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When it comes to video games, historically black colleges get no respect. But that could change if Jacqueline Beauchamp, CEO of Nerjyzed (pronounced “energized”) Entertainment Inc. has her way. Beauchamp and three colleagues pooled their efforts and funds to start the video game and 3-D animation development and publishing company in 2003.
“We saw that HBCUs were not represented well in the video game space,” says Beauchamp, 45, head of the 42-employee firm and executive producer of BCFx (Black College Football Experience), a game that captures the unique culture of the black college football experience. Gamers step into the cleats of a real player, make hard hits, and guide their favorite teams through an entire season–with fans, bands, and everything else associated with the game.
A Southern University graduate who majored in electrical engineering and minored in mathematics and computer science, Beauchamp brought a background in technology and multimedia to the table. She previously worked as a computer designer for IBM and later ran a global multimedia division at Motorola. Beauchamp says a lack of African Americans in the video gaming industry led her and the other founders (all HBCU graduates) to develop a business strategy and pony up $8 million to secure licenses with colleges and universities, hire employees, and develop marketing and promotion plans.
“It was a huge opportunity to showcase black college football, so we went for it,” recalls Beauchamp, who, along with CFO Frederick Johnson, is one of the two remaining partners who stayed with the company when it relocated from Dallas to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With an eye on increasing company sales by 35% this year, Beauchamp says her firm’s primary products are interactive video games and documentary films that showcase the urban market.
What sets BCFx apart from the standard football video game is its focus on the halftime show. “Where halftime usually finds people going to the restroom or concession stand, at HBCUs everyone waits for the bands to take the field,” Beauchamp explains. “We’ve taken that experience and integrated it into our video games, which allow gamers to play the halftime show.”
Tevester E. Scott, CEO of Baton Rouge-based consulting and marketing firm AVI Southwest, handled the licensing of the music for BCFx and the subsequent marketing of the product. He says Nerjyzed’s ability to mix gaming with documentaries and related content sets it apart in the competitive video game and publishing fields. “Jackie wants to tell the story about every game that she puts out,” says Scott. “That vision is definitely coming to fruition, because the game came out in computer format and sold very well.”
But getting distributors and game console makers to see the value in that uniqueness hasn’t been easy for Nerjyzed; its products are distributed through retail outlets such as Best Buy and online channels such as Amazon.com.
Since 2006, the firm has been working to obtain the licenses that would allow it to produce games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 consoles–a move that Beauchamp feels has been thwarted by