Caption: Tyrone Schieszler, co-founder of Kinshapes, working on the video game in the digital lab
Kinshapes, a Berkeley-based creative incubator, is making it their mission to promote mentorship in underserved communities through video game design, production, and entrepreneurship.
The organization’s ultimate aim is very simple: convert young people from being digital consumers to digital producers.
Co-founders Achille Massoma and Tyrone Schieszler agree that the rapidly growing tech sector has a huge hurdle to overcome to ensure people of color have the same access.
“We really strive to build an ecosystem for young black and brown kids whether they be Asian, African American, or Latino, just to get some exposure at a younger age from people who are making products,” said Schieszler. “There is also a lack of mentorship from the tech industry coming from our own folks.”
To fill in those gaps, Massoma and Schieszler created Kinshapes to help tell the stories of black and brown communities, while creating digital educational programs for the youth.
Community workshops are held at their digital lab in West Oakland, and include classes on video game creation, 3D modeling, coding, programming, web design, app design, entrepreneurship, and resume building.
The group also utilizes their digital lab as an open workspace for black and brown developers to create unique projects, products and services.
One project recently launched in March by a small Kinshapes team is an “afro-futuristic” virtual reality, or VR game named IJO (pronounced “ee-joh”).
According to the project’s description, IJO is about “using your body as a vehicle for expression in VR. No weapons, no guns. Beats, music, magic, and flow of movement is your weapon of choice in this world of Tribes and Technology.”
Instead of using guns and violence as a way to remove obstacles, IJO uses music and beats as a weapon, bringing together several aspects of past and present Afro-centricculture, to defend the future.
“The first phase was to present IJO to the community and now we are looking for ways to distribute it,” said Massoma.
Massoma also said that Kinshapes is currently working on several other projects including an augmented reality, or AR, textbook for children to get them familiar with the technology of AR.
“We are leveraging the virtual reality technology to create new stories and to design new books that would make reading exciting for children,” said Massoma.
“Through VR they can interact with characters in a way they couldn’t before with a traditional textbook.”
For more information about Kinshapes, visit www.kinshapes.com.