Damon Packwood wants Black youth to get ahead and achieve by teaching them to pursue computer-based technology. In Oakland, he created a video game training program called Gameheads.
The Black Video Game Scholars Program is a first-of-its-kind effort to train youth how to understand the video game industry so they can navigate the interactive entertainment and mixed media industries.
Gameheads executive director Packwood reflects back to 2016 when he and other tech geniuses were invited to then-Pres. Brack Obama’s White House. He says the responses to the video game scholars’ program has been greater than he expected.
“We teach the art of systems structures of video games and more importantly, we show them how to understand the codes and think of video games as creators,” Packwood.
Once they shift their level of thinking beyond and behind the screens, the Gameheads students are incrementally “tricked into learning software mid-level technology skills of programs like Unity, Unreal Engine, Miro, Adobe, Microsoft Office suite and others, and with mastery of these processes they are able to migrate through the market of careers and entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Packwood.
Packwood points to the successes of many graduates of Gameheads, such as Doran Williams. A college senior, Doran is working on his own video game and is entertaining offers to be a production intern from top companies like Jam City, Sledgehammer Games/Activision and other Fortune 500 companies.
When the Black Video Game Scholars began, they envisioned a gradual program that would eventually attract some interest. Now, Packwood said, “our social media accounts are on fire.”
“Gameheads overall has exceeded our expectations because more than 90% of our Oakland youth scholars are transitioning into colleges and have gained entrance into the best video game programs taught at USC, UC Santa Cruz and NYU,” said Packwood. “USC, which is heralded as the leader, only admits 17 students a year. We have three Gameheads scholars in that program.”
Students will be given classes in game design, project management and animation. There will also be access to events focusing on Black tech creators, entrepreneurs and video game developers. Students will also meet Black game design students from video game programs at top universities around the U.S.
Packwood’s program now has become such a “must enroll” option that even though his applications process is open to any student between the ages of 15 and 25, the demand is so great that he is focusing on those 15 to 20.
The national frenzy around the Wall Street jitters over the GameStop hedge fund has partially occurred because of the tactics and skills of youthful “gamesters.” They now have caused billionaires to tremble because they are cracking the codes that govern liquidity regulations in the marketplace. “The cat is now out of the bag and this next generation of gameheads will help shape and influence our futures,” said Packwood.
Black people are only 2% of the soon to be $525 billion video game industry and the Oakland Bay Area is one of the centers of this industry’s emergence into our culture by challenging the music and entertainment industry’s market share.
“Ironically, the video game industry has provided a wake-up call by sparking youth to enter the Wall Street investment world and revealing the visibility of how to not just stick it to some rich market-makers but how to get on a wealth track through stock purchases.”
“Our data has proven that 98% of students graduate from high school and we expect that more than 90% of college grads will be employed within a year.
“We want the Pastors of Oakland to help us encourage our youth to come back and give back to their communities by using their knowledge to solve and remedy social and environmental problems,” Packwood said.
“Progress will arrive when these students learn that a video game is a system designed with rules.”
“They can master those rules and start thinking like the person who created the game and then apply those skills to teach people how to navigate things like the housing and police community relations.”
Students who are accepted and participate in the program are expected to dedicate six hours per week to the program during the school year. During the summer months, they will be expected to dedicate 24 hours per week.