Google Play wants to bring in diverse indie game developers with its Infinite Deviation program. Developers have until October 9 to submit their mobile game ideas. The year-long program includes mentorship and possible funding, and the developers’ titles will be published and featured on the Google Play store.
“In the applicants’ concepts, we’re going to ask for their business plans, how much funding they’ll need, and we’ll potentially fund a piece of the game,” said Mathilde Cohen Solal, Google Play’s product marketing manager. “You might also want to know that of course the applicants will still own the rights to their games. We’ll just be supporting the development.”
Google will pick three winners for this program. Infinite Deviation was originally an initiative from the Google Computer Science Education in Media department, which explores issues of representation in media, such as how computer scientists are portrayed in film. Its second iteration, named Infinite Deviation: Games, is aimed toward tapping emerging talent from underrepresented groups. To apply, developers have to have less than two years of professional game design experience.
Diversity is an important issue in both the tech world and gaming industry, and Google hasn’t escaped unscathed. As part of its diversity outreach program, its CS Education in Media initiative has created a series of short films in partnership with the creative agency Ideas United to showcase a range of different kinds of computer scientists. And now Google Play is teaming up with them to seek out more inclusive and diverse mobile games.
“We think that bringing new users and storylines to our platforms allows us to better resonate with our users and with a wider audience,” said Solal. “Also, we do recognize that the gaming industry today has some kinds of misrepresentation. Only 25 percent of the industry, for example, are women. We think it’s also our goal to support emerging and aspiring young game designers that are coming from diverse backgrounds and help them to develop games.”
She says that they’re approaching the program from a genre-agnostic angle, encouraging developers to focus on telling inclusive stories that will appeal to a wide audience. The mentors in the program will be selected based on each developer’s needs, and they’ll be folks from within Google as well as from the games industry.
“We’re going to mentor them. The game designers—we expect to actually have teams of game designers,” said Solal. “They’re professionals, so we’re not going to develop their games for them. But we will have mentors along the way. We’ll have weekly check-ins with them to make sure we can answer all their questions. We will feature their games on Google. Their games will be published on Google Play when they’re ready.”
This is Google Play’s latest attempt to court indie developers, alongside its annual indie festival, which is coming up later this month for the second year in a row.