Beginning in 2014, Microsoft and Special Olympics have been working together with the goal of empowering Special Olympics athletes and Programs through technology. Then, in 2018, we kicked off a partnership with the Special Olympics USA Games by hosting the Xbox Gaming Tournament, a first in the world of competitive video gaming. Last year, in an effort to find innovative ways to support Special Olympics athletes during stay-at-home orders, we teamed up for the 2020 Special Olympics Xbox Virtual Gaming Event. Now, we’re going global with our partnership efforts with the launch of the inaugural esports experience Gaming for Inclusion presented by Microsoft.
From September 12-14, Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will compete in Rocket League, Madden NFL 22, and Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox for the chance to play alongside celebrity supporters of Special Olympics, including NBA superstar Jayson Tatum, NFL legend Jamaal Charles, and WWE Superstars on September 18.
This experience is the next evolution of the award-winning Xbox Virtual Gaming Event hosted in May 2020, when Special Olympics and Microsoft collaborated on a virtual esports tournament to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation brought on by the pandemic. The event won Microsoft the Corporate Community Impact Award at the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN for using its platform and the power of sport to create meaningful social change.
“COVID-19 and the suspension hundreds of thousands of annual in-person events worldwide meant Special Olympics had to pivot to supporting virtual experiences,” said Prianka Nandy, Chief Information and Technology Officer at Special Olympics. “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.”
Special Olympics and Microsoft are teaming up to host the inaugural Gaming for Inclusion esports experience to showcase the power of inclusion through gaming. The virtual multi-day, multi-game esports tournament will engage and connect people of all abilities from around the world.
“We’re ecstatic to build upon Microsoft’s partnership with Special Olympics, which first began in 2014, to further focus on gaming and host Gaming for Inclusion,” said Jenn Panattoni, Head of Xbox Social Impact. “At Xbox, our goal is to make gaming inclusive and welcoming to all players so that everyone can experience the joys of gaming. This tournament is a meaningful and important step in making esports more accessible and it empowers Special Olympics athletes with a new way to compete.”
All gaming competition will be hosted through Microsoft’s esports platform Smash.gg via a bracket-style tournament that will crown champions for each title. Spectators can live stream the events on the Xbox Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel:
- Sunday, September 12 at 11:00 a.m. PT: Rocket League Tournament broadcast
- Friday, September 17 at 11:00 a.m. PT: Forza Motorsport 7 Tournament broadcast, followed by rebroadcast of Rocket League Tournament*
Tuesday, September 14: Madden NFL 22 Tournament
- Saturday, September 18 at 11:00 a.m. PT: Celebrity Showcase broadcast with winners from tournaments earlier in the week
- *Includes American Sign Language (ASL), audio descriptions, and captions.
After the inaugural event, Special Olympics Programs will have training on how to set up local tournaments through Smash.gg, allowing for year-round gaming practice and competition in preparation for the next Gaming for Inclusion experience in 2022.
Stay tuned to Xbox Wire for more information about Gaming for Inclusion and the athletes who will compete.
Editor’s Note (9/7/21): We’ve updated the timing details for the livestream event.