Founder, Black Collegiate Gaming Association
The Black Collegiate Gaming Association (BCGA), an organization founded this year to encourage greater diversity in eSports and gaming, recognizes that black gamers make up a majority of consumers yet occupy a stark minority of professionals working in the gaming industry. Keshia Walker, the founder of BCGA, is determined to change that.
Walker first learned about the opportunities in eSports from her eleven-year-old nephew. “I hadn’t looked into just how wide and expansive eSports and gaming had become,” she said. “I grew up playing Atari and Xbox, and I loved gaming back then but it’s at a whole different stratosphere today.”
Walker’s nephew showed her the eSports college scholarships he hoped to receive one day. “He started showing me the schools, and he started showing me his friends that he games with,” she said. “He’s the only African American. When he started showing me the schools, they were all predominantly white institutions.”
The lack of diversity concerned Walker. “He showed me the top ten gamers. Again, nobody was black. No females. I said, ‘Jackson, don’t you see something wrong with this? There’s no one that looks like you.’”
BCGA is committed to diversifying the pipeline for college graduates looking for careers in eSports and gaming, both as professional players and for careers in game production. Walker began by reaching out to historically black colleges and universities, to ask what they knew about eSports. “As I started talking to the schools, they kept saying the same thing: we’re researching it, we’d love to get involved, we don’t have the professors, or we don’t have the resources to build the labs for our students to be able to play and compete,” Walker said. “That’s how BCGA came about.”
A large part of BCGA’s mission is to create opportunities for black students by securing college scholarships. “Historically, black college students don’t make it past their junior years of college, and they have to drop out because they don’t have the financial resources to remain in school,” Walker said. “Sometimes, it can be $10,000 or less that’s keeping some amazing, talented, smart student away from graduating.” BCGA also assists colleges in acquiring gaming hardware and software to help them compete. “We help them build out their eSports and gaming lab so their students are at a place where they can practice play and become competitive in the eSports arena,” Walker said.
What’s in store
BCGA will launch two new events in 2021: Black College Con in February (Black History Month) and Women Got Game in March (Women’s History Month). “The events will end with an actual competition where you’ll get a chance to compete with some of the top gamers in eSports. We’ll be giving away scholarships and prizes to the black college students and the women of color who compete in those competitions,” Walker said. “I know the sky is the limit, and that our students can do very well in this industry because we are quick learners, we adapt well, and we love changing the game.”
While representation has seen small victories in gaming recently, there is still a long way to go, particularly for professional eSports gamers. “When I played games 25 years ago, there weren’t a lot of characters that looked like me in the games I was playing,” Walker said. “You still don’t have a lot of women. When you do see women, it’s in roles a lot of the time that are stereotypical and what I find to be sexist.”
Walker said that to see representation improve, it would have to occur simultaneously behind the scenes and in the games themselves. “If we’ve got more people that look like us working on the game development, we’ll start seeing more diversity in the games that we’re able to play,” Walker said. “If we’re able to get in the right positions at the right companies — the game publishers, the gaming system designers — and are able to be at the table to have those conversations, I think it’s a huge upside for everybody that games.”