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Spotlight on Alum Catt Small

African Heritage Month Spotlight on Catt Small

By the time Catt Small earned her master’s degree in Integrated Digital Media in 2016, she had already racked up an impressive slew of honors. These included the prestigious Generation Google Scholarship, established to help aspiring computer scientists from underrepresented groups become leaders in the tech industry, and had co-founded such ventures as Tech under Thirty, a vibrant networking group for young designers, developers, and engineers; Code Liberation, which offers free development workshops in order to facilitate the creation of video game titles by women; and Brooklyn Gamery, which makes high-quality games for a variety of devices and operating systems.

Shortly after graduating she was named Technologist of the Year at the inaugural Brooklyn Innovation Awards, launched to celebrate and strengthen the borough’s tech community. Honored for her important work in making the world of game development a more welcoming one for women and people of color, among others, she told a reporter, “The more diverse people we get into gaming the more interesting perspectives we’ll have.”

Her latest honor comes courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine, which recently named her one of the Nine Innovators to Watch in 2019. Small, the editors asserted, “walks the line between art, code, design and ethics, constantly experimenting to see how these fields fit together.” They cited her development of the game SweetXheart, which calls for players to engage in a compelling coming-of-age narrative. “It’s an example of an empathy game, but with a focus on game mechanics and active participation, and the protagonist is a black woman, so it also addresses race and gender and microagressions,” they wrote in announcing her inclusion on the list.

Small is now a senior product designer at Brooklyn-based company Etsy and co-organizer of the Game Devs of Color Expo. She envisions SweetXheart, which took five years to develop and which will be released as an HTML game for web browsers on the indie gaming platform itch.io, as an antidote to the anodyne games that constitute the industry norm. “I think a lot about how we can actually provide value to people with video games, and what the difference between a valuable experience is, and an attention-grabbing, useless, mindless experience,” she has said.

Back when she was still a student, the dean of NYU Tandon had announced, “She is a force to be reckoned with in Brooklyn’s tech community, and we are proud to call her one of our own.”

Now, three years later, she still is. And we still are.