Sessions boost confidence

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

An event designed to “remove the stigma” around video games and change the lives of young people through building confidence and social skills, will soon return to Clutha.

Southlander James Wards’ Your Corps multi-player video-game roadshow will be again hosted at the Balclutha library on July 11.

Children from the ages of 8-17 will be invited to come to test their skills in a variety of action and adventure games, working with and against their peers to come out on top.

Mr Wards said while “they’ll absolutely love it”, the three to four-hour-long sessions were about more than just having a good time.
“We’re trying to create communities for kids revolving around a common interest,” he said.

But it was also to give the young people a “platform to be able to express themselves and talk about the bigger picture”.

Many youths came to the video-game events with issues around anxiety, depression and some had even experienced suicidal thoughts.

Mr Wards said it was “completely insane” to witness children this young dealing with such feelings.

“I remember when I was a young lad, 17 or 18, people would get depressed . . .but these are kids as young as 11 or 12.”

About three years ago, the Gore resident started having gatherings of friends getting together to play multi-player games.

He wanted to do something to help his friends who had become depressed and “had nothing to do”.

“Two of my friends had actually taken their own lives,” Mr Wards said.

The gaming meet-ups fortunately turned out successful.

“Six people turned into 12, then into 24 and so on . . .I had 24 people at my tiny little place on the farm.”

Size required shifting the event into rented space in town, and from there word spread to younger people.

“All of a sudden all the kids started queuing up, so that’s when we started doing all the younger kids’ events.”

He said the events, from the start, seemed to have positive effects on the children, effects noticed by their parents.

“I’d have a mum ask me to keep an eye on their kid, because he’s a bit shy. . .when she came back he’d be shouting commands to his team-mates. She couldn’t even recognise him.”

While these stories encouraged Mr Wards to keep the sessions going, financial backing was hard to find.

“I’ve apply for every grant I can, but I very rarely get anything.”

He thought a stigma around video games might be to blame.

“It would be easier to get funding for a rugby or netball team.”

The events had a $20 entry fee, but Mr Wards wanted to make entry free.

“It isn’t bad for a three or four-hour session, but that’s still a lot of money to a lot of families, especially at the moment.

“Kids should be able to access these activities for free.”