Gaming Industry Diversity Initiatives

Over $250 Million Raised or Paid Out for Diversity Efforts
By Kay Bros with Peggy Twardowski

The summer of 2020 saw a number of companies nationwide capture headlines with commitments to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ve kept tabs on the initiatives within the gaming industry and present a light roundup of new initiatives or ones from firms that have a previous history of games investments. Not quite a year later, with efforts ranging from traditional VC to project funding to scholarships, almost $250 million has been paid out or raised by the following:

Niantic’s Black Developers Initiative
  • Fund size or source: Not specified
  • Target: Majority-Black teams, majority-Black owned and operated studios, teams where Black members have a direct line to the company’s profits or are in key leadership roles
  • Project types: “The next innovative real-world game that encourages players to explore the world, get exercise, and connect to one another,” so playable prototypes and pitch decks produced at the end of the initiative must have an AR/geolocation focus
  • Funding: Five months of development and support for playable prototype and pitch deck
  • Recipients or previous investments: World Reborn from W!CKED SAiNTS
Eximus Ventures
  • Fund size: $10 million
  • Target: Indian tech, media, and gaming; women-led focus
  • Project types: Indian companies that have “initial market validation and a view on the path to profitability”
  • Funding: $300,000 early-stage
  • Recipients or previous investments: EWar Games
Humble Bundle’s Black Game Developer Fund
  • Fund size: $1 million annual program
  • Target: Individual or independent game developers who identify either racially or ethnically as Black, and do not currently have a signed publishing agreement for a specific game
  • Project types: Unreleased games (not launched Early Access)
  • Funding: “We offer multiple ways we can support teams, from publishing your game, providing you funding to help you self-publish your game to giving you a startup fund to help you build a prototype to pitch.”
  • Recipients or previous investments: Breeze in the Clouds from Stormy Nights Interactive, PENSION$ from Epoch Media, Protodroid DeLTA from Adam Kareem, Amma: Chronicles of Lost Stars from Joinplay Games, KindFolx from Taco Pizza Cat
IGDA Foundation/Grant for the Web’s Diverse Game Developers Fund
  • Fund size: $200,000+
  • Target: 75% of applicant studios’ employees must be from underrepresented backgrounds, which “may include but is not limited to LGBTQIA+, people of color, people with accessibility needs, marginalized genders, veterans, neurodiversity, or others.” Individual game developers applying for the grant must also be a person from an underrepresented background.
  • Project types: Game prototypes that “explore alternative methods of web monetization”
  • Funding: Up to $25,000 for creating a prototype
  • Recipients or previous investments (includes projects, studios, and individuals): Arutu Gaming, Pollito & Xiang Xiang, Smarto Club, Elite Gems, Fighting Chance Games, Team Frum Girl, Team Abuelita, Foleso, Bought/Broken, and Hien Pham
Kapor Capital’s Fund III
  • Fund size: $125 million
  • Target: Social impact and founders of color. New portfolio companies to invest in diversity and inclusion as part of a Founders’ Commitment.
  • Project types: Games-related funding tends to be EdTech
  • Funding: Not specified
  • Recipients or previous investments: codeSpark, Enuma
MaC Venture Capital
  • Fund size: $103 million
  • Target: Software companies with diverse founders
  • Project types: Software companies not traditionally represented in VC portfolios, e.g., companies with women founders, African American founders, Latino founders
  • Funding: Seed stage
  • Recipients or previous investments: Artie, Manticore Games
Riot’s Underrepresented Founders program
  • Fund size: $10 million
  • Target: Investments and startup programs focused on underrepresented founders in the gaming community
  • Project types: Not specified
  • Funding: Funding, mentorship, and access: “We want developers to focus on making games rather than figuring out how they can afford expensive software or dev kits, navigate legal red tape, or make the connections required to bring their ideas to market.
  • Recipients or previous investments: The Wagadu Chronicles from Twin Drums
  • Fund size: Not specified
  • Target: Teams with women and marginalized genders in key creative, technical, or management roles
  • Project types: Premium PC and console indie games
  • Funding: Up to $500,000 in funding, as well as mentorship and networking in return for revenue sharing
  • Recipients or previous investments: Button City from Subliminal Games, Illuminaria from Selva Interactive, The Fermi Paradox from Anomaly Games, and Kabaret from Persona Theory Games
  • Fund size: $25 million over five years
  • Target: Endowment that focuses on education, equity, and opportunities for diversity in gaming; university partnerships; diversity-oriented training and development programs
  • Project types: Not specified
  • Funding: Not specified
  • Recipients or previous investments: Girls Who Code

Additionally, Facebook’s Black Gaming Creator Program (applications paused until fall 2021) has put aside $10 million over the next two years to boost Black influencers and livestreamers’ communities on Facebook. This funding and resources will include access to new features and monetization methods, mentorship and feedback, and guaranteed monthly pay. Applications will open again in the fall for a new cohort.

There have been some terrific efforts to increase education and access for students in underrepresented groups, including the following:

  • Girls Who Code received $1 million from the ESA in early March to found a new multi-year initiative focused on increasing access and opportunity for women of color in software
  • The IGDA Foundation/Grant for the Web’s Diverse Game Developers Fund also set aside a $50,000 fund for student project funding. Possible examples provided are “digital games, research papers, lectures, software or tools, training programs or workshops, panels, and exhibits” (strongly encouraged to apply for no more than $5,000)
  • The University of Southern California and Take-Two Interactive established the Gerald A. Lawson Endowment Fund (named after the Black pioneer of interchangeable game cartridges), which will begin supporting Black and indigenous game developers beginning 2022

In GDC’s most recent State of the Game Industry (published April 2021), sixty percent of participants said their studio focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives ranging from “a moderate amount” to “a great deal,” up 4% from last year. At the same time, a quarter of the respondents said their studio did not focus on diversity and inclusion efforts, down 3%. With much work needed to increase opportunities and representation of underrepresented groups within our industry, we’re impressed by the over $250 million raised or paid out in this list and hope this inspires more companies to do the same.