I've spent the decade covering video games. I started back in 2010 at Industry Gamers, jumping from News Writer, to Staff Writer, to Reviews Editor over the years, across publications. I've stuck with it, lending my voice to the industry in the best way I could.
It hasn't always been the focus of my work, but I've always been cognizant of the fact that I'm a black games journalist. I remember going to gaming events when I first started where I was one of the few black faces in the room, alongside Evan Narcisse at Kotaku, Wil O'Neal at Future, Richard Bailey Jr. at The Koalition, or Gerard "HipHopGamer" Williams. Two of those voices have moved on since, but I recall thinking of us as a rarity. In fact, I've been confused as Evan a few times over the years.
Things have changed since then. There are more black people covering the gaming industry now, and I see more black faces at events and online. There's Kahlief Adams of Spawn on Me, Parris Lilly at Gamertag Radio, Gita Jackson over at Vice, Austin Walker at Waypoint Radio, Blessing Adeoye Jr at Kinda Funny Games, and RPGSite owner and VG247 feature writer Alex Donaldson. However, there are fewer sites and fewer spots for everyone, and that includes black writers and creators. Games journalism has always been a game of musical chairs, and things are only getting worse.
The rise of YouTube and Twitch has blunted this contraction and offered black creators a voice and a chance to make themselves known. Twitch streamers like DeejayKnight, Jasmine Bhullar, Big Cheese, BlackOni, and StoryModeBae have carved out their own niches within the platform. There's Black Girl Gamers, a group of black women streamers on Twitch, which include streamers like Jay-Ann Lopez, PikaChulita, and BlackWhimsy on a rotating schedule. It's been fantastic to see these voices growing and firming up their place in the gaming industry.
This is all on my mind as I see an outpouring of love and support for the black community from everyone. On May 25, 2020, a black man named George Floyd was brutally murdered by four police officers who decided that he deserved to die. It was captured on video. All four officers were fired the next day, but it took four days before even one of them was arrested and charged for the murder. Watching the video, I felt that same fear and despair that nearly every black person does all the time; at any moment you could die by government-sanctioned law enforcement and there would be no justice or restitution.
Floyd's death comes after the death of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical worker who was shot in her home by police during a no-knock warrant. It came just a day after a white woman walking her dog called the police on Christian Cooper, following a clear acknowledgement that she knew the action was an implicit threat on his life. It comes after name after name after name. Those murdered by police: Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Botham Jean. Or those threatened and harassed for merely living while black. People are tired of it, and they're angry, hence protests across the United States in nearly every major city. Protests where people are saying loudly: black lives matter.
Following this groundswell of support for black people and against police brutality, many companies have joined the chorus, whether out of firm belief or marketing savvy. Companies like Logitech, Intel, Astro Gaming, Twitch, and Riot Games have stood up to firmly saying "Black Lives Matter," alongside donations to several charities and funds to help those protesting right now. Companies have also postponed planned gaming events for this week, with Electronic Arts canceling a planned Madden NFL 21 showcase and Sony delaying its PlayStation 5 event.
And in this outpouring, I'm seeing more support for black voices within the game industry. Kinda Funny Games, who already has Blessing Adeoye Jr on each and every week, is letting folks like Kahlief Adams and Parris Lilly guest host this week. IGN Podcast Unlocked is also having Adams on as guest host. Other sites are looking to black freelancers to comment on this situation. And in the gaming industry itself, there's been developers offering expertise and mentorship for aspiring black creators, a chance to get into an industry that might've been hostile or indifferent to their work before.
I've always been here. My black compatriots have always been here. The work has always been there if you look for it. The issue has always been the support, the visibility. There's a feeling that only one or two people get to be "the" black people in games journalism, or the industry itself at a time, from N'Gai Croal, to Austin Walker, and beyond. But we're always here, and we deserve the chance to prove ourselves as great creators and writers all the time, not just when it's the trendy thing to do.
Black lives matter and black voices matter. I know the spots are limited, but sites should give black creators a chance to become a firm part of the permanent teams, or at the very least offer more chances to be a part of their streams and gaming events. Help them find visibility and viability. Because not only is their work good, their voices provide a perspective you might not already have on your team.
