Microsoft and Special Olympics will host the inaugural Gaming for Inclusion esports experience.
Microsoft and the Special Olympics: a history of the collaboration
Microsoft and Special Olympics began working together back in 2014 to empower Special Olympics athletes and programs with the help of technology. 2018 saw the partners host the first-ever Xbox Gaming Tournament at the 2018 Special Olympic USA Games. Finally, in 2020, Microsoft and Special Olympics teamed up for the 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event in order to find innovative ways to support Special Olympics athletes under pandemic conditions – the aim was to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation.
The event won the Corporate Community Impact Award at the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN for using its platform and the power of sports to create meaningful change. Throughout the history of the partnership, technologies such as Xbox and Microsoft Teams were used to bring adults and children with intellectual disabilities together in the face of a host of obstacles that range from the current need for physical distancing to the ongoing logistical challenge of fostering a globally dispersed community.
Gaming for Inclusion: the esports experience
As part of the inaugural tournament with Microsoft, Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners (their teammates without intellectual disabilities) will compete in Rocket League, Madden NFL 22 and Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox. They will also get the chance to play alongside celebrity supporters like NBA superstar Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, NFL legend Jamaal Charles and WWE superstars.
“COVID-19 and the suspension of hundreds of thousands of annual in-person events worldwide meant the Special Olympics had to pivot to supporting virtual experiences. Our digital transformation partners at Microsoft brought their expertise in developing scalable and accessible digital platforms that allow people of all abilities to build connections with others through the universal language of gaming. Together, we’ve shaped an innovative program that will last well beyond the pandemic.”Prianka Nandy, Chief Information and Technology Officer at Special Olympics.
The Gaming for Inclusion tournament will seek to showcase the power of inclusion through gaming. The virtual multi-day, multi-game tournament will engage and connect people of all abilities from around the world. All gaming competitions will be hosted through Smash.gg, and the bracket-style tournaments will crown a champion for each title. Spectators will be able to watch the events live on the Xbox Twitch and the Special Olympics YouTube channels.
The schedule of the event will be:
- Sunday, September 12: Rocket League tournament
- Monday, September 13: Forza Motorsport 7 tournament
- Tuesday, September 14: Madden NFL 22 tournament
- Saturday, September 18: Celebrity Showcase featuring winners of the earlier tournaments
Speaking of the event, Head of Xbox Social Impact Jenn Panattoni said that they were ecstatic to build upon the partnership Microsoft has with Special Olympics to further focus on gaming and host Gaming for Inclusion. She stated Xbox’s goal of making gaming inclusive, and welcoming all players so that everyone can experience the joys of gaming. The tournament will be a meaningful and important step in making esports more accessible and empowering Special Olympics athletes with new ways in which to compete.
Once the tournament is completed, Special Olympics programs will offer training on how to set up local tournaments through Smash.gg, allowing for year-round game practice and competition in preparation for Gaming for Inclusion 2022.