Xbox Celebrates Black History Month

Summary

Xbox will be celebrating Black History Month throughout February.To help introduce our various initiatives, Xbox Researcher Portia Botchway shares her insights as a Black woman in the games industry.We also explain how you can give, discover, play and watch with Xbox to support Black History Month.

As a Black woman working in the gaming industry, finding community has been instrumental to the success I’ve found in my career. For the past three years, I have served in the role of Xbox Researcher. At its core, my job is to understand and communicate the user experience throughout the development of a game to various developer stakeholders.

I recognize that some elements of my experience as a Black woman in gaming and in tech more broadly have been atypical, for example my first manager in tech was also a Black woman. Being managed by her was a wonderful and empowering experience to kick off my gaming career. From day one, my leadership chain has emphasized what is possible in this field and that I, and people who look like me, belong here. I’ve been able to work for and alongside diverse leaders across the Gaming organization. I’ve also connected with people who have similar experiences to my own in an employee community group for Black people at Xbox. Finding community has given me access to resources, mentorship and even friendships that are the foundation of what has made this journey great so far and supported my learning and growth.

My journey into gaming feels like I have the opportunity to build on the work of those who came before me, who experienced adversity, and pushed hard to carve out spaces where today, I can feel more confident in my career. Even though I found my niche playing JRPG, action-adventure, and strategy games while playing games with my brothers, I still sometimes feel like I don’t belong as a “gamer.” Being a gamer is only one part of my identity; I am also an avid reader and a lifelong athlete. Sometimes it seems like a “real” gamer must make gaming their main hobby and play all the newest titles. It’s not like that for me; I love gaming when a title comes out that interests me, but I also take breaks and enjoy filling my life with many other activities that fulfill me, too. One thing I appreciate is how I don’t feel like an outsider with Xbox.

To those just beginning their career, remember you don’t need to have coding experience to work in the gaming industry. My day-to-day responsibilities include reading the research others have published, reading design documentation and briefs about games, playing games to understand the user experience, and engaging in conversations with the gaming community. My job includes a lot of meetings, writing, planning, presentations, and playing games. You also don’t have to have a degree in game design; my educational background is in biological sciences, ancient Roman and world history and cultures, languages, and the science of learning. I started my professional career in teaching. Serving as a teacher has a lot of skill overlap to my current role, including developing a mindset that is always looking to learn.

Additionally, I’d advise you to seek out organizations that include diverse leaders and perspectives. Also look to align yourself with growth-oriented people who value learning. They will likely be more open and willing to help you on your journey.

I am grateful that finding and learning from a supportive professional community has helped me to find my voice in gaming. In hopes to increase representation and help others find their voice, too, here are a few ways that Team Xbox will be supporting and celebrating Black communities this year:

GIVE

Gerald A. Lawson Fund Names Recipients

Xbox is honored to work with the University of Southern California on the Gerald A. Lawson Fund for Black and Indigenous Students, which advances our industry by bringing more voices and talent into gaming.

Today, USC Games announced the first Gerald A. Lawson Fund scholarship recipients, who will be known as “Lawson Scholars.” Jerry Lawson was a Black electronic engineer who pioneered work in the video game industry including the removable video game cartridge, the 8-way joystick, and the pause button. The Gerald A. Lawson Fund was supported in part by donation from Xbox.

“At Microsoft, we are committed to fostering a more inclusive industry,” said Matt Booty, Head of Xbox Game Studios. We are grateful for USC Games’ efforts to do just that with the Gerald A. Lawson Fund. We believe that providing access to higher education and resources for these students will not only contribute to their personal career endeavors but will also spark growth and advancement within our industry.” You can read more about the program here.

Microsoft Rewards

Microsoft Rewards members in the United States can earn and donate points to organizations supporting Black communities with Xbox. The below organizations will be featured on console:

Cxmmunity – A nonprofit organization committed to increasing BIPOC representation within the gaming and esports industry through STEAM education and career development.

Black Girls Rock! – A global women’s movement and philanthropic organization dedicated to celebrating and empowering women and girls of color, by producing inspiring media content and providing enrichment programs for girls that foster positive identity development, critical thinking, leadership, literacy, tech, and innovation.

Gameheads – A tech training program that uses video game design, development and DevOps to create diverse talent and bold new voices, train youth of color for the tech eco-system and prepare them for college, career and civic life.

Xbox gamers can earn Rewards points in various ways, such as playing games and completing Game Pass Quests, completing offers in the Microsoft Rewards app on Xbox, and select purchases at the Microsoft Store (exclusions apply). Earn points and redeem them for real rewards. Join us today and donate through Xbox. 

DISCOVER

Artist Clif Wilson Shares Xbox Logo Design Inspiration for Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, Xbox commissioned artist Clif Wilson to design the artwork for this year’s campaign. Clif is a 25-year-old Black, self-taught digital designer, born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He grew up surrounded by an array of cultures and media, which opened his eyes to the uniqueness and vastness of the Black community.  In recent years, his fascination with Afrofuturism has inspired his design work, whether that be graphics, fashion, or any other creative medium. Today his work is housed in his company, Ajaar, which acts as a means for him to creatively interact with the world around him.