And while my focus might be on black creators in this essay, don't forget creators from other marginalized groups. Don't forget Latinx, Asian, gay, disabled, and trans creators. Not only can they do the standard reviews, news, and previews that form the backbone of your site, but they can also provide unique work that's not even on your radar. I talked about my fellow black gaming creators, but also look out for several members of the team here at USgamer; Patricia Hernandez of Polygon; Steven Strom, Natalie Flores, Danielle Riendeau, and Kenneth Shepard over at Fanbyte; freelancer Tony Polanco; Matt Kim at IGN; Julie Muncy's contributions at Wired; Michael Higham at GameSpot; and Jan Ochoa at Giant Bomb.
Treasure your diverse voices. Treasure the diverse lives in front of you. And give them a chance to do the work they were born for all the time, not just when "Black Lives Matter" is trending.
If you are able, donate to charities and organizations including:
- Black Lives Matter: https://blacklivesmatter.com/
- Black Visions Collective: https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/
- Minnesota Freedom Fund: https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/
- NAACP: https://www.naacp.org/
Major Game Releases: June 1 to June 5
Here are the major releases for the week of June 1 to June 5. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Valorant [June 2 for PC]: Riot Games' answer to Counter-Strike and other shooters is coming very soon. Despite Valorant's similarities to other popular shooters, it's aiming to break away from the crowd. "Unlike Counter-Strike, or another modern analogue, Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant isn't coated in a military façade," writes News Editor Eric Van Allen. "It's not emulating war games. The lore of Valorant is fairly open to interpretation right now, but it has layers of style to it."
- Little Town Hero [June 2 for PlayStation 4]: Well, this sure is something. Game Freak usually keeps its goods on Nintendo's systems, but we have an exception with a PlayStation 4 release of Little Town Hero. This unusual RPG didn't quite hit the mark when it came out for the Switch last year, but maybe the PlayStation 4 version's new "Easy" mode will earn it a more enthusiastic audience.
- Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics [June 5 for Switch]: Feeling a bit bloated from hundred-hour story campaigns? Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is just what you need. This collection of bite-sized card games, board games, and more is easy to pick up and play whenever, wherever. Read our review and let the good times roll like so many dice.
- Command & Conquer Remastered Collection [PC]: Turn "Hell March" all the way up because Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is out this week. This gathering of RTS royalty includes Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and Command & Conquer: Red Alert, as well as the Covert Ops, Counterstrike, and The Aftermath expansion packs. There's an upscaled graphics option for 4K displays, but you can also switch to 320x200 graphics if you're pining for the good ol' days of DOS gaming.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- Due to the ongoing protests over police brutality, we're already seeing publishers delaying planned gaming events. Electronic Arts has delayed a Madden NFL 21 reveal and Sony has canceled its PlaySation 5 showcase for the time being
- A WWE 2K developer promises we'll see a "significant evolution in gameplay" with the next game in the series. To be fair, anything is an improvement over WWE 2K20. Hopefully 2K is taking all that extra development time to bring the series up to code. I'll lay equal odds that we'll turn on the game and Vince McMahon will cackle, "You all bought it! You all bought it, hook, line, and sinker!"
- Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey gives us her early impressions of The Last of Us Part 2, and notes how it's a dark analog to the fluffy light-heartedness of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I'll hand 2020 this much: It sure isn't dull.
- Pokemon Sword and Shield DLC information is coming in hot. On June 2 at 9 a.m. ET / 6 a.m. PT, we'll hear more about the Isle of Armor expansion, which drops this month. Say, remember when the DLC was first announced at the start of January? If you responded with "What the hell is a 'January,'" just know that you are seen.
Axe of the Blood God for June 1, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
Kat, Nadia, and USG Senior Editor Caty McCarthy render their final verdict on Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, where they talk about the new content, the biggest changes, and whether the fan-favorite RPG holds up. Plus: Track of the Week, a potential World Ends With You sequel, Kat's favorite podcasts, and more!