College esports division for ‘Her’ ready for fall play

Women, femme-identifying and non-binary gamers are finally getting new opportunities, exciting pathways.
By: | June 7, 2021
Photo courtesy of UCI Esports

A few weeks ago, a new esports division was launched that promises to look quite different from others in competitive college gaming. That is, it run by women and centered on women.

A realm long-dominated by men – from the pros down through university and high school levels – this new esports league called the *gameHERs Collegiate Division will provide a “a safe, inclusive online community” for those who have long been shut out or provided limited access to events, teams and even games themselves, according to the leaders of the platform which shares the same *gameHERs name.

Developed by four women in 2020, the *gameHERs is being supported by several higher education programs, plus a bevy of partners that include Lenovo Esports, Stay Plugged In (SPIN), scholarship platform eFuse, and Evil Geniuses’ Genius League.

“We are thrilled to expand the *gameHERs mission into the collegiate space by creating an intentional division on campuses throughout the U.S,” said Rebecca Dixon, co-founder and chief marketing officer of the*gameHERs. “Since our inception in March 2020, we’ve been working hard to appeal to college students, so this is a huge milestone in our business.”

One of the esports programs signing on this fall is DePaul University, which has gotten off the ground quickly with Big East Championships and is backed by a stellar game design program.

“DePaul University is excited for the opportunity to partner with the *gameHERs as we continue to grow and develop our esports program,” said Courtney James, Director of Student Involvement. “The *gameHERs mission to amplify and center the voices of women, femme-identifying gamers, and non-binary gamers mirrors the goals of DePaul’s esports program so we are excited to collaborate as we both work to create a more inclusive community for all gamers.”

Just like all other esports initiatives that have tie-ins to education, the goal of the *gameHERs is to help create a pipeline of opportunities for students, whether in the games or not, around all of the pathways that exist. That includes streaming, social media, design, marketing, casting and other roles that are vital to the success of organizations in an industry that is booming.

“One of the driving forces at SPIN is our commitment to preparing our players for collegiate programs, and to help them find the institutions that best suit their needs,” said Taylor Gach, Director of Strategic Partnerships for SPIN, a recruiting platform that offers a custom STEM accredited curriculum and coaching. “Working with innovative partners like the *gameHERs opens a direct line of communication to female student-athletes interested in competing in esports and developing skills for future careers in the gaming industry. Our goal is to ensure that women are invited into a community that provides support and resources towards their educational aspirations.”

But unlike the others, this one will be hyperfocused on women. The *gameHERs platform is dedicated to providing among other things a “sexist-free space” for all types of gamers while amplifying their voices and their stature. To that end, it says it is 100% bully-free and will not tolerate harassment, trolling or violence, which have been unfortunate outcomes for women gamers in unmonitored online spaces.

Evil Geniuses, which was the first major esports organization in the world to have two women on its roster, is excited to be board and hopeful about the future of gaming.

“Our Genius League collegiate program learnings showed us that diversity has never been more important to the future of esports at the college level, and we’re proud to share those learnings with the*gameHERs as they build out their program,” said Jessica Hammond, Chief Culture Officer at Evil Geniuses. “Together, we look forward to providing college students from all walks of life with even more opportunities in esports and gaming, working towards a more diverse future for our industry.”

Fortnite champs crowned: A team from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) won the Gaming Community Network’s Collegiate Esports Invitational by beating Cal State Fullerton to earn the $5,000 first prize plus several gaming-related accessories. Representing respective conferences, the America East team captured the title over the Big West squad in the 10-conference pool. The event had more than 650,000 live views on Twitch and was carried live on more than 85 websites. Drexel University topped Santa Clara University to place third.

Esports bytes: Florida Southern College has added 30 new gaming stations plus seating for console players as it has expanded out its Snake Pit arena with many movable pieces. The goal of the renovation was to provide more space for casual gamers rather than its Mocs Esports team. In addition, Florida Southern is backing esports with academic offerings. “We recently announced that the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise will introduce an undergraduate minor and a Master of Business Education (MBA) concentration related to competitive gaming,” said says Dr. Anne Kerr, president of Florida Southern. “So, this new gaming area is a perfect addition to the educational and job opportunities for our scholars.” … SUNY Jamestown Community College says it will field both an NJCAA Esports team and club team for 2021-22 that will be eligible for students on all their campuses. It also has a steering committee that is exploring a potential esports management degree program.