Building the Future of Gaming Opportunities for Under-Served Students - Network:On

Building the Future of Gaming Opportunities for Under-Served Students

Published March 23, 2023

At Network:On, we’re all about celebrating America’s Excellent Internet and how it brings people together and changes lives. Just like the Internet, the esports landscape has transformed over the last few decades. What was once just fun and games is still a lot of fun, but now has an entire ecosystem of esports leagues with a whole economy built around it. 

That’s why we’re proud to highlight Cxmmunity, an organization committed to increasing the representation of minorities in esports and gaming through STEAM development.

Cxmmunity was founded to increase digital literacy and ultimately eliminate the digital divide. When distance learning became mandatory in 2020, the organization realized a gap in technology access that disproportionally impacted underserved students. So in April of that year, Cxmmunity hosted virtual telethons called Tech4Covid that benefited students at K–12 schools nationwide. They partnered with Intel to host a 24-hour livestream on Twitch that received over 1 million views and raised over $118,000. This helped bring 327 laptops to students in need. This was a springboard for the organization. 

After successful outreach and partnerships in multiple cities brought esports exposure to underserved youth during the early days of the pandemic, Cxmmunity held its first HBCU esports tournament, HBCU Battlegrounds, in August 2020. This event also featured a career fair the day prior where students applied to tech internships and jobs at major companies like Bethesda. 

Cxmmunity then partnered with Twitch to bring the first HBCU esports league to life. Before 2020, no HBCUs were engaged in esports, while over 130 Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) had formal clubs. But soon, that all changed. 

Season 1 of the HBCU Esports League consisted of 18 teams. They received over 14 million views in season one, donating tens of thousands of dollars in prizes to students. But it wasn’t all about the prizes. Esports and gaming engagement directly relate to students’ economic potential and mobility because they acquire fundamental skills from participating in the ecosystem.

During that first season, Cxmmunity recognized that students at HBCUs lacked the means to compete and play at a level comparable to other universities with existing programs. To fill that gap, Cxmmunity partnered with Red Bull and later Verizon to bring the first wave of esports innovation labs online. 

Oakwood University, North Carolina Central University, and Coppin State University received esports labs, including PC gaming stations, gaming consoles, furniture, and equipment to get them started, serving as a guide for other institutions’ needs. The program has since been deployed to K–12 schools in Atlanta and Philadelphia. 

The HBCU esports league will soon conclude its third season and begin prepping for season 4.

Each season comprises over 20 weekly broadcasts featuring HBCU students representing their schools in various titles, including Madden, NBA2K, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and others.

May 2021

The Space Jam New Legacy Competition featured 8 HBCU students hosted in Atlanta. Competing to win a trip to the world premiere screening in Hollywood, and a chance to win the golden Xbox Controller.

May 2021

A donation of $1,000,000 from Verizon helped Cxmmunity launch five HBCU esports labs. To date, Cxmmunity has launched 11 esports labs nationwide.

June 2021

The city-wide Build a Better Tomorrow challenge engaged 17,000 students and more than 250 educators. This extraordinary participation resulted in over 1,300 submissions for the competition. More than 450,000 spectators watched the live-streamed finals on Twitch, and almost 300,000 people tuned in to the championship broadcast on ESPN.

May 2022

During the summer of 2022, Cxmmunity deployed educational programming in multiple markets, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Mississippi, and San Francisco, to educate students on career paths in gaming and esports.

June 2022

Cxmmunity participated in the Essence 2022 Festival and spoke to attendees about the gaming and esports ecosystem and the tremendous economic and career potential it presents to those bringing value to the industry.

November 2022

The Kickback, an all day affair that includes panels, workshops, tournaments, networking with Riot executives, and a free concert.

2023 and Beyond

Cxmmunity has been developing a learning management system app that will be a streamlined means of increasing diversity within tech and gaming via on-demand training, student portfolio selection, and partner workforce promotion to benefit students and companies.