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Spelman Students Create Games and Immersive Experiences at Cross-Cultural Impact Jam

April 2021

Spelman College Students Participate in Unity's Cross-Cultural Impact Jam

As a result of their involvement with the College's Innovation Lab, Spelman students Angela Kihiko, Lorre Jones, and Anetha Evans, joined over 60 students from 18 different universities and other countries in March to participate in a Cross-Cultural Impact Jam hosted by Unity.

During the week-long program, students from Canada, the United States, Senegal and France collaborated to create games and immersive experiences around the theme of inclusivity and amplifying voices. They were also afforded opportunities to participate in activities that explore how to design for social impact and workshops on the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the games industry. The Spelman scholars were then grouped with students from other countries to develop a prototype experience in Unity around the theme of inclusivity and inclusive design.

Spelman Student Angela Kihiko Game On the Flip SideKihiko, Jones and Evans participated on three teams, with Kihiko's team, "On the Flip Side," team received second place. All game jam prototypes are available on the Cross-Cultural Impact Jam Showcase, hosted by Unity.  Learn more about the games students created by checking out the Unity Twitch stream on April 21 at 1 p.m. EST/ 10 a.m. PST

At the end of the program, the Spelman scholars were equipped with support from a newfound global community, a portfolio piece published on the Unity Play platform, and the tools needed to support themselves as they work to make the games industry more inclusive and equitable. Phillip "Eric" Thompson, Spelman's Innovation Lab manager, says Lab participants have a several interesting Unity projects currently in the works. 

For students interested in participating in such activities in the future, Cross-Cultural Impact Jam participants were afforded an opportunity to engage in the following workshops:

  • A diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop led by the IGDA Foundation designed to help students understand the importance of inclusive practices in the industry
  • A design workshop utilizing the Games for Change DEEP Impact Methodology, to teach participants how to develop experiences for impact and what considerations should be made at every stage of production
  • Unique teams composed of one student from each participating country, fostering international collaboration and networking
  • Mentorship and critique from industry experts and university professors around the world
  • A culminating pitch session where teams present their prototypes with industry experts who will offer individualized feedback and assign superlatives to celebrate student work

Creating Work That Amplifies Marginalized Voices

Spelman Student Lorre Jones Creates Reportedly Bias GameGeorgia native Lorre Jones, C’2022, a junior psychology major with a concentration in mental health, worked with a group that created a visual novel game called “Reportedly Biased” where the player plays as a white cisgender male reporter interviewing Ashanti, a Black, Muslim Trans woman the day after a Black Lives Matters protest that turned to a chaotic situation with the police.

"It is up to the player to check their own implicit biases and choose a question that is unbiased yet empathetic. The goal for the Impact Jam was amplifying voices and there is no bigger voice that needs amplification than the Black woman," said Jones. "Our impact goal was to focus on groups often ignored in the news and media, examine how biased questions can further the agenda of the 'angry Black woman' or 'Asian people who are too hard to understand,' and to bring awareness to the fact that dozens of Black trans women died in 2020, but no one said their names." This was especially important to the team as Jones and their U.S. teammate are nonbinary.

Jones, who was narrative lead and created some of the art for the game, attempted to let their psychology expertise shine through in the game with knowledge of race-related trauma, anxiety, depression, anger. 

Reflecting upon the Impact Jam, Jones said: "They are grateful for this opportunity to participate because as a psychology major, they don’t get a lot of chances to be the writer they truly want to be. The Impact Jam was not only an experience in writing games, but also an opportunity to be in charge of one which will hopefully prove to be a useful experience they will use as they enter the animation industry and become a writer in animation. They are grateful for Eric Thompson who signed them up and look forward to the opportunities they will have next in their last year at Spelman."

The jam was a part of Games for Good and Transitioning to Virtual Exchange, initiated by the French Embassy in the U.S., the FACE Foundation, and its partners, and part of Unity’s Social Impact Program.