Project Beanstalk

Planting Seeds of Diversity in the gaming industry.

Photo of Isaiah Johnson
3 4

Written by

Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

May 20th, 1996

Help us stay in touch!

(925) 529-7611, 4438 Palo Verde Drive, Pittsburg, CA 94565

Date You Started Your Project Started

January 17th, 2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We are working to fix the lack of diversity in the video game industry. Video games are powerful forms of media. But they lack an important ingredient to being able to educate and influence the growth of society positively, representation. Only a handful of games include characters from marginalized backgrounds, and many of these games misrepresent different cultures by adhering to stereotypes.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our solution is to create video games that portray the vast experiences of people from different backgrounds. Our goal is to inspire individuals to feel empowered by their identity, and educate them to see other cultures for more than stereotypes. As a team of marginalized game developers who are working to improve representation, we have been an inspiring example to many individuals in and outside of the game industry. The lack of representation in video games is caused by the low number of game developers in the workforce who come from marginalized backgrounds. Once we become more successful as a game studio, we aim to solidify the game industry’s growth by creating more opportunities for people from underrepresented groups to break into the video game industry such as workshops, job opportunities, and an educational program.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I've wanted to be a game developer ever since I was a kid. I was fortunate enough to come across opportunities that helped me grow as a developer and social entrepreneur, but the reality is that the game industry is extremely difficult for underrepresented people to break into, especially because of barriers such as biased hiring and lack of opportunity. I was inspired to make a change whenever I went to a game conference and realized that the only other people of color were the security guards. After some research, I wasn’t to find that only 1% (unchanged) of game developers were of African descent, only 5% (currently 4%) were from the LatinX community. I started Project Beanstalk to open the door for all people who want to pursue careers in the game industry, and to provide a positive future for these individuals by healing the toxic culture of the gaming industry.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

We provide a sort of cultural anthropology through our games so that when a person is playing, they are educated and excited about their own backstory as well as the cultures of their peers. We hope to impact, empower, and inspire these people and offer supportive communities through our games such as a group server on discord or Facebook. We also mentor youth who are pursuing careers in the video game industry and in tech. We met our men-tees through different tech and video game events and have since taken them under our wing to meet with them as consistently as their schedule allows to provide hands on experiences and information on product management, idea pitching, game design, confident networking, and personal counseling to support their current and future needs.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We get many props in the game industry because we are the change that they have been looking for. We are developers of color which is rare in the game industry and we can use our natural experiences as inspiration for our games whereas most developers will misrepresent cultures. Our work to diversify video games is very rare because many developers choose to ignore representation and 'follow the money' by making the next best first person shooter. Many large game companies want diversity but are hindered by their own policies so they fund other initiatives. That said, we are open to funding!

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our work has positively affected several communities throughout the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Boston. As leaders, we have inspired our peers, mentees, mentors, as well as leaders in the game and tech industries. As well as people who see our work online or at showcases. people who see our work at showcases or online. We also participate in fellowships, advocacy groups, and contract positions in order to strengthen the positive impact that a group intends to make on their community. Some of these activities include consulting with social innovation companies like Hopelab, and helping Qeyno launch a hackathon for youth of color to build apps to solve world problems such as gentrification.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Our goal is to build our brand in order to increase the speed and weight of our impact on the world. By December, we will release Ice Cream Tornado, a small project and mobile app meant to help support Tornado victims. We are looking to connect with Ben & Jerry's seeing as they are an amazing social company that sells ice cream, and we are looking for a disaster relief organization who can take part as a distribution partner. Please let us know if you have anyone we can reach out to! We had a delay on our larger game and have to re brand it but we are currently working on a game meant to de-stigmatize being a member of the LGBTQ community! We have some momentum from networking and showcasing the game but we need funding and branding.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Brand Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email
  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Youth Impact Hub and Jean Black from last year's Changemaker Challenge.

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Tara
Team

Isaiah - Your passion for this work is visible from your video pitch to your writing. Your work is bringing to light an important issue and as our world becomes more digitalized and seen from behind a screen, representation is so important. Thank you for sharing your vision! We are in great hands thanks to people like you!

View all comments