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Pokémon GO Developers Reveal Black Creator Initiative

Image Courtesy of Niantic 

By Angela Hickey

The developers of the popular mobile game, Pokémon GO, recently made an announcement concerning the creation of their Black Developers Initiative (BDI), which was designed to provide access, opportunity, resources, and mentorship to Black game and augmented reality developers. 

Following the Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd last summer, the company committed to donating proceeds gained during The Pokémon Go Fest 2020 toward both diversity-related nonprofits as well as starting its initiative to help Black game and AR developers. Altogether, the event raised $13 million and roughly $6 million went towards the initiative.

“During last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice, I discussed Niantic’s commitment to change and how we would take action to continue to be a force for good in the world,” said Niantic CEO John Hanke in a blog post. “Those efforts have included supporting our Black and underrepresented minority employees, empowering all employees to combat systemic racism and social injustice, and creating powerful, scalable impact through the culture, ideas, and role models we help to create.”

Trinidad Hermida, head of diversity and inclusion at Niantic, stated that the team didn’t want to take its existing developer support initiative and turn that into an initiative for Black developers. Rather, she said that the team did its due diligence in creating a strong foundation.

“We responded to everything that was going on last summer, after the murder of George Floyd, and decided to put action behind our initiatives internally and express externally that we are supportive,” Hermida said. “And so we did that by taking our proceeds from our Pokémon Go Fest, which was international. This is our commitment coming full circle.”

Since these statements, the company has made numerous donations and has provided funding and support to various projects founded by Black creators. Now, with the BDI, Niantic hopes to help provide more content that represents a more diverse view of the world, following Niantic’s overall mission of inspiring people to explore the world. 

The BDI’s mission is to fund new projects from Black game developers in order to build game prototypes that can live on the Niantic platform. Niantic plans to choose a few selected BDI teams that will be provided funding for their projects for five months of development, executive mentorship, and development support from members of the Niantic team. They will also join a growing community of peers and program alumni with whom they can continue to build relationships beyond the duration of the program. At the end of the five months, development teams will have created a playable prototype and a pitch deck for a real-world augmented reality game.

“We want it to be equitable,” Hermida said. “We wanted to do our due diligence and make sure that this is something that we’re extremely proud of. And that we’re doing it because it’s definitely at the heart of Niantic’s vision of building a more diverse community, and making sure that the games on our platform represent our players and represent all people.” 

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