The Urban Video Game Academy (UVGA) is an Atlanta, GA-based venture founded by CEO Joseph Saulter, the entrepreneur behind Entertainment Arts Research, Inc. (which Ebony Magazine called one of the first black-owned publicly traded gaming companies), as part of his quest to make the gaming industry more reflective of its audience. Saulter and the UVGA go into high schools to recruit and announce theater workshops which would end up being filled up with young students ever since the academy’s first announcement at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which resulted and the UVGA getting calls from 120 schools and gaming companies like Electronic Arts (EA).
Along with the UVGA, Joseph Saulter is also the chairman of the Game Design and Development Department at American Intercontinental University, the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) Diversity Advisory Committee. The mission of the UVGA is to better prepare students in disadvantaged areas for postsecondary education and technology careers by teaching them the fundamentals of video game design and development. The academy has three basic components:
- to expose disadvantaged students to career opportunities in video game design and development,
- to educate them in how to create games,
- to enhance learning in academic subjects, such as math and writing, that are important in the video game development process.
In addition to the UVGA, Saulter’s EAR is set to release a major parkour-style game in July for iOS, as well as other ambitious projects, including a game that takes place in Chicago’s South Side in the mid-20th century. The game, Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, is described by Saulter as “a history of the black community, it’s a history of jazz, it’s a history of the arts and of the revolutions that went on in that period of time,” as the game was designed by artist Philip Mallory Jones, who based much of the material off of oral histories with his mother.