Last week Riot traveled to Austin, Texas for the AfroTech conference. We had a great time meeting potential candidates, attending panels, and enjoying the conference dedicated to bringing together Black leaders, tech executives, companies, and entertainers.
Everyone at AfroTech was united in their goal of opening more opportunities for Black professionals and youth in tech, continuing to break barriers across the industry, and making connections with other Black leaders.
“AfroTech is super important to our communities,” said Kenneshia “Squeaky” Cox, a Visual Design Artist who works on Teamfight Tactics. “Just seeing all of us in one space and knowing ‘hey, we’re out here.’ We’re in this tech space, this is the industry. And Riot wanting to recognize, ‘hey, this is something important.’ That’s really huge and gives us more eyes on it.”
This was our second year at AfroTech but the first time we attended the event in person after holding a panel during virtual AfroTech last year. Members of Riot Noir, our employee resource group of Black Rioters who work on teams across the company, came together at the event to have conversations about Black culture, tech, and innovation, and recruit candidates for open roles, including QA engineers and software engineers.
Riot Noir members got the chance to personally meet with many of the estimated 25,000 attendees who made their way to Austin for the conference. This was a chance for Riot to show up in this space at a time when Black people within the tech industry are seeking ways to be seen and heard. To be a visible part of this experience next to other giants in the industry was a crucial building block for Riot Noir and Riot Games to express our dedication to uplifting these voices.
Founded by Blavity’s Morgan DeBaun, AfroTech started six years ago and quickly became the hub for “networking, recruiting, and filling the gap,” according to co-founder Jeff Nelson. In the years since its debut in 2016, the conference has brought Black entrepreneurs and rising Black-owned companies together with recruiters from companies like Meta, Salesforce, and Google.
From panels led by personalities like Mark Cuban, who gave crucial advice on the potential slowdown in the tech industry, to members of the music industry talking about the business of streaming and hip-hop, AfroTech 2022 covered a wide range of impactful topics. Combined with the opportunity to get one-on-one time with recruiters, this conference is an example of what’s possible within tech; hyper-serving a community that normally doesn't get these chances.
There was the gaming panel, “A Culture Conversation: Future-Proofing Diversity in Gaming” with Cxmmunity’s Founder and CEO Ryan Johnson and CEO of Gay Gaming Professionals Gordon Bellamy. Their conversation highlighted the importance of increasing access for the next generation of Black gaming professionals, including the recent Cxmmunity and Riot Games HBCU Kickback event in Atlanta, Georgia that brought together 250+ HBCU students to hear from Riot leaders and Riot Noir members.
As a global company, uplifting diverse voices across cultures, ethnicities, and genders is crucial in making sure our games are as good as they can be for players who come from every corner of the world.
“For me as an artist, there are so many different avenues to express myself in the gaming industry,” said Michael White, a Visual Design Artist on the Global Publishing Team. “Drawing and creating icons and assets that are used day-to-day, I create visual design that’s literally seen around the world. For me as an artist, that is very exciting, very fulfilling.”
AfroTech is about representation. Showing everyone in tech the Black voices that power leading companies. For gaming companies, representation is twofold. It’s both in the voices behind the scenes that make the games, and it’s in the games themselves.
League of Legends newest champion K’Sante is another step in bringing more representation to our games. The Monster Hunter from Nazumah is inspired by West African culture, particularly Ghana’s, is in control of his own destiny, and is a gay Black man. With input from Rioters part of Riot Noir, our Riot Inclusion Group (RIG) of Black Rioters, and Rainbow Rioters, our RIG for LGBTQ+ Rioters, K’Sante is the result of a diverse group of game developers working together to create more dynamic champions in League.
“I love seeing more and more diverse champions,” Michael continued. “I love seeing Black champions. It gives me a chance to see myself in a way that’s fantastic and adventurous. It’s inspiring.”
We loved being a part of AfroTech this year and can’t wait for next year!