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Playing Video Games  Can Result in Better Multitasking, Decision-Making and Improved Creativity

Who doesn’t love a good video game – after all, it can be a fun and exciting way to escape the daily grind. Video games have come a long way since the days of  Pac-Man. Today’s video games are enjoyed by players of all ages and backgrounds. Games, like art, film, TV and literature are now a part of our culture. With advances in technology and innovation, video games are not only a favorite with our youth but can also keep adults actively engaged.

A great deal has been written about the subject; the debate weighing the pros and cons of gaming is never-ending. The virtual world is intriguing and lucrative. (Did you know that gaming was a multi-billion dollar industry)? It is worth exploring the benefits and positive aspects that modern interactive entertainment provides.
Our feature spotlights an up-and-coming business in the Austin metro-area called Video Game Athletics (VGA). Their mission is to provide safe, fun and wholesome entertainment for gaming aficionados of all ages. Executive Director and Founder, Tafford Lyles, has been an avid gamer for over 20 years and was happy to chat with us about his organization’s niche in the gaming industry.

Ujima: This sounds like an exciting venture. When did the vision of VGA start?

Lyles: I think it started in my late teens but I had no idea what it was at the time. I was on my own at 18 and homeless by the time I was 19. By my early 20s I was living in low-income housing in the middle of gang territory; but, I knew that wasn’t the life for me. As an at-risk youth, I needed something to get me off the streets and keep me out of trouble. Gaming became my outlet. It was also an educational tool but like most kids, I didn’t realize this until years later. I grew up and handled what life threw my way; but the vision was always in the back of my mind. A few years ago, I wrote my vision on paper and things started falling into place.

Ujima: You mentioned that gaming was educational? How so?

Lyles: My mom planted the seed. She worked for a technology company when she purchased my first gaming system based on the advice of a co-worker in the IT department. I jumped right in. When I tried to play and kept failing, initially, I didn’t understand why. My second father encouraged me to read the instruction manual that came with the game. A valuable lesson was learned as a result. I soon discovered what the game offered, understood the rules, developed a strategy and figured out how to best leverage what I knew to accomplish a goal – to win. It worked. And that lesson is something I cherish to this day and one that I’ve tried to convey to my own children.

Ujima: As an adult, do people ever ask why you still play video games?

Lyles: (smiles) Yes. And the answer is quite simple – I love it. Gaming is my passion. It’s also great for managing stress and keeping my mind sharp. I get to network and interact with people of all backgrounds from across the globe (and that would likely not happen in the “real” world). I also enjoy wholesome entertainment. While I don’t believe all games are appropriate, I am in complete control of what I choose to play. I volunteer with young people, some from troubled homes; as a role-model and mentor I know what positive things gaming did for me and I often share my experience with others. If I can reach just ONE kid and help get them get on track, I know I’ve done my part.

Ujima: VGA also offers programs and events for at-risk youth. What are some of the issues you hope to address?

Lyles: We partner with local organizations to host events that will introduce them to games. We choose a casual atmosphere so that we connect with them on a personal level. These kids have a wide range of emotions. One of the top issues is anger management. They can’t tell you why they are frustrated – they just are. Our goal is to offer a way to release some of that but in a positive way. All games have rules. We educate kids on the rules, but most importantly help them understand the consequences when rules are violated. We want them to “rank up” in life just as they excel in games. We talk about setting goals and reaching milestones, and we always stress the importance of education whether that is a degree or a trade. On another level, we also plan to host a series of gaming tournaments where youth can win prizes as well as scholarship money to further their education.

Ujima: Gaming has evolved since we were kids. What is your outlook on this growing trend?

Lyles: I am optimistic about the future of video gaming. It’s not going away. To me, gaming goes beyond pushing buttons on a controller (even though that is good for hand-and-eye coordination). At its core, gaming is about strategic planning, collaboration, building and boosting confidence and promoting healthy competition. I am in no way saying that there aren’t negative aspects. Excess of anything is cause for concern, specifically when young people are involved. Balance and time-management are key. It is important to continue with work and/or studies, get proper nutrition, and plenty of physical exercise to enhance the overall gaming experience.

Ujima: How can people get more information about your services and program offerings?

Lyles: Readers can visit our website at videogameathletics.com or call 512-699-3383.

The “sport” of gaming is rapidly growing in popularity. Some academic institutions now offer scholarships to gamers (also known as virtual athletes). Big companies are sponsoring or organizing tournaments and events. This trend is opening the door to a whole new skill set. Empowering others and building meaningful relationships through community advocacy is to be applauded. Thank you Tafford, for your passion, your vision, your commitment to serving others and for offering our readers a fresh perspective.

 

Interviewed and written by SASHA K. QUILL