Black Girl Gamers

From Facebook group to multi-platform, global community of 9,000+ black women gamers, Black Girl Gamers has progressed from not just a safe space and supportive network but a collective of industry experts and advisors, challenging and changing the gaming industry to be more inclusive and representative of its players. Black Girl Gamers has a prominent digital profile, tackling any and all subjects impacting their audience from the obvious gaming but expanding (and not limited to) to beauty, self-care and relationships as well as holding mass industry events across the world. They are an explicit illustration of the journey from collective to game-changing business.

“It started because I needed to find other black women who game and as a means to keep myself safe away from the racism and the sexism that existed in the industry, just as a player. Now we consult, create events, co produce, provide mentorship and educational opportunities, create our own content and create opportunities for black talent. They are all powered by community: From a community to a community powered business.”


Conversation with Jay-Ann Lopez, Founder of BGG and Louise Millar, Seed Strategy Director*

What does community mean to you?

Jay-Ann Lopez: Community is a space where people feel safe, they feel heard and they can find similarities and common interests with someone—whether it be a hobby, an ethnicity or religion. And it also means that the people who are members of the community get something out of it. People feel enriched by being in a community.

Can you share a moment in your journey that was pivotal to the transformation and how it influenced the force that you are today? Was there a specific moment or a few ones?

Jay-Ann Lopez: The Black Girl Gamers Online Summit in 2020 just after George Floyd. It was already planned, it wasn't meant to coincide, but it was specifically focusing on Black professionals, content creators, influencers, and people of knowledge in the industry. It was a 2–3-hour event that had 2–3 thousand viewers on the front page and was sponsored on Twitch. That was a pivotal moment to move us from being a singular label.

How have you seen the gaming landscape change since you initially began?

Jay-Ann Lopez: When we first did Gamer Girls Night in 2020, a lot of brands, specifically beauty brands, did not know how to enter the gaming industry. We noticed that we could bridge the gap between non-gaming and gaming brands in a way that is authentic to us because we are the audience and we know what we want. Now lots of brands want to enter the gaming space.

Also, people are more interested in diversity, and I credit that to our tenure in the space and being vocal. One of the key things was that I called out the number of Black[JR1] women characters that were not playable in games and studios for saying that they were diverse but never having a Black woman character. That led to an increase in playable Black female characters in games in around 2018, but [ [the industry] never officially thanked us for being the driving force.

Have you seen a perception shift in the gaming industry, especially in terms of demographics? And what challenges remain?

Jay-Ann Lopez: There have been shifts in demographics for race, slowly and minimally. The statistics of people working in the industry, specifically Black and brown[JR2] is very low—less than 10%. There is a shift in marketing but not those who are employed, i.e., you have a book with a Black woman on the cover but who's actually working on that content? A lot of new Black-owned studios will pop up because they're not necessarily being hired.

If you envision the gaming landscape in 5/10 years, how do you think that will be different from now?

Jay-Ann Lopez: I envision a lot more gaming studios that are non-white getting funding, new gaming events, a plethora of different stories coming out, and I envision diversifying the media for all who report on games with more Black gaming journalists.

I foresee more women in the industry. Recently Sarah Bond was announced as the president of Xbox. She's the first Black American woman to be announced at a major company. It’s huge for women, it's huge for Black women, for women of colour.

I think the industry is going to have an influx of people from different industries coming in, like marketing. Game marketers don't know how to interact with culture. I imagine more people from the marketing agency side coming into gaming and trying to create those more cultural moments which are lacking.

Black Girl Gamers discusses everything, from wellness and politics to the latest Xbox release. How does this diverse range of topics contribute to the collective's identity and resonate with your community?

Jay-Ann Lopez: Everyone in the community knows that they're not just a gamer, so that intersectionality is kind of built in and that helps us also when it comes to our content—make gaming more accessible to non-gamers, because they can connect with someone else, like a coach or a teacher.

It really helps us work with other brands as well, because again, we're not just women and non-binary people. We are people who may like makeup, people who may like sports. We tend to survey our community to make sure we understand what other activities there are.

SEED 2: What strategies or tactics do you employ to engage with and mobilise not just with a broader community, but also your local community?

Jay-Ann Lopez: In London we used to do events, “Play or Pass” and then “Game and Girls Night”, and obviously that helps. I know what influencers and consumers would like when they go to events. They like to feel special, they like to get something different, and they like to have their friends experience FOMO if they haven't attended. So I like to create events as part of the engagement strategy, because in-person is always needed.

In terms of other strategies, it is to be personable and to have personality. When our social media manager first came on, she had seen other brands in gaming and they were all doing empty platitude positive stuff. Be real, don’t just be positive—be real.

What's the biggest lesson that you have learned as a group?

Jay-Ann Lopez: You have to protect your community for it to withhold the elements that keep it strong, because now communities are becoming a big buzzword, and that's what attracts a lot of problematic people. I see the word “community” being thrown around by brands, but what they mean is followers. They don't mean “community” because they're not giving anything back.

What advice would you give to brands working with emerging talent?

Jay-Ann Lopez: When brands work with talent, they should have their ask, but also have the reasons behind their ask, because that can save a lot of back and forth between talent and the brand. We need the reasoning why, because that can help us really work.

I would also say that when brands work with collectives specifically, they need to ensure that they have ideally a long-term plan in place because “one and done” work can also put a bad taste in peoples’ mouths about them as a brand.

SEED 2: Do you have a set of rules why you might turn down a brand?

Jay-Ann Lopez: We check what they've done, who are the influencers they've worked with—because if they're empowering problematic influencers, we're not going to be put alongside. We're not going to be the Black face among the white roster just so that you can have a diversity point.

The other thing is what they're doing internally. So, for instance, if a brand approaches us and all they have is white people on their platform—why do you actually want to work with us?

How do you feel about brands reaching out to you at just certain times of the year?

Jay-Ann Lopez: My problem is that you will platform white creators for free but when it comes to us, it's only for tentpole events, like Black History Month or Women's month. Don't work with us for Black History Month and then expect us to work with you next year if you're not continuing in this commitment throughout the year. It's really degrading. It dehumanises us.

SEED 2: Have you thought about your ultimate goal/ambition? Do you have any thoughts about legacy, and what that leaves for the next generation?

Jay-Ann Lopez: I want to expand and continue doing what we do. I want BGG to be a media house. I want it to be a consultancy. I want the community to continue to exist and want the business to expand and I aim to expand and scale and hire.

*This conversation has been condensed and edited but has strived to remain as close to the original word for word version as possible.

Find out more.

Whether you'd like to hear out more about the insights and approach behind Cultivating Communities, campaigns and other Seed experiences, or to talk in confidence about upcoming campaigns, we'll introduce you to those within the team with the most relevant experience and examples to discuss further.