The gaming industry has a diversity problem. More than two-thirds of game developers are white, and Black people make up only two percent of the industry. This lack of diversity means the perspectives of people of color are often overlooked.
We spoke with the co-founder of Dynamic Ink Games about his decision to create a Black-owned game development studio and the challenges he’s faced.
Game Development Beginnings
Two Average Gamers: How’d you get into game development?
Damian: As a kid, I grew up poor in Bakersfield. We would take cardboard from the garage to make board games. We had a natural affinity for game design. As I got older, I recognized that game design is my calling. It was what I leaned into. I started with a program focused on directing and later switched to video games. Understanding the structure of a story and how to keep people entertained over a period of time.
TAG: It definitely seems like you were meant to be in this industry. Tell me about the inspiration for your games.
D: We’re currently developing Acedia (pronounced Ay-sid-dee-uh). It’s a dating sim that features four Black cosplayers. I know one of them personally, and I wanted to create a game based on her online persona. This type of thing didn’t exist and I wanted to make the first one. The game will be out in July on mobile.
Building Your Gaming Studio
TAG: How has your experience with game development studios led you to founding your Black-owned studio?
D: Leaving college and trying to join a major studio was difficult. My brother worked at a studio and had a hard time finding one that suited him. For me, I never felt very comfortable in a studio because I wouldn’t have complete control over my product. The culture of deadlines, crunch time, meeting quotas – some of this wasn’t suited to me. It’s restrictive. The gaming industry just churns people out. What you do can be replaced very quickly. It didn’t feel like you were part of a family — it was all business.
TAG: That definitely sounds like a difficult environment to thrive in. Tell me more about Dynamic Ink.
D: There were so many talented people around me. I looked around and figured we could just start something ourselves, pulling together our collective skills. You need to have people around you that you love and trust. The group is myself, my brother, a college buddy who is an artist, as well as some freelancers. We’ve never all met up since we are remote, but our team is stronger than a random assortment of people.
TAG: What have you seen on the diversity side of the gaming industry?
D: We would go to meetups and I couldn’t find Black developers. I know a couple who do amazing things, but it’s difficult to see people who look like us. It’s encouraging and discouraging at the same time. There’s so much potential for us. Instead of being a one side character in a game, I can finally be the main character.
TAG: What are some of the biggest challenges in developing a game?
D: Finding out what is viable to make given our existing tools. It’s also difficult to stick to an initial idea. You need to trust yourself and be comfortable. Having self-doubt in what you make is normal. It takes years to make games. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it will show up in what you’re creating. The biggest challenge is staying in love with what you wanted to create. There were times where I wasn’t sure if this was the right thing for me to spend my time on. At times, I felt ashamed for wanting to quit. We need to remind ourselves that what we are doing is important.
TAG: Where do you see opportunities for the gaming industry to further support Black people?
D: I think the gaming industry works in a way where there is only one opinion at a same time. Many of the people know each other, and many of the games that come out are similar. My thing is to get more games and stories from people who have different backgrounds. Life experiences matter, and people will put their background into the game. More people need to stand up and do their own things. We started from the bottom and have just been doing everything ourselves. I would urge other people to do the same.
Tips For Interested Gamers And The Future Of Dynamic Ink Games
TAG: What’s the future of Dynamic Ink? Can you tell me about the release schedule and upcoming developments?
D: We’re currently looking for more musicians. Right now, I make all the music for the game. I have a huge amount of respect for song creation after trying to do it myself. We’ll have the official announcement of Damage Dealers in October and then the game will be released soon after. We’re always looking for more artists who have a cool, funky sound.
TAG: Any advice for Black people looking to get into game development?
D: My younger brother made a wildly popular mod for a game on his own. He’s only 14-years-old and is doing amazing things. He fired up YouTube, watched what he needed, and just recrated things on his own. If you want to get into game design and don’t have the resources to go to a college for it, you can get a lot of the knowledge online. It’s up to you to acquire the knowledge that you need.
Damian and his team are helping to build a place for Black voices in the game development world. You can stay up to date on his progress on Instagram and follow the creation of games which feature Black characters!
Two Average Gamers is a Black-owned small business founded in Spring 2018. It’s run by a pair of life-long friends, Fred & Julian, who grew up in the 90s and love all things gaming. They publish weekly articles covering gaming news, stream a variety of video games, and sell gaming merchandise.