Tony Thornton was initially skeptical of a game which gives players a first-person view of an African American boy growing up on the city’s South Side — an experience he’d lived, but one the developer proposing the project had not.
“I thought it was pretty gutsy for a young white
guy from suburbia to be writing a game about a young black kid from the
quote-unquote inner city,” Thornton said.
That young white guy
would be Michael Block, co-founder of Culture Shock Games, another
Chicago native who wanted to make a game about his city but knew he
needed help to tell its story. Once he and Thornton met, however, they
hit it off and started to shape the game and build on interviews Block
had already conducted with young people growing up on the South Side.
other recipients are “I, Hope,” a game that follows the footsteps of a
girl fighting cancer, and “A Hero’s Call,” a game created by blind
developers for both blind and sighted gamers.
Culture critics have repeatedly called on the gaming industry
to depict more racial, gender and other types of diversity in their
games. The industry itself is also having these discussions; at the
annual Game Developers Conference over the past week, there have been several talks on improving accessibility and diversity in games.
In a 2015 Nielsen survey,
most gamers said they had little problem with representation in games,
but about one-fifth of gamers across racial lines said they felt
strongly that video games underrepresent some races. That number climbed
to 50 percent when looking just at Asian American gamers. In the same
survey, 65 percent of LGBT gamers said they felt sexual orientation was
not well represented in games.