JCSU Esports and Gaming: Changing the Game

Gaming Day 2024

Charlotte, N.C./April 27, 2024 - The Johnson C. Smith University Esports and Gaming program continues to break new ground and carve out fresh territory in Charlotte. On Saturday, April 27, Esports and Gaming faculty and staff welcomed up to 30 middle and high school students from near and far, from the Charlotte Metro area to Greensboro, N.C. The event was called STEM and STEAM: Changing the Game through Esports and Gaming.  

JCSU Instructor John Cash says, “This isn’t a one-and-done thing. We have already held 25 community-related events since January with the Johnson C. Smith Esports and Gaming program.”

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Student playing desktop game 2024
A student plays a game during the STEM and STEAM: Changing the Game program. Photo by Dr. Cheryl Butler-Brayboy.

The NC Science Festival was a collaboration with JCSU Esports and Gaming. The partnership created a rare opportunity for JCSU gamer-scholars to teach what they know on the big stage.

Cash says the Esports and Gaming program in the College of Business and Professional Studies has led to several leadership opportunities for students, including this event: 

“Our gamer-scholars serve as ambassadors of the JCSU program on this high-profile platform,” Cash says. “Four gamer scholars serve as leaders to introduce local middle and high school students to Esports and Gaming careers.”

Cash says STEM and STEAM: Changing the Game through Esports and Gaming event creates a statewide platform for JCSU’s Sci-Tech curriculum.  It is about showing students the correlation between academic concepts in STEM with applications in the world of gaming. Cash says the numbers are startling: 

“In the fields of game design and development, people of color make up less than 2 percent of the workforce.” In contrast, Cash says, “Eighty-two percent of Black Americans 18 to 24 years old are gaming weekly vs. 73 percent in the general population.”

Cash contends currently, people of color are consumers but not owners in the gaming space, adding, “We over-index in gameplay and consumption but we are not engaged in production. [As a community] we are behind in education, internships and jobs in gaming.”  

An event like this one allows young gamers of color to re-think their career trajectories. Cash says it is not all about delayed gratification. Instead, “You can have these opportunities now.”  

Computer programming and AI are two careers where opportunities abound, according to Cash. As a result, the professor has put four areas of gaming on the wish list for curriculum development and career preparedness for students: game design, game development, AI and Cybersecurity.

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Gaming Day 2024

For students, the benefits extend beyond the classroom. JCSU STEM student Shaun Moore says Esports and Gaming competitions have given him increased confidence.

“Esports is where we take traditional gaming like Street Fighter or Roblox and we compete against other schools…. I think that’s why it is exciting for us. We get to go on trips and compete against other people. Whenever we win, we do get to keep [the] money or prizes.”

Right now, the JCSU Esports and Gaming Management minor is growing in popularity on campus and community-wide interest in the cutting-edge program is increasing steadily. Dr. BerNadette Lawson-Williams and professor Cash plan to extend the current program to include the current focus on Esports and STEM plus Esports and communication and Esports and marketing. The faculty is carving out more internships for students with the Charlotte Hornets, the Venom, and other high-profile corporate partners. 

For now, the JCSU Esports and Gaming minor is the only college-level program of its kind in Charlotte. With interest growing and momentum building, that fact is sure to change. From the looks of those gathered for STEM and STEAM: Changing the Game through Esports and Gaming, young people in the Carolinas are hungry and ready. Good luck, have fun!


 

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