NORFOLK, Va. – As the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) builds its esports community, bringing the rapidly growing industry to the league’s historically Black campuses, one name has come to the forefront, herself a changing of the mold.
Charity Philips, a student at North Carolina Central University, had already been involved in her campus’s esports community when she became an intern for the MEAC in the fall of 2020 – helping establish the MEAC Esports Community’s social media presence and creating the conference’s Discord server.
Philips started the club at NCCU with just one other person before getting the faculty behind them, and now the Durham, N.C., campus has its own dedicated esports lounge and the organization will remain completely student-run.
Along the way, the Durham, N.C., native parlayed her internship into an employment opportunity with GYO Score, the online platform partnered with the MEAC for esports competition and community, and she represented the MEAC on its All-Star Team this past April at the Collegiate Esports National Championship – competing in such games as Rocket League and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate against campus esports teams throughout the country.
On July 29, Philips hosted a Twitch broadcast of the MEAC Esports Community’s Madden Tournament, where the 12 football student-athletes in Norfolk, Va., for the annual Football Media Day competed in a single-elimination, bracket-style Madden NFL tournament.
She has also hosted the MEAC Esports Community’s Community Days throughout the summer.
“I get to do what I actually love to do,” Philips, who will graduate in December, said. “This is not what I expected, and I’m just beyond happy. My degree (will be in) social work, and I still plan to use it to help out gamers, but I still get to help out with events and tournaments and spread the word.”
A self-proclaimed Nintendo fan, Philips is big on Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, and she engages in what are called speed-runs – where a gamer will attempt to complete a game as quickly as possible.
Not only has esports grown into an industry that brings in just over $1 billion annually, it has also become a tool for universities to recruit and retain students – particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. A 2019 Harena Data study showed a high correlation between interest in esports and interest in those particular majors.
In addition, esports is about more than just playing the games. The industry features job opportunities for broadcasters, journalists, social media marketers, sports management professionals, game coders and several other fields.
The face of gaming is also changing – or at least, the perception of it.
In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of teen girls played video games. In fact, the stereotypical gamer – overwhelmingly white and male – is not the true representation of gaming anymore.
Still, there is a gender gap. One that needs to be addressed, and esports can be a way of doing that. Esports’ increasing popularity and growing visibility means people like Philips have the chance to become the face people see when it comes to gaming – whether it’s through competition or even watching a Twitch stream.
Ultimately, visibility breeds opportunity.
“I get asked a lot of times, ‘Why are you into it? Women don’t play,’” Philips, who is also the mother of a 3-year-old son named Tyrin-Evan, said, “and it’s like, no, we play and we’re just as good as any other person. I try to show that any woman, whether you’re casual or competitive, you can still do something in the gaming industry.
“I might not be the best competitive player, but I can help broadcast, I can help commentate, I can still do anything. And that’s the message I’m trying to push.”
Philips can be found on Twitch, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube at the handle @RinAdventures.
Follow the MEAC Esports Community on Twitter, Instagram and Twitch @theemeacesports.
Featured Image Caption: Photo: Charity Philips prepares for the Twitch broadcast of the MEAC Esports Madden Tournament on July 29, 2021 at The Hilton The Main in Norfolk, Va. Photo courtesy of MEAC Media Relations