Why I’m Passionate About Creating a Space for Gamers

Valhallan has an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of kids — that's the driving force behind this brand.

TL;DR; - I was a gamer geek and I think we all deserve a place to thrive in our accomplishments with friends who understand us.

I was an obsessed gamer long before it was a sport. We had an Atari 2600 that I played Frogger and Pitfall on for hours and a Commodore Vic-20, on which I learned to code at 6 years old. Yes, I was born a nerd.

Later, as I was growing into my adolescence, the original Nintendo (now referred to as the NES) was the biggest electronic entertainment shakeup since the television was invented. Everyone wanted to play and the $30 cartridge seemed cheap compared to how much you could spend in a weekend at the arcades. My cousins and I got to the point where we could power run Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda without dying. An entire summer was spent in front of my console TV playing these games while listening to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album on repeat. It was glorious.  

During this timeframe, The Wizard, starring Fred Savage, was in theaters and watching that movie was the very first time that I conceived of a place that competition and achievement in gaming could be immortalized. I remember thinking that in the future, people will be recognized on TV as elite gamers like Michael Jordan was for basketball or Bo Jackson was for, well, every other sport. Pretty heavy stuff for a ten-year-old.

As I got into my teenage years, I was taking apart the family IBM clone and upgrading video cards and memory as a side hustle for friends. Sure, I had a few equally nerdy friends that would hang out with me, but there was never a place where these interests, my peers, and our honed skills could thrive outside.

In the rare event that my dad would drop us off at the mall, the arcade was cool and fun too. And who doesn’t like seeing their initials on the leaderboard? But the thrill of winning or being the best wasn’t recognized as being an achievement outside of my few friends around me at that location. I deserved an award, accolades, and notoriety for all the quarters I pumped into Dragon’s Lair, Tron, and Double Dragon! Why wasn’t I on TV yet?

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that doing things like upgrading my PC to have a CD ROM so that I could play Myst and The 7th Guest would have a lasting effect on my life. I was learning life skills while I was doing what I loved. Sound familiar? If so, you’re likely a programmer, engineer, or some type of IT person who made a career out of doing what you love.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing, but at the time it all left me feeling alone in this very cool world that I loved, without anyone to share it with.

And I think there are a lot of kids that still feel this way today—that they don’t have a place that is with “their kind of people.” That’s why what we have built at Valhallan is so important.

Where else does a kid go today to feel that sense of accomplishment and to get credit for earned achievements if they aren’t good at traditional sports? Valhallan, that’s where.

Where do they learn better communication skills and teamwork?  Valhallan, that’s where.

Who is going to show them examples of true leadership on a team? Their coaches and team leads at Valhallan, that’s who.

How are they going to learn one of the most important things in life—to fail with pride and to pick themselves back up? At Valhallan, that’s where.

Valhallan is the place Where Players Become Legends® ... and learn some life skills along the way.  

Programmer and serial entrepreneur David Graham has decades of experience building successful software and businesses—including the largest youth STEM franchise. Based in Houston, TX, Graham lives with his wife, Missy, and two sons. Follow David on LinkedIn.

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