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These also happen to be the fundamentals of today’s video games. This wasn’t designed by accident, either. Playing video games empowers people no matter their backgrounds, religion, politics, race, gender or location. Sugar Gamers exemplify this. Sugar Gamers advocates for inclusivity and diversity across race, age, gender, orientation, or gamer type.

The origin story of Sugar Gamers began with Keisha Howard in 2008 and has grown full circle with community support and collaboration and a strong team with a unified strategy to advance a version of the gaming industry that is inclusive and innovative. As a lifelong gamer, Keisha understood the benefits (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical) and value of video games in her life. Southside Chicago isn’t known as a breeding ground for gaming talent – be that playing or game development. It is a rough and tough community – with masses of untapped potential. Searching for an outlet for her gaming passion, she realized they represented very few people of color and women in the wider gaming community. A proudly Southside Chicagoan, she founded Sugar Gamers in 2009 as a platform for female gamers in Chicago to connect and interact. Sugar Gamers’ mission was – and remains – to provide a space for these
underrepresented groups in the gaming community. On another level, Sugar Gamers created innovative pathways for community development through gaming.

Today, Sugar Gamers hold an influential position within the gaming space and not only in Chicago but across the United States. Sugar Gamers have partnered with brands like HBO, Netflix, Microsoft, AT&T, Syfy, NBA, and more, to bridge the divide between the wider gaming community and marginalized groups.

Initially founded as a gaming community platform for people of color and women, it has grown to be the biggest black video game community – yet its biggest success has been transcending those groups through inclusion and diversity across race, age, gender, orientation, and gamer type. Sugar Gamers’ mission is to build a thriving ecosystem for all gamers, gamer types, and underrepresented people through community, opportunity, and advocacy. Since its formation, Sugar Gamers have navigated the gaming industry to sidestep gatekeepers, solved problems in unorthodox ways, and fought to share information so that others won’t have to experience the same difficulties in gaining opportunities in the gaming space.

This company – and social movement – believes gaming has the power to inspire and influence people and communities into spaces where real life characteristics and behaviors from gaming (such as critical thinking and problem-solving) are taught as life lessons and to form communities. Through nurturing a community of inclusiveness and accessibility, Sugar Gamers believes mentoring and supporting marginalized groups by providing them with the skills and tools to build video games and navigate
the gaming space will help them gain employment in the gaming industry. Partnering with brands and companies will ultimately broaden the diversity of the gaming culture as a whole.

There are four aspects to Sugar Games’ advocacy goals. The first level is consulting, research and development: Searching for areas to innovate and introduce new ideas and services to the gaming industry. The second level is to study how games are made in terms of the narrative; Sugar Gamers consult with game developers on methods to connect different markets: the gaming community represents a wide variety of people and gamer types. The third level: to understand the technology and tools of game development so that they can share those with communities to build better and different games. Last, Sugar Gamers advocates for the education of communities on technology and gaming so that no people in societies are left behind in opportunities or accessibility to create wealth or learn skills.

To achieve its mission, Sugar Gamers applies a grassroots approach to develop and foster communities. In Southside Chicago, Keisha and her team advocate for video gaming and the benefits of video gaming through education initiatives. Sugar Gamers hosts school camps across Chicago’s Southside on technology and gaming – and these have proven effective at illustrating the opportunities the gaming industry provides in life skills and career choices available to the youth. The outcome of these camps
is: children learn that their video game ideas – with tools and technology Sugar Gamers share – can make a game to teach others something they wish to share. For a marginalized group not socialized for the opportunities in gaming, this creates a potential for positive social impact.

Gaming has the power to enact meaningful change for society. Empowering the underrepresented voices broadens the diversity of gamer types, games, and builds stronger communities based on inclusivity. Gaming is pro-social and pro-community. Social upliftment is Sugar Gamers’ unique approach to improving the gaming industry and culture.

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