Photo: Jordan Benston
  /  11.02.2022

On Sept. 25, gamers, gaming fans, and influencers from around the globe gathered in Atlanta for the 2022 REVOLT Summit x AT&T. In partnership with McDonald’s, two of gaming’s cultural leaders were invited to discuss the future of esports. Moderated by Christina Granville, also known as Ms. Basketball, “The Future of Gaming” panel featured Erin Ashley Simon, co-owner of XSET, one of the fastest-growing gaming and lifestyle organizations in the world.

The dynamic panel was just the beginning of a partnership birthed to grow the future of gamers, designers, and the next generation of entrepreneurs in the field. Later this month, McDonald’s is aiding the first HBCU esports lab at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. By progressively partnering with the institution, McDonald’s is showcasing the brand’s advocacy and dedication to diversifying the gaming landscape, supporting up-and-coming Black gamers, and laying the groundwork for how the future of the industry should look.

The McDonald’s and Morris Brown initiative will benefit the college’s gamers and show them that gamifying your space is more than just adding snacks, ergonomic seating, and galaxy lights. Their partnership is also about inclusivity, unity, and coming together to make the HBCU community and the gaming industry a better place.

Through the collaboration, a group of six students will work with Atlanta-based interior designer Davon Johnson to upgrade the esports lab’s aesthetics and hardware, and they’ll also work through any connectivity issues. Morris Brown gamers will not only be invited to enjoy the renovated space, but will have the opportunity to learn about future gaming technology and how it is playing a meaningful part in growing eSports.

Esports have skyrocketed with the unparalleled successes of NBA 2K League and The Overwatch League. Gaming popularity began surging once many young adults, and even teens, realized it could not only be a leisurely pastime, but a full-time job with lucrative income streams. Both Ms. Basketball and Simon spoke about how the future of the industry appears through the lens of an often-overlooked gaming demographic — Black women. “The first gig I ever had was with the NBA 2K League. I hosted their first Twitch show, and then eventually I went to charter esports. Now, I cover all esports, and it’s crazy to say I’m now one of the most visible, influential, and prominent Black women,” Simon told the panel audience.

The ladies of the panel got the audience buzzing when the discussion began to address what steps can be taken to ensure that gaming continues to grow and how gamers of the future will be able to monetize their skill sets going forward.

Simon described how her diverse background helped her smoothly transition into gaming. She said, “Now, I work with Xbox. I co-host ‘NFL Tuesday Night Gaming’ every Tuesday. So, it’s just crazy to see how, you know, having a sports background can work in the gaming space, having a media background, entertainment background… it does work, and one of the things that I pride myself in is showing that intersection of culture and gaming because gaming is a lifestyle.”

When discussing how celebrities have found their way into the space, Simon told the REVOLT panel audience partnering with celebs is a natural fit. “We have everyone from Clinton Sparks, who was part of it. Our executives founded Karmaloop and have been very successful in this space… we work with Ozuna, Swae Lee, Ezekiel Elliott, and a bunch of others in the gaming space and, you know, we’re starting to see a lot more opportunities when it comes to this cross-culture thing,” she added.

What was once a simple pastime has become a lifestyle. Gaming is embedded in our culture and relies on access, diversity, inclusion, and youth in order to thrive and build the next generation of designers, engineers and entrepreneurs.

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