Cxmmunity, a black-owned organization working to increase minority presence in gaming, has launched the third season of its HBCU Esports League.
Included in the new season is a head-to-head battle in NBA 2K with a chance to reach the finals and win a $20,000 cash prize.
Despite the fact that 83% of black teens play video games, black professionals make up only 2% of the sector. One of the few Black owned esports leagues, the HBCU Esports League offers Black players a unique and rich path to a flood of opportunity, equity, visibility and resources to make money in this market.
Speaking to The SOURCE ahead of the launch of Season 3, Ryan Johnson, Founder and CEO of Cxmmunity Media, detailed what to expect in Esports League Season 3.
What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming Esports League?
The source: With each new season, we’re always excited to reach more students at Historically Black colleges and universities and create a safe space for them to play competitively and just have fun. Since 2020, we have amassed over 130 student participants from 35 HBCUS and gained more than 29 million live viewers on Twitch. We hope that this season even more students will join in the fun.
What games will be played this season?
This year, we’re excited to invite promising student teams from 16 HBCUS to compete in a series of NBA 2K and Call of Duty events.
They have a number of sponsors in Discover, Verizon and Hot Pockets. How important is it to find the right partner for the mission, and what do they hope to get in return?
As an organization at the forefront of securing the future of diversity and equity in gaming, it’s incredibly important for us to partner with brands that have a real shared mission and prioritize tangible impact. Verizon was one of the first brand partners to believe in our vision and gave us $1 million to build gaming labs on HBCUs across the country. Discover has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the league and we’re excited to welcome Nestle Hot Pockets as a new partner this season. Our partners have enabled us to create a historic opportunity for a community of Black gamers to make money from gaming through the HBCU Esports League, and our shared goal is to future-proof diversity in the gaming industry by empowering these students acquainted with career opportunities that exist therein. This is the outcome we all want from our partnership.
Another partnership we are excited to announce is with MTN DEW on the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge. We’re working together to host an HBCU esports tournament that will pit student teams against each other in a series of Call of Duty games and award the largest prize pool in college esports history of $500,000.
What is different this season compared to previous years?
For Season 3 of the HBCU Esports League, we’re introducing the Discover Bowl finals, which pits the top two HBCU teams against each other in an NBA2k game for a chance to win a $20,000 cash prize .
We founded the league at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, this is the first year that students are back on campus and as things clear up we are excited to offer students the opportunity to compete live and in person.
What doors does this league open for HBCU students?
The HBCU Esports League has created a community for Black gamers to safely engage in gaming and make money, as well as learn about the various careers that exist in the industry, from professional gaming to video game development. Our efforts through the HBCU Esports League and broader Cxmmunity Media are focused on providing students of color with the resources, education and exposure to grow their skills and pursue careers in gaming. We see these initiatives as important ways to advance the talent pipeline and future-proof diversity in the industry, and we are honored to have the opportunity to take responsibility through the work we do every day.
We’ve been able to hire student interns at some of the top video game developers (2K, Riot Games). Last season we had a student [Eric Minor] compete nationally in Madden, and for the first time ever, an HBCU student achieved a national rank (16 out of 200 students). That year he signed his first professional Madden contract with the Philadelphia Knights.
The previous season attracted some attention from celebrities. How do you keep that attention and support from new audiences?
Working with the likes of Offset, T-Pain, Brett Gray and others in the HBCU Esports League and other Cxmmunity initiatives has been a critical component in raising awareness of our mission to promote diversity in gaming. 83% of Black teens identify as gamers, however, Black professionals are grossly underrepresented with only 4% of video game developers. As we work to bridge this gap, representation matters, so we continue to explore opportunities to partner with celebrities who are avid gamers and brands equally invested in our mission, and strengthen our relationships with historically black colleges and universities, Integrate into our ecosystem to attract more black players and remain consistent in hosting esports tournaments. As I like to say, “the plan is working,” so our goal is to be steadfast in pursuing our goal.
How influential was this league in bringing attention to black professional gaming?
The HBCU Esports League offers opportunities for black players to make money in the industry at both the amateur and professional levels. Professional gaming is a true career path, so it’s important that black players have a safe place to compete and hone their skills. One of our former HBCU Esports League participants and Claflin University graduate, Eric Minor was recently selected as the second draft pick for Madden 2K’s professional esports league. He also used his earnings from our tournament to pay for college. This is a true testament to the openness and accessibility to gaming that Cxmmunity offers and we are proud to continue this important work.