Gaming organization cultivates a safe space for kids
COLUMBIA - Ukatsu has become the place for gamers of all ages to learn, play with, and compete in the latest video games. However, it's become a community of kids and mentors that balances gaming, relationships, physical activity and personal development.
Founders, Joe Chee and Ben Brooks, wanted to have a organization like this growing up. Their common belief in positive interactions with the right people led them to challenging the typical gamer stereotypes.
"Our goal is to make a very well-rounded kid," said Brooks.
Two years ago, after Chee and Brooks ran a summer camp for gamers, they came up with the idea of teaching life skills in a year-round setting.
"We dreamt of a place where we can have kids playing, learning, working out, and just meeting new friends," said Chee.
Both Chee and Brooks grew up playing traditional sports, but they saw the necessity in bringing the face-to-face interaction to Ukatsu. Since the Ukatsu is the first Land E-Sports League, gamers get the chance to compete side by side against another team.
Chee thinks that this is a humbling experience for the kids that they could get in traditional sports, but it should be brought to the gaming community.
"They have to get up and shake the hands of their opponents whether they win or they lose," said Chee.
Parents of the gamers see the positive changes in their children. Amber Sparks, mother of two Ukatsu gamers, says that her sons feel more included in a community of gamers.
"They can handle when lose during a game a lot better, and then they do the exercises they do here at home, so they've been lifting weights, showing me all of their push ups, and teaching me too," Sparks said.
Outside of video games, Ukatsu offers fitness and career building classes. Marketing and Graphic Design Director, Olivia Ivanov, says that they hold each class once a week with an hour of game time to follow.
"They can get classes on Photoshop, InDesign, E-Sports Productions, Premiere, and hopefully they can use it in a job they want to do in the future," Ivanov said.
Chee and Brooks both think that Columbia was the best place to test Ukatsu. They have plans on expanding to Kansas City and St. Louis.
"Our parents love this, our kids love this, their GPA's are going up, their school attendance is going up, scholarships are being offered, we need to show this to everyone," Chee said.