Interest in gaming and eSports are often the first steps toward interest in STEM careers. The more the curtain of gaming is pulled back, the more invested kids become in coding, engineering, and graphic design. Beyond Meta 2022, an event held at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, April 15-16, centered around helping students bridge the gap between gaming for fun and building a career in the burgeoning field.
The Tampa-based event, sponsored by Mesmerise and Riiid Labs, kicked off on Friday with a Madden 22 tournament, which was presented by the Blacks In Technology Foundation and hosted by Chibatta Mitch. The tournament was won by NBA 2k league veteran and local gaming professional Tim Anselimo. Saturday’s first panel featured local gaming entrepreneurs and the #1 Madden streamer in the world and focused on eSports streaming and how to become an influencer. Panels on several key aspects of the industry including cryptocurrency and blockchain, music, and a community-centered discussion on how to grow the STEAM industry in the Tampa area followed.
High Point Gamer
Beyond Meta 2022 was hosted by High Point Gamer, an organization headed by Army veteran Derek Watford, that brings eSports to local communities.
“I started High Point Gamer back in 2015 to give alternatives to the community and give teens something to do, as well as put money in their pockets,” Watford said.
High Point Gamer partnered with several non-profits for the event including Fundecation, an organization that provides opportunities for elementary, middle, and high school students in engineering, coding, robotics, cybersecurity, mathematics, and more. Fundecation Executive Director and Founder Neirda Thompson-Pemberton coined the acronym STEAM, adding arts to the organization’s focus as well as science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.
“As part of our STEAM programming, I’ve become more open to using gaming to reach kids,” said Thompson-Pemberton. “And it wasn’t just the gaming, it was the field of eSports, competitive gaming. That’s why we call it Fundecation – because we go where the kids are, where they’re having fun and where they’re the most open and fearless and we try to expose the career pathways in those settings.”
Partnership with MOSI
MOSI has been supporting kids and teens in tech for years. Manager of Youth and Academic Programs, Ian Reed, teaches a Minecraft class every Saturday and the museum offers computer coding classes as part of the museum’s summer camp program.
“The benefit of coming to the camps is to meet other kids who possess certain types of skills who they could learn from,” Reed said.
Peers and mentors who are interested in gaming can become lifelong friends and potentially provide employment opportunities down the line, Reed went on to say.
Every panel was informative and entertaining. Because of the relatively small size of the crowd, the setting felt informal and intimate. Attendees picked the brains of panelists throughout the day, learning more about cryptocurrency, and NFTs, and debated the best investment strategies pertaining to the newest digital frontier known as the metaverse. All this occurred while bouncing a padded cube equipped with a microphone around the room that guests spoke into.
A supportive father asked local professional streamers how to get his kids to take their passion for gaming to the next level. A local business owner asked crypto expert and CEO of UnitedCoin Derek Jones about the financial validity of purchasing domains. True to its purpose, Beyond Meta felt like a community event where people passionate about tech and gaming could rally around one another and exchange ideas.
The 2022 event followed the inaugural Beyond Meta conference during Super Bowl weekend in 2021, so expect to see familiar faces next year as the sponsors’ organizations continue to grow with Tampa’s tech and eSports community.