galaxy

Killer Instinct studio Iron Galaxy, also known for its porting work on multiple platforms, has been expanding its headcount in preparation for a new original IP, and understood the need to not only recruit but retain a more diverse staff by creating an environment where everyone can be their authentic selves. For this reason, the studio recognised the need for a role to head up its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Program — a role that was filled this year by Rejess Marshall.

“I serve as an accountability partner to our teams and engage and motivate everyone at Iron Galaxy to take action towards advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our products, for our customers, and in our communities,” Marshall says. “I also drive community relations initiatives including partnerships and collaborations with technology and gaming social impact organizations.”

Marshall has a solid track record of being involved in wanting to create more equitable workplaces, from her previous job as a claims specialist at Progressive Insurance, where she was also an ambassador for the company’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

When she decided to seek an MBA in Human Resources and Organizational Management at Georgia State University, she was also a member of the diversity curriculum committee, and alongside her graduation she was also awarded the Michael Jay Jedel Award in Human Resource Management — an honour given to a postgraduate student who exhibits high standards of academic achievement, strong commitment to the human resources field, and outstanding leadership potential.

Since joining Iron Galaxy in these past few months, Marshall has already been instrumental in defining the studio’s DEIA strategy, establishing strong partnerships with both internal and external stakeholders.

“I collaborate with our executive team, our department leads, our DEI Committee and our employee resource groups,” she explains. “Externally, I work with other DEI gaming professionals and community organizations.”

More importantly, although she has demonstrated her ability to inspire, engage and motivate her colleagues — which also has a positive impact on the studio’s customers and community — Marshall understands that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are issues the industry needs to work together on.

“Be open to share your experiences, speak your truth and collaborate,” she says. “The work we’re doing in gaming isn’t going to happen overnight and as a collective we can work together to create equitable working spaces.”

You can read more about Marshall’s work in this piece exploring the role of a DEI officer, and hear more of her thoughts on improving diversity in the games industry on our podcast.

Star wars AfricanGameDev

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Samia Chelbi, AfricanGameDev

“Let’s build the African game dev community!” That’s the slogan behind AfricanGameDev, an initiative launched in November 2020 that has since seen 250 young people across the continent be trained to become game developers.

The project was launched by 3D art, animation and video games school Net-Info, based in Tunis.

“The slogan explains the whole mindset around this project,” says Samia Chelbi, Net-Info’s founder, and one of the masterminds behind the initiative. “This project was been implemented in partnership with companies, schools, universities and organizations from ten countries (Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, DR Congo, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia, Congo-Brazzaville, France) who wish to develop the skills of young people passionate about the creation of video games and thus offer them new job opportunities and creation of start-ups.”

This project targets developers between 18 and 30 years old. Following three months of training, the participants formed teams and were mentored to create a game prototype related to the cultural heritage of their countries. Events were organi

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