September 28, 2023
At this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) joined forces with Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX) to host the Diversity in Video Games Competition. The competition provided a platform for college students from underrepresented communities to showcase their impressive video game development skills as they competed for an opportunity to become an intern at the ESA.
“Diversity isn’t just a goal; it’s the very essence of what makes our industry so powerful. Empowering the bright, young minds of tomorrow is an important aspect of spurring continued growth and innovation in video games,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, President & CEO of the ESA.
During the competition, students pitched their video games and answered a series of questions from a panel of judges comprised of experts and key influencers in the video game industry including:
- Seth Smith, Senior Game Designer at Riot Games
- Bakari Middleton, Director of Global Public Policy at Epic Games
- Latoya Peterson, CXO/Cofounder of Glow Up Games
- Daphne Turpin Forbes, Assistant General Counsel and Managing Attorney at Microsoft
The three top titles were selected based on the video games’ engaging visuals and music, user-friendly interface, storytelling capabilities and development process. The ESA and CBCF are honored to announce the winners and finalists who excelled in each category:
WINNERS: Mango Goes to Mewsic School, Kaya Cook & Cecil Kong,
In this rhythm-based role-playing game (RPG), players play as the main character Mango, a cat who dreams of going to music school. The object of the game is for the players to make Mango the best possible music school applicant as they learn about four different genres of music: afrobeat, jazz, classical and K-pop. With a diverse spread of musical offerings, the game enables players to appreciate each genre and the importance of having a well-rounded knowledge of the arts. At the University of Southern California, Kaya Cook is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Games, while Cecil Kong is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a minor in 3D Animation.
FINALIST: Engolo: Warriors of Time, Justin Hopson
The original fighter game, Engolo: Warriors of Time, follows the story of various African warriors from different eras around the world. Engolo, translating to “strength and power”, embraces African roots, allowing players to learn more about notorious warriors as they interact with them through gameplay. From the African Sumarai Yasuke to Queen Nzinga the Ruler of Ndongo (Angola), players can step into the unique storylines of each of these historic characters and battle against each other for the title of the greatest “Warrior of Time.” Justin Hopson is a graduate student at Texas A&M University pursuing a Master of Science in Visualization.
FINALISTS: Mangrove City, Cassandra Swilley & Kumani Riley
Mangrove City is a virtual reality (VR) experience that normalizes mangrove forests as critical aspects of the ecosystem that mitigate sea-level rise. Particularly targeted to middle school-aged students, the game is designed to educate young players about the role of mangrove forests in protecting coastal communities and even combatting the effects of climate change. Expanding beyond the current educational benefits of the video game, Swilley and Riley emphasize the need for teachers to adopt the game so future generations of changemakers can value nature as an essential part of everyone’s lives. Currently undergraduate students at the University of Miami, Cassandra Swilley plans to double major and graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Interactive Media and Bachelor of Arts in Native American & Global Indigenous Studies, and Kumani Riley is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and Interactive Media with a minor in Electronic Media.
The ESA is pleased to recognize these talented students and celebrate the ways that Black communities and communities of color are shaping the future of the entertainment software industry.