Brian Rivas, Coach
Game Gym Coach Brian Rivas uses gaming to connect with society
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Game Gym Coach Brian Rivas uses gaming to connect with society

Brian Rivas found his own way to connect with society.

The son of Peruvian immigrants and the distant youngest of four, Rivas experienced a different world from the rest of his family. He had trouble socializing as a child and felt isolated culturally and generationally. That meant he sought alternate outlets for the mutual understanding and connectivity we humans crave – gaming was his answer.

Rivas was 5 years old when he first picked up his brother’s Game Boy, and by age 8, he was playing first-person shooter games competitively. The money was secondary, though.

“I was not the most social kid growing up, and I didn’t really have any outlets to talk to friends or to even make friends for that matter. I just didn’t really fit in,” Rivas explained. “When I first hopped online on a video game, I was able to meet people who didn’t know who I really was, what I looked like, or anything like that, and I didn’t know anything about them either. It was very easy for me to just connect with them based on the game we were playing.”

Soon, Rivas knew he’d found his place.

“It truly felt like a welcoming community when I first joined in,” he said. “That’s all I ever really asked for, and it was nice to be a part of that.”

Rivas remembers fondly the years of coming home from school to jump online to play Call of Duty: Black Ops II with friends, spending hours playing FIFA with soccer teammates, and studying the mechanics of Rocket League to perfect his play. It was a home away from home, even if the home wasn’t physical.

But it didn’t make sense to his parents.

“Growing up, my parents were very, very traditional Hispanics,” Rivas said. “I think most children of traditional parents can relate when I say it’s very difficult for traditional parents to understand that gaming is more than just a hobby with a dead end. Personally, I’ve experienced every response in the book from you’re wasting your time, damaging your eyes, or getting overweight because you’re not going outside and playing sports.”

He understood why his parents felt how they did – they were raised differently, in a different time and place. Over the years, they slowly came to see the potential in esports, and that became especially true early in the pandemic.

With the world forced to stay apart, gaming got an even bigger boost, due to a combination of prolonged exposure, studies that show the positive impact gaming can have, and esports showing up on their TV to help turn the tide.

“Esports rose and franchising happened, and my parents finally started noticing that esports was a viable option for a job and even a business opportunity when they saw it on their television,” Rivas explained. “The Overwatch League was streaming on one of the channels on our streaming provider, and they asked me, ‘Brian, is that a video or is that real, or like a movie?’ I told them that it’s a video game that people play competitively for money and there were organizations behind it with lots of funding.”

That intrigued his father in particular, and after diving into information on the sheer size and potential growth of esports and gaming as a whole, he was convinced. His parents’ advice changed from telling their son that video games were a waste to encouraging him pursue what he can in that realm.

Now 19 and a sophomore at the University of Maryland, Rivas started as a camp coach at Game Gym in Rockville, Maryland, about a year ago. His interest in entrepreneurship has fused with his passion for gaming, and he said his plan is to create a business in the esports world. This is how he sees himself being the happiest, most fulfilled, and most successful in his work.

Gaming has provided Rivas a future to reach for, and that’s a wonderful thing, but its offerings aren’t only career-oriented – just the simple relief of letting your mind lock onto something otherworldly is a beautiful thing.

“I am now realizing that college forces you to do so many projects, so many exams, so many readings, that you get really stressed,” he said. “For me, my stress reliever is playing video games. I don’t have to fall into any of the bad stress relievers that exist in the world. I’m able to relieve stress and gain a community that supports me.”