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"You have to be built differently to stay resilient in this industry" | Black Voices Progress Report

This interview is part of’s Black Voices Progress Report, offering insight into the different experiences Black professionals have in the games sector. You can read more about the project and check the other entries on this page.

Vanessa Brasfield originally thought she’d enter the games sector as an artist. However, this idea was quickly dashed away, as the idea of working for others to produce art became unappealing.

Still, she never lost that interest in the field, even as she went on to earn a Master of Science degree in applied computer graphics, art, and design at Purdue University (with a focus on data analytics and research.)

Now working at Crystal Dynamics as community coordinator, she also explores her interest in helping people understand what is seemingly complex. She explains that one of those subjects is assisting people to get hired within the games industry. The reason she’s vocal about the matter in the game space because she wants information to be obtainable.

“We have a giant size transparency problem… I’m talking about how we’re not even being transparent about what your portfolio [has to] look like when you want to apply for a job,” she tells

“Let’s actually look at [this] the same way our high school counselors used to do. Here are all the things you’re good at. Here are all the things that you like. Let’s find you the position that boxes all of [your skills] together and gives you a nice package with a bow on top.”

She continues, “I’m trying to help people understand how they can expand their skill sets too because, especially at the higher level, a lot of higher education is not prepared for this. I dislike the notion of expecting people to always go out and find everything on their own volition because there’s a lot [of positions].”

Brasfield explains how content creators, such as streamers, are unaware that they are junior-level community managers. She notes that they oversee their community, create schedules, and plan content.

She says, “If you’re diversifying your content, putting [your work] on TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube everywhere, you’re doing community manager work…You’re literally doing the job. Please update your resume.”

While Brasfield is currently enjoying her time in the games industry, she is frank about the current state of the games sector and the waves of layoffs while working in the field.

“It’s very melancholy because there’s a lot of joy, but on the opposite end, there’s a lot of fear. One of the things that [also] scares me about the layoffs is the trend that’s gutting DEI initiatives,” she explains.

“It is hard to convince yourself when you wake up that today is not the day [you’ll be laid off]. It’s very hard to do that. Just continue doing your work, continue walking through your projects, and just be like, okay, I made it through another day, especially as a developer of color.”

Brasfield tells that being in the industry now brings stress. She says, “You have to be built a little bit differently to stay resilient in this industry…Some days, I love being here, and some days, I open X (formerly Twitter), and I regret everything that I read.”

Resiliency is something that she’s rather familiar with as a professional, even before she entered gaming. She recalls her previous attempt to enter the games industry.

“I had a whole period where after 2012, I finished my masters, I tried to get a job in gaming or big data. I couldn’t get into either one because big data didn’t want me because I didn’t have ten years of experience. That would mean that I would have to start working as a professional when I was 13. So obviously, that doesn’t make sense,” she explains.

“Gaming didn’t want me because I had no experience. Just playing video games for many is not experience, which makes sense.”

Brasfield says that as she didn’t see opportunities open in gaming, so she turned to streaming as a hobby and career. However, over the years, she noticed that decision revived her drive to get into the games sector instead of leaving it behind.

“Getting on Twitch was when the fire got rekindled. I was thinking maybe I was just being young and defeatist. Let’s go ahead and give this another shot,” she explains.

“I did the streaming things, and that’s when I started getting partnerships. I started working more with PR agencies and some journalism sites such as Can I Play That and But Why Tho.”

Her years of streaming and professional experience in the games space proved beneficial. Shortly after being laid off from Tiltify, Brasfield posted on social media that she was open for work, and someone for Crystal Dynamics advised her of an open position.

Still, Brasfield explains that she was nervous when applying but was encouraged to submit her resume. She received an acceptance letter months later after a few interviews.

“Part of the reason I know that I got hired at Crystal Dynamics is not because I was Black. It was because of my skill set and what I offered. They looked at my resume and said she doesn’t have game experience, but they have manager experience,” she says. “They have a master’s degree, they can be taught, they literally run a community.”

The community coordinator acknowledges that there’s still work to be done to increase the number of Black games professionals in the industry.

“I think we are severely behind the curve on where we should be, but it is a sign of some progress because I definitely built my own stuff up,” she says.

“I say some [progress] because we’re seeing DEI initiatives, as defeatist as it sounds, was a lot of hot air for many places because we shouldn’t have to ask to see it every Black History Month… We’re Black [all] year round.

She adds that the industry’s larger efforts to highlight and support people from overlooked communities leave something to be desired.

“We wouldn’t have to still see actual fair criticisms coming out during Hispanic Heritage Month,” she says.

“I’m genderqueer, and there’s something to be said about how Pride [month] continues to be the biggest celebrated calendar event. I just don’t understand why there’s so much energy for Pride and not Women’s History, Black History, Native American Heritage Month, or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”

Brasfield notes game studios that are made of people from overlooked communities continue to create new and interesting experiences. She emphasizes the importance of having a diverse and inclusive pool of game developers in the industry.

“Why are we still having to talk about invoking DEI initiative to make sure you’re hiring us? What do we need to change internally?”

“That [effort] doesn’t necessarily need a DEI program but just need some people to come in and just stand on business because that’s what we need more of it,” she explains. “What are we doing to address it? Not, we should. But what are we doing? What is the next step? What is the action? What is the earnest kind of push for that?”

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