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Atlanta nonprofit works to improve diversity in gaming, esports

This Atlanta nonprofit is working to improve diversity in the gaming and esports industry.

ATLANTA — An Atlanta nonprofit is working to improve diversity in the gaming and esports industry. 

It's a $180 billion industry and growing

"COVID created an opportunity where gaming, especially here in North America, skyrocketed especially because students were at home," Ryan Johnson, Founder and CEO of Cxmmunity said.

Cxmmunity is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization committed to increasing the representation of minorities in esports through STEAM development, according to its website. 

For many like Johnson, gaming is a part of who they are.

"The first console in my house was a Sega Genesis. Gaming, for me, was always an outlet," he said.

According to data from the International Game Developers Association, an estimated 85% of Black teens play video games compared to 70% of white teens.

But as of this year, only 6% of all video game developers are Black, 8% are Hispanic or Latino, and more than 71% are white.

"It was mind-blowing to me that as many of my friends that I knew growing up play video games, family members, etcetera, I heard nobody talk about the fact that you can, like work in these spaces," Johnson said.

That's why Johnson founded Cxmmunity. The nonprofit is working to increase gaming access and career opportunities for students of color, particularly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

"We're actually going to these HBCUs and building out their esports centers on campus so students can actually have a place to convene, compete, practice, train, etcetera," Johnson said.

They also donate computers and gaming systems to kids in low-income communities, and have started the first-ever HBCU esports league. 

"I've been gaming since the PS2. It's like an extension of myself," Cxmmunity intern Dominic Jackson said.

Jackson is a college junior. He said the program has opened his eyes to a whole new world. 

"I feel like, if I could go talk to my old self, I wouldn't believe back then that you could make money playing video games because, during that time, it was kind of just a dream. So I'm just living out the dream. Everyone deserves the opportunity, no matter where you're from or where you live," Jackson said. 

The team stays busy amid fundraising, outreach, and monthly town halls sharing available jobs and scholarships in the industry.

"Gaming is like an intersection of film and television. There's a component of music, there's traditional sports kind of like all converging in this space," Johnson said. 

The team still sets time aside to enjoy what they love. 

"It's something that you can communicate back to the youth as something that has worth. Gaming is an industry for all of us," Julian Fitzgerald, COO of Cxmmunity said.

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