In designing the Xbox logo for Black History Month, Clif shared:

“When approaching the imagery for this campaign, I was inspired by the idea of unity and exploration in the Black community. The sunset in the design represents the shared perspective in struggle as well as hope, with each sunset and sunrise being symbolic of another chance to grow and change. The theme of exploration is expressed through the imagery of the starry sky and computer board pattern in the artwork, painting the picture of a world that is full of endless possibilities and spaces to discover. Through gaming, we are able to virtually immerse ourselves into many new spaces where we can engage with different stories and the different individuals that make up the Black gaming community.”

Check out Clif’s work at Ajaar Design Services and on Instagram.

Project Amplify

In an effort to promote pipelines for Black people and youth across the gaming industry, in September of last year Xbox launched Project Amplify, a video series aimed at supporting Black youth who are interested in pursuing careers in the gaming industry. Project Amplify features video interviews of fourteen Black employees from across Xbox studios as they share their advice, insights into their current roles, and highlights from their time within the gaming industry. Interviewees include people in roles such as production, engineering, character art, licensing, game design, program management, and more. Watch the Project Amplify video series here, and check out personal journeys in the gaming industry. Read more about the Project Amplify launch and find additional resources for game designers here.

Xbox Ambassadors Features Missions for Black History Month

The Xbox Ambassadors community is celebrating Black History Month with a series of XA Missions that highlight games made by Black creators and feature Black leads. Ambassadors can unlock XP by playing, sharing, and discussing games like The Gunk and Watch Dogs 2. Join the discussion and begin unlocking exclusive rewards by becoming an Xbox Ambassador today!

The Microsoft Game Dev Blog Celebrates Black History Month

Everyone has a different path on their journey into the games industry, whether it’s through school, retail, or the military. On the Microsoft Game Dev blog, we’ll be celebrating the contributions of some of our Black and African American employees and partners who create, publish, and, above all, love games with a special entry in our Pathfinding series. Pathfinding features career advice, industry tips, and personal stories of the journey into gaming. It often takes years of persistence to build on the passion that led them toward gaming in the first place and we’re excited to give a diverse set of people a platform to share the lessons they learned along the way with anyone considering a career in the game industry.

New Gamerpics, Profile Theme, Wallpaper, and Avatar Items in Celebration of the Black Community

In partnership with Black communities at Xbox, we’re introducing a new gamerpic, profile themes, wallpaper and avatar items! The gamerpic and profile theme will be available on console and the Xbox PC app. Get your avatar items and wallpapers here. Content is subject to availability by country.

PLAY

Explore Games Curated by Black Communities at Microsoft

Here at Xbox, we are committed to providing inclusive and engaging gaming experiences so that everyone can enjoy all the positive feelings and connections that games provide us. We want all players to be able to find stories they connect with and characters they relate to.

For Black History Month, we are highlighting Black creators, lead characters, and character creation options that include a variety of skin tones and inclusive hairstyles. This collection is available on Xbox, Windows, and Mobile and will exist year-round as part of our ongoing work to create more inclusive gaming ecosystems and elevate content that resonates with communities.

A few highlights from the full Game Pass collection on Xbox and the full Game Pass collection on Windows include:

Deathloop (Available with Xbox Game Pass and Rated M) – Co-created by Black developer Dinga Bakaba (now the Studio Director for Arkane Lyon), Deathloop has won numerous awards for its unique spin on first-person action adventure and the charisma of its two Black leads. The story follows two rival assassins, Colt and Julianna, playing a deadly game of cat & mouse over the fate of a retro futuristic world locked in a time loop.

League of Legends (Available with Xbox Game Pass) – The massive roster of champions in League of Legends includes characters from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, including Black champions like Ekko, K’Sante, Lucian and Senna. Each champion has a deeply engaging storyline and a unique arsenal of spells and abilities, so jump into the game and experience the dynamic stories of these characters now.

HUMANKIND (Available with Xbox Game Pass) – HUMANKIND is a turn-based strategy game in which you can create your own dynamic civilization by combining over 60 historical cultures from across the world. Explore African history and create your very own story with vibrant cultures such as the Nubians, the Bantu, the Ghanaians, the Zulu, the Nigerians, and more.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (Available with Xbox Game Pass and Rated M) – Play as Billie Lurk, the notorious supernatural assassin who plied her trade for years in Dunwall and Karnaca alongside the legendary mercenary killer, Daud. Billie is a resilient and resourceful Black woman who sheltered the empress on-the-run in Dishonored 2, now taking center stage in the third act of the Dishonored franchise.

This collection is available on the Microsoft Store on Xbox and the Microsoft Store on Windows in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States. Visitors can find this collection at any time by searching within the Stores for “Black History” and related terms.

TUNE IN

Xbox Plays Celebrates Black History Month with Streamer Takeovers

Every Monday during the month of February, the Xbox Plays team will be inviting some of our favorite streamers to join us on the Xbox Twitch Channel and handing over the keys to the channel for streamer takeovers in celebration of Black History Month! Tune in and catch all the action on Twitch.tv/Xbox!

February 6th

Kendrisite playing Minecraft (11am PT)

SpringSims playing Disney Dreamlight Valley (3pm PT)

February 13th

DataDave playing Deathloop (11am PT)

Teonawrites playing Coral Island (3pm PT)

February 20th

Xayd playing Disney Dreamlight Valley (11am PT)

Prince & Pop playing Halo Infinite (3pm PT)

February 27th

Jade Valkyrie playing League of Legends (11am PT)

901thagamer playing Forza Horizon 5 (3pm PT)

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Exclusive Interview with Deathloop Game Director Dinga Bakaba