July 4, 2023

Meet The Black Creators Bringing Authentic Characters To Gaming Through Their Startup Left Fielder Media

Left Fielder Media is the Black-owned media tech studio producing innovative & immersive stories at the intersection of film, blockchain, gaming, fashion, and future tech.

We spoke with the creators behind the visionary company that recently signed a deal with Neon, the web3 game studio producing the highly anticipated shooter game Shrapnel.

From childhood friends to co-founders

Atlanta-based creators Dom Cole and Stephen Philms formed the media tech startup in 2020 to change how Black people view gaming and space for years to come.

“Me and Stephen have known each other for a long time. We were childhood friends and met, fighting on the basketball court. That’s our origin story,” Dom Cole told POCIT.

With Cole’s background in music, supervision, and acting and Philms’ background in contemporary art, film, and fashion, they found many of their projects became intertwined.

“It just made sense at the time to form our company because we saw the shift in technology and how we could tell stories in different kinds of ways and different mediums,” said Stephen Philms.

Bringing diversity to the gaming world

Cole and Philms want to see more diversity in stories about future technology and science fiction. Therefore they create lore or the backstories for characters in video games such as Shrapnel.

Shrapnel is reportedly the world’s first Triple-A-rated moddable first-person shooter game to be built on the blockchain.

Hassan Callaway from the game Shrapnel
Left Fielder Media’s Hassan Calloway in Shrapnel

From multiple meetings with different executives and outlets, they understand that there is a desire for authentic perspectives in the games.

“We try to be as authentic as possible and give that fresh perspective for a global market. It’s not for one group, but it’s our perspective, and it’s for everybody,” said Cole.

“It’s just our lens; we don’t go into the room and be internationally Black. We just are.”

The team is also in collaboration with NASA Engineer Sabrina Thompson working on ventures such as Member 16, a multi-layered project surrounded by the evolution of space tourism.

They reached out to her, and she came on board to help ensure they were accurate in their space and technical language. 

Left Fielder Media and Shrapnel

The idea behind the Neon partnership is to bring the characters of the ambitious Unreal Engine 5 game to life and give fans a chance to get engaged with the storytelling and lore behind a fresh set of characters in Shrapnel. 

After developing a comic strip based on the Callaway family, who the team created in the faction, they gave an entry point into the story world, which is now being built into the Shrapnel game.

In particular, the character Hassan Callaway was intentionally made innovative and cool in the game, ensuring it was a character they were proud of.

Left Fielder Media’s Hassan Calloway in Shrapnel

“The world gets to experience it in these layers of character development that you’re going to be able to see from the comic to the game, to even film and television,” said Philms. 

They also are onboard to help Neon with their virtual reality fashion; with Philms background in fashion, they aim to venture out with live-action shots in California and other collaborations in the fashion industry.

Changes in the gaming industry

As the gaming industry continuously changes and grows, the team sees an opportunity to increase storytelling within gaming.

“We believe that in the future, you will be watching your favorite show and then be able to transfer over and say ok, I want to have a gaming experience as well,” said Cole.

With live experience pop-up shops for TV shows such as Money Heist already in cities such as Miami, they believe that will be the trend in the future, and they want to be able to offer those experiences, allowing watchers and gamers to participate. 

“Gaming is also going through this rebranding where it’s becoming more mainstream and acceptable for anybody to come in and play. It’s not just for one type; it’s for everyone, so there should be storylines reflective of everyone,” Philms concluded. 

Overcoming challenges in the industry

The duo has an encouraging perspective on challenges in the industry, seeing them as opportunities rather than challenges.

“It’s a purposeful challenge because we understand it’s important,” said Cole.

They agreed they took on these purposeful challenges, such as educating a community that’s often left behind and too often underserved about these new technologies as they try to onboard people simply through decoded language. 

“Our goal is to be as innovative as possible. AR, VR, XR, we will have it. We’ll be telling stories through that medium.”

Future Plans

After working alongside Sabrina Thompson, Left Fielder Media have long-term plans to continue several projects with her, with their interest in space evolution aligning with their stories and technologies.

Regarding plans, Philms announced that for them, it’s about scaling intentionally, not necessarily trying to rush to grow so fast, but working on long-term, more significant projects.

They have the hope that with this approach, their larger long-term goal is to be a version of what Disney is for the future. 

“Our goal is to be as innovative as possible,” Cole told POCIT.

“AR, VR, XR, we will have it. We’ll be telling stories through that medium.”

They confirmed they would eventually get communities together, and people would put their ideas forward to filter those back into the stories and gaming. They also will be appearing at Comic-Con this July in San Diego.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.