In the wake of worldwide demonstrations against police brutality and for racial equity, many companies have pledged their aid. In the video game world, The Pokémon Company International is donating $200,000 between the NAACP and Black Lives Matter (BLM). Square Enix is donating $250,000 to BLM and matching employee donations. Humble Bundle is setting up a $1 million fund to help black creators publish games. However, in one of the greatest shows of solidarity I’ve seen, Pokémon GO developer Niantic has outlined its comprehensive plan to make a change in the world.
On June 3, CEO John Hanke published a blog post outlining the company’s plans for action. Off the bat, Niantic offers personal assistance to those who need it within the company, even for those who feel like they “can’t stay in your place of residence.”
After that, Hanke discusses how to take the company’s next step after its commitment to helping players explore the world, get into shape, and make friends through its games. Niantic will fund projects by black creators and help to promote them in order to reach a mass audience. The goal is to increase exposure of stories and points of view that don’t often get heard.
Massive monetary donations and programs to support black creators
Niantic is donating a minimum of $5 million from Pokémon GO Fest 2020 ticket sales. Half of it will help fund projects by black creators that Niantic will publicize, while the other half will go to U.S. nonprofit organizations related to the cause. It’s also donating $100,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and matching employee donations up to $50,000. This is to support the black trans community, which is one of the most vulnerable to police brutality and oppression in America.
Moving on, Niantic is helping with programs designed to elevate diversity in gaming and tech. It’s developing a new “Diversity and Inclusion” training program with a focus on allyship, and Hanke states the following:
I cannot stress this point enough: it is not the responsibility of the Black community or our Black employees now to carry the burden of education. It is up to non-Black allies to educate ourselves and each other. We hope this diversity and inclusion training can help provide the tools and resources to make us all better allies.
It’s also increasing its existing commitment to Treehouse, an organization that works to diversify the tech field. It will be taking on 10 apprentices from this program with a commitment to keeping 80%-100%. Niantic is also investing $60,000 in Gameheads, a program that teaches kids to program games. This money will go toward scholarships, showcases, and creating a new accredited class.
Niantic is also giving its employees extra time to volunteer and extending this time beyond Niantic-sponsored events. It’s reiterating and formalizing its dedication to these goals. It’s also taking the important first step of formally supporting the black community and denouncing white supremacy, racism, and police brutality.
The post gives a list of actions everyone can take to support this cause, including education, mentorship, and volunteer work. Hanke concludes the post with this:
We are committed to this cause. These initiatives don’t end with an announcement. The work to follow through will require years of effort to yield the impact we seek. Along the way, we’ll be looking for even more opportunities to deepen these initiatives.
The heart of Niantic is our community of players. It is imperative that we stand up to support our Black Trainers, Agents, and Wizards. We aim to be a force of change committed to the long road ahead of rebuilding a more just and fair system where historical racial divides are overcome and where all are welcomed, valued, and have a fair chance at success. The first step is overcoming the racism and injustice that prevents members of our community from safely enjoying the freedom and pleasure of a simple walk or run outdoors. Black Lives Matter.
Niantic’s statement is the blueprint of what a company should do to support this cause (and any other). It takes a stance on the issue, outlines its plans, donates lots of money, and and pledges to remain committed to the cause even when things die down, providing a plan on how it intends to keep it up. I hope to see more companies follow this incredible lead, and I’m proud to be a Pokémon GO player.