September 21, 2022
As part of the 2022 National HBCU Week Conference hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) sponsored the “Ensuring the Success of Esports at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)” panel to discuss critical growth opportunities and strategies around the future of esports at HBCUs.
The event featured a robust panel of experts with leaders from video game companies, nonprofits and universities engaging in a solutions-oriented conversation facilitated by Maya McKenzie, tech policy counsel at the ESA. Panelists included:
- Christopher Turner, Coordinator Southern University Law Center Mixed Reality Virtual Innovation Gaming and Esports Institute
- John Cash, MBA, MS, Johnson C. Smith University, Adjunct Instructor of Sport Management Esports and Gaming Management/Online Sport Management
- Julian Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer, Cxmmunity Co
- Ryan Johnson, Founder and CEO, Cxmmunity Co
- Farah Sutton, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Riot Games
The panelists agreed that infrastructure, investment from students and leadership, and strong partnerships are critical to the continued expansion of esports programs and teams at HBCUs.
Economic impact was at the forefront of the conversation, with a particular focus on the depth and breadth of job opportunities and the potential for more black students to build careers in esports and gaming. The challenge is creating exposure and making students aware of these opportunities, Riot Games Diversity and Inclusion Director Farah Sutton said.
“I think you hear ‘gaming’ and you think ‘tech.’ You think ‘I have to be an engineer,’ but you don’t,” Sutton said. “There’s broadcasting, there’s production, there are the folks behind the camera, in front of the camera, music.”
There was also discussion about the ways that social economic disparities limit access to more expensive gaming technologies and how gaming companies and educational institutions can partner together to create more opportunities for access and exposure.
While acknowledging the STEM gap, Cxmmunity Co COO Julian Fitzgerald explained there is a unique opportunity with esports to close the gap in gaming faster than other STEM areas.
“We’re very aware of the STEM gap that’s been identified in different communities,” he said. “I want to say we’re 20 years behind to that respect. But esports is still fairly new. We’re only about five years behind.”
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About the ESA
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) serves as the voice and advocate for the U.S. video game industry. Its members are the innovators, creators, publishers and business leaders that are reimagining entertainment and transforming how we interact, learn, connect and play. The ESA works to expand and protect the dynamic marketplace for video games through innovative and engaging initiatives that showcase the positive impact of video games on people, culture and the economy. For more information, visit the ESA’s website or follow the ESA on Twitter @theESA.