Six computers sat in a row in the middle of an untreated concrete floor. The hum of powerful new computers was drowned out by the shouts of high school teammates barking positions. As the esports practice match moved further along, the passion of each team began to shine. Suddenly, a team won. The game ended. Both teams hopped out of their seats: one in excitement, one in defeat. Both teams shook the others’ hands and clapped the backs of their teammates in either consolation or in praise. Joe Chee, co-owner of the gaming outreach program, Ukatsu, looked at me and smiled saying, “That’s it. That’s what we’re here for.”
Ukatsu is a business centered around the concept of giving young gamers a physical place to grow, play and learn. When the term gamer is used, it is often associated with a negative image. Perhaps the gamers from South Park come to mind in the episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft.”
Ukatsu was founded on the principle of removing this stigma from the eyes of others and teaching young gamers the necessary skills that are needed in life. Specifically, they wish to teach them that they can pursue their passions and build a career out of that pursuit.
As several video games hit mainstream popularity, particularly Epic Games’ Fortnite, Blizzard’s Overwatch, Riot Games’ League of Legends and Ubisofts’ Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, gaming culture was given a second chance. Popular celebrities such as Drake playing Fortnite with a hardcore gamer like Ninja is not only popular but also puts aside the notion of gamer versus non-gamer, blurring the lines between the two.
In February 2017, co-owners Chee and Ben Brooks opened Ukatsu’s doors to the public and offered young gamers a chance to improve not only their gaming skills but their lives as well.
“We want to help them not only grow as an individual but also help them to discover and uncover the dynamics of teamwork and also prepare them for the real world with some of the skills that come from video games,” Brooks said.
This mentality is the keystone of Ukatsu gaming. With events such as weekly Fortnite tournaments, weekend coaching sessions, career building classes, MU’s own Fortnite tournament during this year’s Welcome Week and regularly scheduled fitness classes, Ukatsu caters to every aspect of a young gamers’ lives and helps them bolster personal confidence and pride in what they do. Ukatsu also offers a high school esports league in which it is mandatory for the competitors to do physical exercise and stretching, furthering the theme of personal development.
The name Ukatsu itself is a play on words that drives home the idea of personal growth. The origin for their name is directly tied to the motto of the company, “Play with a purpose”.
“The word Katsu in Japanese means victory or to win,” Brooks said. “So, there's a little play on words there. You win, U-katsu.”
The company's name is also tied to another program sharing a similar goal. In 2015, Japan launched a program named Yukatsu, which was an attempt to get working adults to clock in and out earlier, so they could spend more time with their families, Brooks explained. In a similar fashion, Ukatsu hopes to turn video gaming from an addiction or a stigma and turn it into meaningful time for both parents and children. Ukatsu hopes to go nationwide with their dream, helping the entire country grow as well.
Edited by Alexandra Sharp | firstname.lastname@example.org