BALTIMORE, MD (SGJC) The first HBCU Esports Conference and Career Expo will be held virtually this Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
MetArena, a technology company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., is partnering with Johnson C. Smith University, Game Credits, St. Petersburg College, Game Drive LLC, and Synapse Florida to co-produce the event.
The event is free of charge and attendees will be able to learn about esports and cryptocurrency from guest speakers such as Polycade’s CEO Tyler Bushnell, Intel Senior Director Marcus Kennedy, and HBCU Esports League Co-Founder Ryan Johnson.
Esports involves competitive, organized video gaming. The business is lucrative and can benefit HBCUs substantially financially. Money is rewarded through scholarships and awards, among other things.
The 2021 Esports Ecosystem Report projects that the esports industry will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2023.
The money that HBCUs receive through esports can help support educational programs, cost of employees, etc.
Johnson C. Smith, who is hosting the event, became the first HBCU to offer an undergraduate degree in esports management last March.
Many HBCUs including Livingstone College, Lincoln University, Coppin State University, and Morgan State University have followed suit and are beginning to get involved with the esports business.
This semester, Morgan launched its esports team. The team is in its infancy and is still accepting members.
Tarrin Morgan, who is in charge of Morgan’s esports team, believes that esports have a lot to offer to students.
“HBCUs can benefit from esports due to the fact that historically you don’t have a large representation within the STEM industry,” he said. “With esports, especially right now in particular, a lot of big industries are looking to provide those equitable opportunities for students within esports especially Black and Brown.”
Morgan believes that the opportunities esports can provide HBCU students are endless.
“We’re already at the birth of a billion dollar industry when it comes to esports so I think that the possibilities are endless for HBCUs,” he said. “We’re going to thrive if we’re given those equal chances compared to our peers.”
Like Morgan, BerNadette Lawson-Williams, the advisor of the Esports and Gaming Management Program at Johnson C. Smith, believes it is important for more Black students to get involved with esports.
“With more than 83% of African American teens participating in esports and/or video games, and only 2% of African Americans currently employed in esports and gaming professions, it is imperative that HBCU students understand that there are innumerable career opportunities available to them within the esports and gaming ecosystem,” Lawson-Williams said.
Lawson-Williams hopes the guest speakers will help HBCU students become more familiar with the eSports business.
“We have strategically convened a diverse and stellar line up of “game changers” representing a myriad of leading companies and agencies with the esports and gaming ecosystem who will share their insight, experiences, and enlightening words with attendees,” she said.
In addition to the panels that will take place Friday, a Madden NFL Tournament between HBCU esports teams will take place.
Morgan’s esports team will not be competing in the tournament but Morgan said that the team plans to compete in events in the near future.
“We will be in attendance for more stuff in the spring semester,” Morgan said. “We’re still trying to get our footing in the game.”
Although Morgan’s esports team is not competing in the event, Morgan students are still eligible to win prizes.
According to an email sent by MetArena CEO Marcus Howard, the HBCU who has the highest percentage of enrolled students in attendance will win an esports lab which includes a PS5 and an Xbox Series X.
The conference was held Friday, Feb. 5, 2021.