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Montreal illustrator developing game to promote more positive black characters

Illustrator Lateef Martin joined the Montreal indie game scene to make games featuring positive, non-stereotyped black characters, CTV Montreal reports.

Martin applied and was accepted to the program at Execution Labs, an "incubation" studio that guides indie developers through the production process and provides them with the tools to make and market their games.

The illustrator's project is a digital graphic novel called The Firemasters,which is based off a coloring book Martin created as a Christmas present for his nephew. The book features firefighters in outer space and a cast of primarily black characters. For Martin, the later is particularly important.

"Primarily it reflects who I am and as a kid growing up watching movies and stuff I was like, ‘Wow a, black Ghostbuster awesome,' I can relate to this guy, cool," said Martin.

Martin thinks there are too few black characters in games, and they are mostly shuffled into negative stereotypes. With The Firemasters, Martin hopes to begin a trend of creating more positive black characters.

"That kind of thing needs to grow more, a lot more female characters who aren't sexualized, a lot more black characters who aren't stereotyped — it's a slow process but something that has to happen," he said. "I'm hoping The Firemasters can help."

Execution Labs launched its incubation program last November. The Montreal-based company offers participating indie developers a $2,000 stipend each month per employee, provides them with office space, gives them access to development tools and connects them with mentors within the industry.

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