Angelica Chapman-Sykes has had a passion for video games since she was 12 years old. She was elated when her parents bought her a PlayStation 2 for Christmas.
“I played so many games on there and my mom and dad were like, ‘whoa, you actually like this’,” Chapman-Sykes said. “I was able to connect with other kids at school with it. But there weren’t really a lot of girls who liked video games, because a lot of things are just catered towards boys.”
She attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for computer science. That changed when she went to study abroad for a year in Japan. At just 19 years old, she was dealing with a lot of homesickness, yet excited to be in a new country, so she decided she wanted to go and explore her new environment.
“One day I decided I was going to get out and walk around Tokyo,” she told Madison365. “As I was walking around, I saw a seven-story arcade. I’ve walked past them a lot of times before, but that day, it caught my eye and I went in there. I probably spent about like four hours there, just playing as many games as I could. I was able to connect with other people there, and I invited some of my friends from school … The happiness that I got from there–I told myself that when I come back home, I want to be able to work in the gaming industry to help make games that make people feel happy.”
She got a job in the video game industry a year after graduating. She appreciates her team at PUBG Madison for supporting her in exploring different areas of game development.
“I’m able to ask the designers questions. I’m able to work with the concept artists and say, ‘Hey, for the Black woman characters, can we have something more than two hairstyles?’ I’m able to sit down with them and send them about 50 different Black natural hairstyles,” she said.
She is appreciative of her coworkers’ receptiveness and support of her efforts to diversify games and content.
“They’re not offended by it, they’re like ‘okay, let’s do this,’” she said. “I even suggested creating something with more body diversity and including people of Asian descent and Latino descent in future projects that we might work on. I like that no one really is offended by me stepping up and saying something about that.”
In March 2023, Chapman-Sykes was crowned Miss Beloit. The award means a lot to her because she wasn’t initially interested in participating in the competition, but took a chance after talking with friends and family about it. She understands the importance of her being in this position as a Black woman.
“It makes me happy being a Black woman having this position, because I get to work with children in my gaming workshops of all different backgrounds, especially young girls,” she said. “They’re able to look up to me and say, ‘look, I can do whatever I want to do.’ That really makes me really happy.”
As this year’s Miss Beloit, Chapman-Sykes has been hosting many sessions and workshops in her community in Beloit, introducing young girls to career opportunities in STEM.
Last week, she hosted a Careers in Gaming event in collaboration with Filament Games, PUBG Madison and Hendricks Career Trek. They wanted to host an event where they provided information, while also giving the girls an opportunity to have a unique hands-on experience.
“The first session was with my coworkers, they came in and talked about all the different careers in gaming,” she said. “I have a coworker who does quality assurance, and another one who is an artist. They even talked about how they incorporate stem into their job every single day. You don’t really think that an artist is really thinking about how to use math. That was a great thing to do.”
For the second half of the event, staff members from Filament Games presented information about careers in the video game and technology industry and different software that is used to make video games. They also let the kids play one of their robotics games, Robo. It is important for Chapman-Sykes to introduce young girls to all of the opportunities in the video game industry.
“The only way to truly diversify any field is by having early exposure,’ she said. ““I wish that I would have had an opportunity to participate in an event like that when I was a kid, to be able to talk to people who are in that industry, because I didn’t even know that I could have a job in gaming until I went to college. That was the best part of it.”
With her platform, Chapman-Sykes is focusing on helping communities in Beloit be exposed to these opportunities at young ages. She hopes this helps students see they can explore careers that are influenced by what they’re passionate about.
Chapman-Sykes is currently competing in the Miss Wisconsin Week competition in Oshkosh. As a part of winning Miss Beloit, she was placed in the competition and is excited about getting able to experience this special opportunity.
“I’m really excited about getting to know people, getting to have fun, and just enjoying myself,” she said. “I’m not really too focused on winning. I’m just focused on just having the nicest time ever and having fun. I’m experiencing something that a lot of people around me have never experienced before in their life. Or never even thought about going for it.”
As an avid technology user, she understands how to navigate social media and find safe communities with other gamers. She hopes readers who are interested in the video game industry recognize that there is space for them in the field.
“Just remember that there is room for you in these spaces, don’t let people tell you otherwise,” she said. “Don’t let other people’s stereotypes bring you down. Focus on what it means to you, just live your life how you want to live it, because no matter what you do, someone’s always going to say something about it.
“There’s gonna be people out there who will try to discourage someone from even doing amazing things, just because there’s people like that. You have to just go ahead and remember what your whole focus is, what your mission is. And just do it.”
To learn more about Chapman-Sykes, her workshops, and events visit her Facebook page.