At Last, HBCU Teams Have Own Video Game

EA Sports, creator of sports games such as Madden, NCAA Football and Tiger Woods Golf, has a substantial lineup, but athletics at historically black colleges and universities have not been part of the mix.
To address that omission, gamers will soon have the opportunity to play a video game that exclusively features HBCUs.

A black-owned company based in Baton Rouge, La., staffed by HBCU alumni, Nerjyzed Entertainment, has created Black College Football the Xperience (BCFx).

“Madden forgot about us, so we [are] doing it ourselves,” said Jerry Perkins, promoter for BCFx.

Jacqueline Beauchamp, Nerjyzed Entertainment’s chief executive officer, is an aluma of Southern University. Brian “B-Jax” Jackson, the creative design director who said he came up with the idea, is a Howard alumnus.

The game features more than 40 HBCU football teams, as well as their marching bands and cheering squads. Set to hit stores on Nov. 23 for PCs, the game’s creators expect it to be available on Microsoft’s XBox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3 in February.

Currently touring 42 HBCU campuses, 13 football classics and a number of homecoming games, Nerjyzed stopped at Tennessee State University on Sept. 6 and Howard University on Sept. 18. Students had an opportunity to test the game before it hits the stands.

“It’s a quality game, but it isn’t Madden,” said Keimal Simpson, a fourth-year electrical engineering major at Howard, where students tested the game in a demo truck. Still, Simpson said, “I am going to pick it up.”

However, Simpson noted that Howard’s Bison were not included in the demo mode, and might not be in the game.

“I was disappointed I couldn’t play with Howard and other MEAC teams,” Simpson said. “Only SWAC, CIAA and SIAC conferences are on,” referring to the Southwestern Athletic and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic conferences, and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Ashley Patton, Nerjyzed’s marketing director, said the company has a five-year contract with three HBCU athletic conferences – SWAC, CIAA and SIAC – as well as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and several schools within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and independent HBCUs, such as Tennessee State.

It has not received clearance from all the MEAC schools to use their teams, but hopes to have Howard on the game in time for the release, according to BCFx.

Jackson, the creative design director and a former employee of EA Sports, said BCFx has been nearly two years in the making.

Jackson said he came up with game’s concept four years ago and is working to ensure that a new version of the game will be released annually, much like NCAA Football and Madden.

When players pick a school, a brief history of the institution appears on the screen. For Fisk University, a short story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers materializes.

“We wanted the game to be as realistic as possible, so we held a contest for motion-capture participants,” Jackson said. “All of the in-game animations for the band and cheerleaders came from [students] at Southern University. We also went to 30 schools to record different bands playing.”

Beauchamp said, “We plan on making a huge presence at the Bayou Classic,” the annual matchup between Southern and Grambling universities, “but we will also be at the Southern Homecoming and we have big plans that include live music and more.”

A planned “jukebox” feature allows gamers to watch the halftime sequences or listen to the bands’ music whenever they wish.

“The gaming industry is worth $30 billion,” Patton continued. “And black consumers outnumber other groups nearly 2 to 1. Yet there [is] no game out there that truly represents us.”

At Tennessee State, Leon Tillman, a junior agronomy major from Marietta, Ga., said he was excited about the game’s potential and enjoyed playing the demo.

BCFx “is really good exposure for athletes at HBCUs,” he said. “Even though there were a few issues with the game, it was very fun to play. I’m glad the bands got included on the game as well.”

Marcus Cole, a senior therapy major at Tennessee State, said he appreciated that the game’s creators understood that HBCUs are commonly underrepresented in multimedia culture, especially in video games.

“It’s cool that HBCUs are finally getting recognition,” Cole said. “On [EA’s] ‘NCAA,’ we’re horrible.”

Patton said one of Nerjyzed’s aims is to give back to the African American community. It plans to do this by offering internships to current students, she said.

“We’re currently looking for interns,” Patton said. “Our staff is composed of individuals from various prestigious HBCUs and we’re always looking to give back to our communities.”

Stephen Hall and Winnie Clark Jenkins, students at Howard University, write for the Hilltop. M. Antonio Silas, a student at Tennessee State University, is business and technology editor of the Meter. Ural Garrett, a student at Southern University, writes for the Southern Digest. To comment, e-mail Black College Wire.

Posted Sept. 24, 2007

I Like to Game It Up Against Predominantly White Schools
I understand the desire for the creators of this game to display the unique Saturday afternoon culture of HBCU football and its elements. However, I’m not sure which writer(s) is/are responsible for the lead, but they’re making news out of nothing.

EA Sports games, such as Madden and Tiger Woods Golf, feature professional athletes and teams. Therefore, historically black and predominately black institutions are not “part of the mix.”

Gamers play Madden with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, not an HBCU like Tennessee State. EA Sports collegiate games, such as NCAA Football and March Madness, feature HBCUs. So where is the omission or evidence that Madden forgot about us?

I’ve played my fair share of college video games. I have loved playing NCAA Football with the HBCUs, typically and understandably rated lower than the traditional athletic powerhouses at PWIs (predominantly white institutions), and solemnly battle the University of Florida or the University of Southern California with hopes of an “upset.”

I even have a copy of March Madness 2000, whose video game timeouts featured the music of Howard University’s marching band.

Now, HBCU teams have their own game. I wonder how we would feel if EA Sports removed the HBCUs from its content?

I’m not opposed to a game featuring HBCU-specific halftimes and chants, but I like to game it up against PWIs just as “our” squads do in reality. This year, South Carolina State University played against the Air Force Academy and at the University of South Carolina. Grambling State University went up to Heinz Field and took on the University of Pittsburgh. And just last season, Tennessee State played Vanderbilt, fresh on the heels of settling a major desegregation case in Tennessee higher education. However, if I’m playing BCFx, I don’t get this opportunity.

But I guess on BCFx, TSU could play Fisk University, which doesn’t actually have a football team. Additionally, according to this report, this game’s “few issues” prove that it doesn’t even rival those of EA Sports. Also, will users get tired of the same 40 HBCUs when many of the same HBCUs, minus the halftime show and bands, can still be matched up on EA Sports’ video games?

I’m definitely not convinced that I’d buy it, but I’m more concerned about the intangibles in relation to market niche, longevity of the game, whether my favorite HBCU will sign trademark and rights to an unproven video game, and whether we are trying to escape to a video fantasyland where only HBCUs interact with other HBCUs.

Eddie R. Cole Jr.
Graduate student, Indiana University
Bloomington, Ind.
Tennessee State University Class of 2007
Sept. 25, 2007

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