Diversity & Inclusion
esports / Gaming / Universities

This Black gaming advocate has a mission to transform education through esports

From setting up childhood tournaments to leading MSU’s esports program, Tarrin Morgan II champions diversity and paves opportunities for the next generation.

Tarrin Morgan II (center) with student gamers at a Mountain Dew-sponsored "Call of Duty" competition for HBCU esports teams. (Courtesy REAL digitizED)

Tarrin Morgan II has been passionate about gaming ever since he was a kid. Now he’s translated that passion into initiatives like Morgan State University’s esports program, which has served nearly 250 of the historically Black college’s students since its 2020 launch.

His career, and the overall embrace of esports as a learning and development vehicle, represent a sea change from how people viewed video games back when Morgan started playing them.

The New Jersey native and lifelong gamer remembers gathering with friends for “Madden NFL” tournaments on big-backed TVs back in 2005, unaware that he and his friends were actually participating in early esports. Despite facing skepticism and criticism from family, friends and mentors for that time spent gaming, he saw the potential for it to be more than just a pastime.

Nearly 15 years later, the Morgan State (MSU) alum’s childhood passion for gaming paved the way for his becoming the founding director of his alma mater’s esports program.

Black Morgan State student plays NBA video game in front of red wall with Morgan State Bears logo.

A gamer plays in Morgan State’s BearCade. (Courtesy REAL digitizED)

Since its establishment, the program has grown to boast over 240 student members through the years, clinching 11 championships, and accumulating over $450,000 in scholarships, winnings, and donations accrued. Recognizing the demand, MSU cut the ribbon on its “BearCade” within the university’s student center in 2022.\

“We were able to get $200,000 from Verizon to build an esports lab,” said Morgan. “So we have 18 computers with streaming setups in there.”

He credits the milestone to the program’s online presence, which includes accounts on social media platforms like Instagram and X.

Follow MSU Bears esports on Instagram

Morgan has also spearheaded the launch of two courses on gaming within the HBCU’s academic department: eSports broadcasting and Introduction to Video Games and eSports.

These courses precede his development of a new major, titled “eSports, video game development and entertainment technologies.” He said the program would include components on artificial intelligence, as well as virtual and augmented reality, alongside courses covering the rise of the metaverse and Web3.

Morgan stays busy beyond his work with the esports program. He serves as the CEO of REAL digitizED, an organization dedicated to creating pathways into STEAM fields through competitive video game play. He is also the director of marketing and digital engagement for MSU’s Office of Residence Life and Housing.

When he’s not helping program participants bring home Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Esports Championship titles, he works on a partnership between the REAL digitizED team and the City of Annapolis’ Recreation and Parks Department. That collaboration provides young people in the region with teen nights, summer camps and esports competitions.

With esports gaining popularity in Maryland, Morgan has a personal mission to increase the representation of Black people in gaming. According to the International Game Developers Association’s 2023 Developer Satisfaction Survey, an annual study of various professionals throughout the gaming industry, only 4%, or about 32 of the 777 respondents, identified as Black. This lack of diversity often leads to misrepresentations and stereotypes in video games, such as repetitive portrayals of Black video game characters with hair almost identical to “Black Panther” antagonist Erik Killmonger.

“There isn’t representation and they don’t have the wherewithal to know what Black culture looks like within these spaces,” Morgan said.

He sees developments like the city’s new Medfield Recreation Center esports lab, whose ribbon-cutting he attended, in Baltimore City, as a step in the right direction. He’s excited that there are plans for more and thinks they may reduce crime as traditional sports fail students more and more.

“It’s going to give a lot of amazing opportunities to our youth,” Morgan said, “and give them a place to channel that energy into a positive thing.”

Companies: Morgan State University

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