eSports and HBCUs: A Conversation with David Hughes
Hampton University will become the first HBCU with an eSports gaming lab
Historically, Blacks and Hispanics in the United States have been ‘late to the game’ or ‘sidelined’ in matters involving technological advances. The digital pide is the term we use to describe this gap in technology access between the haves and the have-nots. In 2020, Hampton University plans to help close that gap by being at the forefront of eSports, the latest advancement in professional competitive sports.
Thanks to a $340,000 technology grant from the Department of Homeland security, Hampton University will be the first HBCU to open an eSports gaming Lab. “We’re looking to offer certificates in coaching e-sports,” said sports management professor David Hughes in an interview with USBE magazine.
eSports, also known as electronic sports, is the latest in competitive entertainment. In this sport, competitors go head to head in various video games, allowing fans to watch in person, via live streams online, or major networks such as ESPN. eSports has become one of the fastest-growing industries in entertainment.
“eSports is a billion-dollar economy that we are not a part of,” Hughes said. When the opportunity presented itself with eSports, Hughes decided to take a shot. “I wanted to do something new. So, the leadership here [at Hampton University] gave me the opportunity to explore, and I was able to take advantage.”
Hughes continued, “eSports is the new emerging thing in sports management…with us being able to get the technology to start the eSports lab, we will be the first HBCU to offer eSports [curriculum]. Putting us ahead of the curve.”
Much like other areas in STEM, there is a dire need for African Americans in the gaming industry. Hughes explains, “there are some stats that say Blacks make up 75% of the consumers of video games and less than 2% participate in creating them…. By having this lab at Hampton, we are now helping to fill that void of persity in the eSports space.”
Several states throughout the country are now preparing to offer eSports as part of their middle school and high school varsity programs. This will, in turn, drive a need for eSports coaches. Here’s where Hampton University steps in–offering an eSports coaching curriculum will prepare African Americans with the right tools to secure leadership positions in this field.
“In addition to the [coaching curriculum] our lab will have an innovations center,” Hughes says. “Students can [learn how to] create video games and pitch to venture capitalists.”
When asked about the future of the eSports program, Hughes responded very optimistically. “The students will have the opportunity to create video games and bring them to market. I want music students to score these video games. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for cooperative economics with the students here at Hampton.”
Hughes added, “when you think of Black people in eSports, I want you to think of Hampton University… I want Hampton to provide the most Black eSports coaches, I want us to produce video games, and I want students to be extremely successful in eSports.