Authors: David C. Hughes & Dr. W. Timothy Orr
Hughes, David C; Dr. Orr, Timothy, W;
134 Holland Hall Hampton University
Hampton, VA, 23668
David C. Hughes
Dr. W. Timothy Orr
David C. Hughes sits on the board of Directors for the Drake Group, is a Capstone Advisor at Georgetown University, and serves as an Instructor of Sport Management at Hampton University. Dr. W. Timothy Orr is a former collegiate coach, athletic director, and student athlete. Dr. Orr currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the Masters of Sport Management at Hampton University.
How Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Can Benefit From E-Sports While Adding Diversity into the Gaming Industry
Dr. Shaun R. Harper infamously came to the conclusion that “Perhaps nowhere in higher education is the disenfranchisement of Black male students more insidious than in college athletics” (7). This quote is not attributed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), but to the power five conferences of Predominately White Institutions (PWIs). As of 2019, Black E-Sport coaches make up less than 2% of coaches at PWIs (20). Professional gaming or better known as E-Sports is not only a billion dollar industry (17), but has allowed for over $15 million dollars in collegiate scholarships to be awarded for the 2016-2019 school year (20). Yet, no Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have started an E-Sports team. HBCUs are excluding themselves from a billion dollar industry, while also failing to increase the diversity of E-Sports participators, coaches at PWIs and HBCUs, and Black professional gamers. This paper has practical application as it provides convincing evidence as to why HBCUs could not only benefit from investing in E-Sports, but can help the professional gaming industry with its diversity issue.
Keywords: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Predominately White Intuitions (PWIs), E-Sports
“E-Sports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues in terms of future opportunities, and between advertising, ticket sales, licensing, sponsorships and merchandising, there are tremendous growth areas for this nascent industry” –Steve Borenstein, Chairman of Activision Blizzard’s E-Sports Division and Former CEO of ESPN and NFL Network.
The first video game competition was recorded on October 19, 1972, at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in which about two dozen students competed playing Spacewar (13). Now, 47 years later and E-Sports revenue will exceed $1.6 billion by 2021 (17). E-Sport simply put is “professional gaming”, and is the newest trend in sport management. Since 2016, over 130 colleges and universities started E-Sport teams and/or academic programs. In three years, over $15 million dollars were awarded in scholarships (20). Unfortunately, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) have not followed the trend in establishing an E-Sports varsity team or academic program (15). This paper will explore three benefits for HBCUs to consider adding E-Sports to its academic curriculum: impact on institutional culture, social and community awareness, and institutional financial rewards. The importance of HBCUs inclusion in E-Sports is extremely significant because of current trends in the industry.
Currently, the list of universities that are involved in E-Sports gaming are all Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) (15), which have been justly or unjustly scrutinized for not representing the total population of students who are passionate about E-Sports gaming (i.e. African Americans). School leagues or associations are underrepresented by females and people of color, which should be a green flag for all HBCUs to get into E-Sports (18). This should give HBCUs an incentive to show their merit in competing with the other institutions.
Impact on Institutional Culture
A common misconception is video games are just for men. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 48% of women play video games in the United States (5, 12). Since both Black women and Black men have been limited in their accessibility to enter the E-Sports arena (18), having an HBCU to create an E-Sports program could sojourn this issue. In 2016, The Entertainment Software Association revealed that women of all races over the age of 18 account for a greater portion of the gaming community compared to boys 18 and under. The number of women who are playing video games continues to rise. Female gamers increased by 70% from 2011-2014, 18 million to 30.3 million (10, 12). Since E-Sports is fairly new, there is a lack of data to support the interpretation of the number of women who are currently participating in E-Sports, but women are starting to make an impact in the industry. Intel has begun to sponsor female only competitive teams to raise the number of female competitors (2, 11, 12).
