Microsoft and the Special Olympics formed a unique bond in 2014 with the goal to help empower Special Olympics athletes and programs through technology. Seven years later, that partnership continues with a new Esports tournament.
The Special Olympics Games and Xbox Gaming began working together back in 2018 with an Xbox Gaming Tournament, a first in the world of competitive gaming. In 2020 during the height of the pandemic, Xbox partnered with the Special Olympics USA Games “to find innovative ways to support Special Olympics athletes” while stay-at-home orders were being implemented with the 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event.
Now, Xbox and the Special Olympics are going global with their latest effort with the inaugural esports experience Gaming for Inclusion presented by Microsoft. Xbox announced that from September 12-14, Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will faceoff against each other in Rocket League, Madden NFL 22, and Forza Motorsport on Xbox for a chance to pick up the sticks alongside Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum, NFL legend Jamaal Charles, and WWE Superstars on September 18.
Jenn Panattoni, Head of Xbox Social Impact revealed to HipHopWired what inspired the ongoing partnership between Xbox and the Special Olympics.
“When Special Olympics reached out to us, and we learned that their athletes wanted to participate in eSports, we knew this could be a perfect fit. Xbox had the right teams, the expertise, and people who wanted to be part of this project in a meaningful way. We facilitated the 2018 in-person tournament at the USA Games and learned a lot, which was why we were able to make the 2020 all-virtual tournament such a success. It’s a joy to work with such a great non-profit partner and help further their mission by choosing to include.”
When speaking on why Xbox feels it is important to improve representation and accessibility in the broader gaming industry, Panattoni told HipHopWired:
“It’s critical to improve representation in the gaming industry because we want people to feel like they are welcome and belong in gaming. Xbox strives to champion content and creators that represent the diversity of our world and will continue to empower these stories and individuals throughout the industry. Accessibility is important to Team Xbox because we believe that gaming is for everyone, and we truly mean that! We want to be able to provide gaming experiences to anyone who wants to play, as gaming can be an important way for players to connect and cultivate friendships, especially during the last year.
This latest effort is Xbox’s continuing effort to ensure that ALL GAMERS are celebrated and represented. Microsoft states all gaming competitions will be hosted on its esports platform Smash.gg via a bracket-style tournament to crown champions for each title. You can live stream the events on the Xbox Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel for those who want to tune in.
Peep the full schedule below:
- 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 with winners from tournaments earlier in the week
Photo: Microsoft / Xbox