Local game developer selected to work with global software company

MEDFORD, Ore. — Pokemon Go creator Niantic is investing in black game developers to help close a diversity gap in the growing industry.

The first developer they’ve signed on lives right here, in Medford.

A love of storytelling and a leap of faith helped land an Ashland High School grad the opportunity to develop a video game for software company, Niantic.

Prior to founding W!cked SAiNTS Studio last year, CEO Jessica Murrey worked for a non-profit driven towards peaceful change.

“I was actually an international peace builder, so I worked for ‘Search for Common Ground’, the world’s largest dedicated peace-building organization and that’s where I met my partner,” said Murrey.

Murrey says she wants to use her gift for writing, along with her knowledge of positive change to create a game that helps players understand issues around race and polarization.

“Through game-play, you get to practice behavior and then you get constant feedback on how you’re doing. So this kind of repetition builds your confidence because as you play you get better and better,” she said.

After reaching out to Niantic and staying in touch for a few years, Murrey became aware of the company’s new BDI or ‘black developers initiative.’

BDI is a 5-month program that provides funding to support diversity in gaming and augmented reality app developers. The program also provides mentorship for the prototype games being created.

Murrey is working on enhancing her game prototype with her team at W!cked SAiNTS called World Reborn, which focuses on creating social impact.

“World Reborn is a story game driven by discovery and real life action. What it is is a cross of “Game of Thrones” meets ‘Riverdale’, with a dash of ‘Black Mirror.”

She can’t disclose much about the prototype, but encourages anyone who wants to do something similar to simply try it out.

“My advice is, you know, don’t think anything is going to hold you back. Just keep going for it and try, experiment and have confidence in yourself,” said Murrey.

Her gaming efforts are even going national, she was recently featured by CNBC.

It’s not known if Niantic will keep working with W!cked SAiNTS Studio following the 5-month program.

She says if all goes well, there is a chance World Reborn could get published.

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