By Natalie Clydesdale ‘20
“What we’re doing here is a really big deal because it hasn’t been done before.”
This is what Ethan Schwartz said to his team exactly one week before this year’s College Esports Expo (CEX). Schwartz was the Student-Chairman and Lifestyle Track Lead for CEX 2020. “I wanted everyone to have an overall understanding of what we were building here,” Schwartz said.
His team included 16 total members consisting of seven Emerson and three Becker College students, two Emerson graduate students, an Emerson professor, a Becker College professor, the former president of Esports at UMass Amherst, and the creator of the Esports Program at Northeastern University.
They shared the same goal: to create a “massive, large-scale event” where people in the esports industry can meet, have discussions about critical esports topics and establish meaningful relationships. And that’s exactly what they did.
Taking place at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel in February, CEX 2020 attracted 300 attendees to learn from 53 speakers—sports educators, players, professionals, and industry experts—and 38 panels ranging across five tracks.
As the CEX organizers stated on the event website, “Esports on college campuses are redefining the scope of pop culture, gaming, entertainment, content consumption, student activities, and competitive sports. The explosive growth in collegiate esports necessitates a forum for the best minds to convene and discuss challenges and opportunities in this burgeoning industry.”
Schwartz quickly noted how much the event has grown from the first CEX in 2017. At that time, it was the only collegiate-led esports conference in North America, and attracted just a few dozen attendees.
This year’s success was the result of teamwork, Schwartz said, but none of it would have been possible without the leadership of Kevin Mitchell, the CEX founder and managing director. Well-known throughout the competitive esports industry, Mitchell is also the driving force behind the creation of the esports minor in Emerson’s Communication Studies Department. For this year’s CEX, Mitchell helped secure the financial support of Becker College and industry sponsors, and the participation of the entire slate of speakers.
In addition to the size of the event, Schwartz said, another important distinction was its scope across five themes: academics, player performance, technology, lifestyle branding, and competitive programming. “We hit all of the nails,” said Schwartz. “We really branched out and those 50 speakers are part of one of those tracks in one way or another and all were knowledgeable about the esports space and those themes.”
The CEX 2020’s team accomplished one of their goals—creating an event where people can create meaningful relationships. “I know for a fact that because of CEX, a lot of companies and organizations that attended are now working with other companies and organizations that were there,” Schwartz said. “I know that to be true because I helped coordinate some of those meetings.”
Just hours after the event, Schwartz said he got emails from people asking where they can sign up for next year’s expo. “That just tells me that we put on something incredible and amazing,” he said.