Competitive gaming is a thriving industry, but for girls and women, it is an unleveled playing field. Learn what Tennessee State University is doing to change that in the Nashville Tennessean article by Molly Davis below.

Kiara Davis (left) teaches Sydnei Everett (right) how t play a video game during an esports gaming event hosted by Tennessee State University Wednesday, March 16. (Credit: Molly Davis/Tennessean)

Jayla Anderson didn’t know many people when she transferred to Tennessee State University this year. She had taken two years of online classes at a community college in Memphis, and when she arrived in Nashville she was thrilled to be a part of a campus community. 

“Taking online classes, I felt really detached,” Anderson said. “Coming here has been really eye-opening. It has been the best experience.”

Anderson grew up playing video games with her older brother. When she arrived at TSU, she used video games to foster her own network of friendships. She plays in her dorm with her best friend, who she calls her brother, and plans informal tournaments in another friend’s off-campus apartment.

“Whenever any of my friends is playing sports games, basketball shooting games, I’m there with them,” Anderson said.

Tennessee State University hosted an event Wednesday, March 16 focused on women in esports gaming to engage more students like Anderson in the establishment of the Academic eSports Center on campus.  

The SMART Global Technology Information Center will oversee the new center, which will serve as the academic hub for new classes on the history of esports and video game coding and creation. Dean of Graduate Studies Deborah Chisom said a primary initiative at the center is to recruit young women into STEAM professions through esports gaming. 

Kiara Davis was the first female on the esports team at Tennessee State University. She has helped to recruit more women to the team. (Credit: Molly Davis/Tennessean)

“It opens up a whole world, especially for females,” Chisom said. “It teaches them leadership and organizational skills, and it’s important that we open up the field of gaming to women.”

The National Association of Collegiate Esports estimates that 8.2% of collegiate esports players are female, and Black women are underrepresented in the worldwide gaming community. Program director Effua Ampadu-Moss said esports and online gaming is a unique opportunity because it doesn’t have to be about what someone looks like. Ampadu-Moss wants the new center to be open to everyone, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. 

The esports gaming team at TSU attends biannual national competitions and hosts internal tournaments. Kiara Davis, a freshman at TSU, said she wants to put the eSports team among the top five HBCU’s in the U.S. 

Davis learned how to play video games with her dad and brother. She said competing on the team has helped her get out of her comfort zone and build a community of friends at college. This year she was the first girl on the mostly male team, so she tries to get more women involved any chance she gets. 

“I can bond with guys, but it’s unique to have girls on the team,” Davis said. “When we finally got more girls on the team, I was so happy. Hopefully we will get more.”

Students stopped by to try out video games at the event, which was focused on engaging students ahead of the opening of the new academic center for gaming at TSU. (Credit: Molly Davis/Tennessean)

As students stopped by the event to learn more about the team, Davis took the initiative to show them the ropes. 

When looking to the future, Chisom and Ampadu-Moss want to expand gaming and academic opportunities to women of all ages. They hope to offer summer camps for youth in Nashville when the center is finished. 

“People ask me why girls should be in gaming,” Chisom said. “The question to me is why not?”