Jules Porter’s grandparents have been two of her biggest influences. Her grandfather always told her, “Anything man can conceive, you can achieve.”
Maybe she hasn’t done everything man can conceive, but she’s getting there.
After earning degrees in aeronautics and theology, she joined the Marine Corps. She became a sergeant in two years, an accomplishment that usually takes four to five years. She earned her J.D./MBA from the University of St. Thomas before starting her own video game developing studio.
Before earning her advanced degrees, Porter watched a TED Talks lecture by Dr. Artika Tyner, who is now a clinical professor and director at the Center on Race, Leadership and Social Justice at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Tyner said the law is the language of power. That stuck with Porter, so she went to St. Thomas to learn that language. That wasn’t her only reason. Since she was a kid, her grandmother wanted her to become a lawyer. The death of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Sanford, Florida, in 2012, and her grandmother within a year pushed her to take that step. Porter felt she wasn’t doing enough for her community where people were losing family members and not getting justice.
“My brother was a Yale graduate who liked to wear hoodies, but people aren’t going to ask him, ‘Hey, sir, are you a Yale graduate? Are you Republican or Democrat?’ before they act on their racist inclinations or before a police officer assumes something and kills him,” she said.
Growing up, Porter was also always interested in coding. She first learned HTML to customize her MySpace and Black Planet profile. Later in the Marine Corps, she started to learn C++ to partition off a part of her personal computer and gain a small amount of privacy.
“Every part of what I learned was because I was just curious. I wanted to do something better,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to do it myself, and I don’t want to pay anybody to do it.”
Porter soon realized her coding skills could be turned into something bigger.
That’s when she decided to create Seraph 7 Studios, believed to be the first console video game development company in the world owned by a Black woman.
When she was younger, Porter didn’t have many Black female superheroes to look up to. Instead, she had to look to real-life superheroes like Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Bessie Coleman.
The goal of Porter’s company is to create positive images so girls and kids of color can see themselves as heroes in their games. With her playable demo coming out at the end of the month, Porter hopes to provide a gameplay experience where everyone can see a character who looks like them.
“What I’m hoping is that my video game company will be powerful,” Porter said. “I think media is a powerful force in order to develop that message and build empathy.”
In an industry dominated by white men, only 3% of video game developers are Black. And only 1 percent of programmers and coders are Black. On top of that, roughly 25% of people in the industry are women.
In Minnesota, she wants to educate and provide opportunities for people of color and Indigenous people who are interested in working in the video game industry. By educating one generation, it creates a cycle where each generation has an established video game community with mentors to learn from, according to Porter.
“An entry-level video game programmer makes anywhere between $72,000 and $80,000 a year,” Porter said. “So, by teaching kids the skills to make video games, and some of the multiple disciplines that go into that, sets them up for an entry-level job that dramatically changes their economic outlook and their ability to engage in the global economy.”