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Gameheads is an Oakland, California-based video game design education program for low-income youth and youth of color.


Technology writer Damon Packwood co-founded Gameheads in 2014 to improve diversity in the video games industry and other STEAM fields.[1] Packwood noticed that students in low-income neighborhoods had a lot of focus and interest for video games and DIY (do it yourself) culture, but that the emerging tech diversity movement had not yet extended to video games.[2][3] While youth of color spend more time playing video games, they make up less than 20% of industry employees.[3]

The Gameheads program was inspired in part by LittleBigPlanet, a game which gives players the ability to design their own levels. Packwood thought it would be interesting if students could use game design to share their experiences.[4]

The organization is based in Oakland, California.[5]


The game design program is for students aged 16–24, covering design, conception, coding, storytelling, writing, and motion capture. The program is a full year, with increased activity during the summer. Whereas the main program is primarily educational, another program, "DevOps", prepares young people for jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area.[3] Industry professionals like designer Tim Schafer act as mentors, and several elements of the programs' design are intended to facilitate getting the students jobs in the games industry.[6]

Students' games often focus on issues that affect them: migration, grief, stereotypes, mental health, motherhood, the Asian-American model minority myth, navigating social spaces, as well as more traditional video game themes.[1][7][8] A game featured on NPR's Marketplace called Here's Your Change focuses on gentrification from the perspective of a cashier, communicating the way interactions with customers become more formal and transactional as the buildings get nicer.[7] Throughout the game, the visual and audio design changes along with the neighborhood it is set in.[5]


  1. ^ a b "From video game design to Kenyan egg farming, these entrepreneurs are paying it forward". NBC News. 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  2. ^ Jackson, Ashton (2023-03-18). "Meet a 35-year-old teaching tech skills to low-income youth through video games". CNBC. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  3. ^ a b c "Gameheads showcases Oakland's young game development talent". VentureBeat. 2018-08-25. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  4. ^ Nazerian, Tina (2017-08-30). "How 'Gameheads' Bring Joy to Tackling Tech's Serious Diversity Problem - EdSurge News". EdSurge. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  5. ^ a b "Gameheads teaches game design to Oakland's youth, and it's hoping to reshape the gaming industry". Mic. 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  6. ^ "Gameheads' second annual showcase shows off the work of Oakland's budding game devs". VentureBeat. 2017-08-26. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  7. ^ a b "Here's your change!". Marketplace. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  8. ^ "Meet Oakland's Latinx Game Developers". KQED. 2020-01-03. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
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