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If Issa Rae's Insecure character, Issa Dee, were to have a favorite phone pastime, it would probably be The Come Up Game. Developed by indie firm Glow Up Games, it lets players rap, create their personal style, and interact with the kind of friends Issa would have. Actually, they're the exact friends Issa has—they were created to reflect her experience, something very few games have ever done before.
That's exactly what Insecure: The Come Up Game was designed to do: be a game by, for, and about women of color. Ever since it was founded last year, Glow Up has made it their goal to make games and other storytelling experiences that center on marginalized stories. So when the founders pitched HBO on making something for one of their series, adapting Rae's comedy-drama into a mobile game was a perfect fit. It was also something the three women behind the company wanted to make sure to get right.
"When we approached Insecure, the stakes got high. You don't see a lot of of-color IP being adapted into the game space," says Glow Up cofounder Latoya Peterson. "It doesn't mean that shows like Girlfriends, Living Single, and Martin don't deserve games. Or, you know, Atlanta or Black-ish. But they just don't get them. We knew this was going to be a high-profile adaptation."
High-profile, and in the eyes of the show's creator, highly successful. “The Come Up Game is a perfect, natural extension of Insecure," Rae said in a statement. "It was such a rewarding experience to create this game alongside an all-women-of-color-led team.”
The way the team at Glow Up sees it, the videogame industry hasn't seen the same advancements in representation that film and TV have—and even those industries are still lacking. That's why Peterson and cofounders Mitu Khandaker and Tara Mustapha started their studio: to make games, AI, and VR/AR for diverse audiences. "We recognized that, if we're to make a change in how videogames look in terms of both representation and behind-the-scenes in terms of developers," Khandaker says, "then we were the ones to do it." Between the three of them, they have decades of experience in the games space—Khandaker as a designer, programmer, and academic; Peterson as a writer, journalist, and developer; and Mustapha as a designer and producer in a variety of segments of the games industry. And, as their website puts it, they're "also women of color."
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