The host of “The Culture of Sports” on Anne Arundel Cable Network in Maryland, Jonathan Yates, wrote an article in the Baltimore Sun proposing that all four Maryland HBCUs along with the state high schools start E-Sports programs (22). In a recent study, Shenandoah University explored numerous reasons E-Sports programs benefit sport management students. E-Sports generates a significant amount of revenue, both in the sport management program and the school overall (19). Shenandoah University highlights the skills that E-Sports benefit its students such as quick cognitive and strategic thinking, mental agility, intellectual curiosity, and creativity. In addition to E-Sports gaming added to the academic curriculum, an increase in freshman enrollment is expected (19).
Shenandoah University will become the first to offer an academic major in E-Sports in the state of Virginia in the fall of 2019. This is becoming such a huge addition to their school they are advertising it as a “New World” of gaming that is arriving at our fingertips (19). An essential reason why E-Sports should be added to the curriculum at HBCUs is that it gives African American students the opportunity to enhance life and social skills by competing globally and being able to interact and succeed on a global stage. It is imperative that HBCUs realize the consequences of not having this academic major and how it can negatively impact the school and overall community.
Social and Community Benefits
With E-Sport gaming becoming a part of the HBCU culture, history has proven that alumni giving, donations, apparel sales school, and community pride increase when a student representing their institution wins a competition (14). African Americans competing in E-Sports gaming illustrate we not only have the physical attributes to compete but also the intellectual capacity to be successful in a flourishing industry. This gives HBCUs another way to enhance its regional and national exposure within an industry on the rise. The authors believe this will inspire the community to get more involved within the university because they will see their HBCUs represented well and want to invest.
Institutional Financial Benefits
Since E-Sports is now a billion dollar industry (17), this new low maintenance untapped billion dollar industry (12) has the opportunity to change the culture of a universities sports program overnight. The video game industry is increasing revenue in a couple of ways: 1) fans are buying more products, 2) they are hosting tournaments, (3) as the data has shown, $2.3 billion gamers worldwide spent about $137.9 billion on different video games this year (21). The E-Sports tournament can bring in such a significant increase in revenue to the university that it will give schools the opportunity to give students a better experience within its program (1). For example, there are stadiums such as the “Barclays Center” that is being sold out due to E-Sports gaming tournaments (4). This allows the university to expand where it is needed and gives students the opportunity to be a part of history. Shenandoah’s Sports Management program will have the potential to grow exponentially and have the opportunity to compete (19). This kind of gaming is unique in its own way and it allows students to compete at a high level and represent their school. E-Sports provide students with a method to be versatile in developing, growing, and the opportunity to earn a scholarship in the future. This is an opportunity to make a career, host tournaments, and the potential to run conferences for E-Sports.
The E-Sports industry is beginning to grow rapidly and sponsors are willing to take the next step by investing. This is huge for all HBCUs to get involved and begin to start adding the program to its sports management curriculum and/or varsity sports. E-Sports are similar to teams such as the chess club or debate team but different from your traditional team varsity sports at HBCUs such as football and basketball. E-Sports forces students to focus on cognitive strategies, group communication, leadership, teamwork, and cohesion, which are critical to success in any team sport. In addition, once HBCUs get into the business it is going to shift the culture and allow students to excel even more. E-Sports are also similar in that it gives students the opportunity to be motivated and the community to get involved in support of the students. The only potential downfall to African American students getting involved in E-Sport gaming is other races may have a slight advantage of having experience on console-based gaming compared to PC-based gaming. The majority of White/Asian players were introduced to gaming via joysticks to mouse clicks whereas Black students typically prefer using a console or PC-based sports (18). However, this can be fixed with proper training. It is the intent of the authors to encourage HBCUs not to wait and begin to explore ways to get involved in E-Sports gaming and get its rightful share of a multi-billion dollar industry. The amount of media and publicity HBCUs would acquire will be incredible. The E-Sports industry is definitely on the rise and everyone has the ability to get involved and enhance the institutional brand and financial stability.
Chandler Allen Hughes always remember “Race First”.
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