As cautionary tales go, video games are right up there with rock and roll, rap music, and ouija boards. Along with the nagging of “don’t sit too close to the TV, you’ll ruin your eyes,” there’s the ubiquitous, “stop wasting your time playing video games—go outside!” 

However, in the last few years, there’s been an increase in video gaming—and a shift in public perception as well. After all, we’re all glued to our screens, at home at work, and pretty much everywhere else. Children can no longer go outdoors freely, away from adults, as they once did, to find someone to play with; but many of them can and do go onto computers and play video games and find others to play with online. What used to be considered a waste of time (and quarters) is now a full-blown industry pioneered by gaming enthusiasts like Dustin Mack, chief executive officer of BraveDog Games and co-founder of BraveDog Games Innovation Center (BDIC), right here in south Memphis.

In March last year, as a part of the company’s strategic gaming expansion, BraveDog Games granted the Lemoyne-Owen College Community Development Corporation (LOC CDC) one of its North American franchise licenses to construct and establish the BraveDog Video Gaming Innovation Center (BDIC) in Soulsville.  

Mack explains why they chose Memphis: “We as a company are ecstatic about this partnership and we applaud executive director, Jeffrey Higgs, and LOC CDC for the amazing work that they do within the community. With our mission of providing underrepresented communities with access to the video game industry in focus, we envision LOC CDC and the greater Memphis area becoming a catalyst for innovation within the video games and eSports industries and as a company and all of our partners are fully committed to this initiative.”

The US video game industry tops more than $43.8 billion in revenue, employs more than 220,000 people, and creates high-paying jobs, generating revenue across communities. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), “Employment in the video game industry created an average compensation of $97,000 per year in 2015 and has grown 2.9 percent, which has doubled the average U.S. job market.” In fact, the Fortnite video game generated over 2 billion dollars in sales in 2018.

So what’s the share of the pie that Memphis will see in the foreseeable future? The BDIC will be housed in nearly 2,000 square feet of space and is expected to have an estimated $15 million-dollar economic impact in the South Memphis and Downtown areas. The facility will feature fun for everyone. It’s slated to include: a premium video game lounge, state-of-the-art eSports arena, eSports academy, merchandise retail store, student video game development training facility, private investors ideation pitch room, entrepreneurial training center, workspace, and a financial literacy center. 

At the groundbreaking ceremony, residents, community supporters and elected officials converged on the proposed site and cheered the highly anticipated project to be located right across the street from the historic Four Way Grill at the corner of Mississippi Blvd. and Walker Ave.

LOC CDC president Michael Minor praised the “spirit of cooperation and pure joy” from the young people at the school who were on hand to cheer the launch.

“This facility will bring others into the community who don’t look like us,” said Minor. “There are just no losers here. The excitement of our young people means so much. This will be our own community place where we can gather and just fellowship with one another.”

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