Latino gamers have been around as long as Atari. In fact, they are one of the primary drivers of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry; alongside African Americans, they play and purchase video games more than any other ethnic group in the US.
And yet, according to a study by University of Southern California Professor Dmitri Williams titled The virtual census: Representations of gender, race and age in video games, 3% of video game characters were recognized as Latino in 2009, and of that 3%, less than 5% were actually playable.
Representation isn’t just lagging on screen, but also behind the scenes. Until recently, US Latino or Latin American game developers, programmers, and studios were few and far between. But all of that began to change five years ago, when a little game called Kingdom Rush became an improbable, overnight success, grabbing the attention of the industry. Kingdom Rush was created by Uruguay-based Ironhide Game Studios, and the popularity of their title shone a light on programmers in Latin America.
Eventually, a wave of indie developers from Latin America began cropping up in game design, along with a platform to highlight and connect the community: GameDev Latinos.
GameDev Latinos came to be last year during Hispanic Heritage Month. The folks at Como Se Dice Nerd, a blog dedicated to Latino geekdom, hosted the Hispanic Heritage Month Game Jam last year, which celebrated the work of Latin American developers in the games industry. “As someone who is active in the game industry…people ask me all the time that they want to learn more about Latinos working in game development,” says the founder of GameDev Latinos, a Latino game developer who asked to remain anonymous (referred to here as the Founder or GDL.)
They drew on CSDN’s idea and created a GameDev Latinos Twitter hashtag campaign that also celebrated and highlighted the work of Latino game developers. The campaign’s popularity was larger than anticipated, and influenced GDL’s decision to expand on the idea with a full, dedicated site with social media pages also called GameDev Latinos.
To date, the site has featured the work of programmers, developers, and bloggers from Puerto Rico, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and a few US-based Latinos as well. “When I started in game development,” says GDL, “I didn’t know any Latinos in the industry. As I started seeing them and finding more and more people doing things, I thought ‘wow, I feel better about what I’m doing’ because I see these other Latinos doing great things at these other companies.”
The games industry has also responded to the rise of indie Latino game developers. The annual Game Developers Conference, for example, hosted the PlayStation Latin America Developer Network Panel last year, where dozens of Latino game developers packed into a hall to listen to career advice from folks from Sony and Bungie.
This support has been key in the recent rise of independent developers and has also provided a key first step to opening the doors for Latinos into the games industry. “When making games is more accessible to everyone,” explains GDL, “you have more people from all over the world making games – so there’s definitely a lot of Latinos out there in the indie community.”
Here are a few of the many interesting titles GameDev Latinos has highlighted so far:
Pixel Cup Soccer, Batovi Game Studios, Uruguay
Tripleteo, Batú Games, Puerto Rico
The Atman, Juegos Wintek, Chile
Dog Mendonça & Pizza Boy, Okam Studios, Argentina