Find Your Passion: More Than Child's Play

Student Works with Campus Video-Game Network

Tiara DeesDees shares a seat with a few of her virtual friends. (Samantha Hernandez)

By Margaret Bishop

When Tiara Dees picked up a video-game controller at the age of 2, she didn’t know the pastime would become a passion.

Dees, a senior from Jasper majoring in music and visual journalism, says her love of video games began as a toddler while watching her older brother play his Nintendo Entertainment System.

“As I watched him play video games, I realized that I wanted to learn how to play them too,” says Dees, who is a co-founder and vice president of UA’s ABXY Gaming Network.

ABXY is a student organization dedicated to providing students an outlet to meet other gamers, discuss gaming and the industry and play the latest video games, says Dees. ABXY has grown to more than 350 members in its first year on campus. The organization hosted 15 game nights in the Ferguson Center game room throughout the year. ABXY was founded by a group of students, Dees says, including the leadership of fellow students Adrian Morris, previous president, and Kelli Abernathy, current ABXY president.

Dees was one of the project leaders and music coordinator of ABXY’s annual gaming convention PixelCon, held in January at the Ferguson Center. The innovative PixelCon convention was the idea of fellow student Erin Smelley, project coordinator, Dees says. ABXY also partnered with UA’s Creative Campus -- a UA initiative that encourages student collaboration -- to present PixelCon.

Tiara DeesFor Dees, video games are not only fun, they are a career focus. The music and visual journalism major hopes to work in the video-game industry. (Samantha Hernandez)

As music coordinator for 2010 PixelCon, Dees organized a free concert that featured four performance groups and a few pieces of her own arranged music along with student composer Connor Vance.

“Around 200 people attended the concert,” Dees said. “Our goal was to encourage people to listen to and appreciate the composers’ music, so we gave them full credit for the work and posted all the information about the pieces performed.”

Support from the Student Government Association has helped launch the gaming network. The SGA has been extremely supportive of ABXY, providing funding and resources for the organization, says Dees. “We hope to form a deeper partnership with their organization this year, including working more closely with the SGA Senate as well as providing our organization as a resource that the SGA can use to further reach out to the UA community,” she notes.

Sharing games is a common bond among students who participate in ABXY, she has found. Students bring their own games to share, says Dees, with some of the most popular being battle/fighting games like “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” or “Street Fighter IV” and sports games like “Madden” or “NCAA Football.” Dees recalls that her favorite game as a child was “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” for the Nintendo 64. The game taught her about having the strength to get through the tough times as well as having courage to face her own fears, she says. Her current favorite is “LittleBigPlanet” for the Playstation 3 because it encourages players to be creative and resourceful.

The ABXY organization has also worked with sponsors including EA Games, Tabletop Gaming, the University Union and the SOURCE. In addition to her work with ABXY and Creative Campus, Dees writes a column on gaming for The Crimson White UA student newspaper. She also serves as one of 23 students chosen to be UA Parent Ambassadors, representing the University during Bama Bound orientation, family weekend and other official events on campus.

Tiara DeesIn its first year on campus, ABXY, a student organization dedicated to providing video gamers an outlet to meet other gamers, grew to 350 members. (Samantha Hernandez)

“Tiara is the rare combination of intellect, enthusiasm and compassion. She is friendly and approachable which makes her an ideal Parent Ambassador,” says Dr. Mark Nelson, vice provost and vice president for student affairs. “We are so fortunate to have Tiara on the PA team as she is an outstanding role model and represents UA very well,” Nelson says.

Additionally, Dees’ keen interest in video gaming has had an impact on her plans for the future. “I hope to work in the games industry in some aspect,” says Dees. “I would like to compose music for games, work in advertising or public relations, or write for a gaming magazine or website.”

After graduation, Dees plans to attend graduate school at UA to obtain her master’s degree in advertising and public relations or journalism.

"Though gaming has always been my passion, I am so happy that the University of Alabama has helped me turn many of my dreams into a reality,” says Dees. “The support and encouragement that I have received from professors, my friends, and staff has helped motivate me to keep pushing for my goals toward creating a campus that embraces gaming. They believed in our organization, they believed in our convention and, most of all, they believed in me."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Margaret Bishop is a junior from Lewisburg, Tenn., double majoring in public relations and communication studies. She served as an intern with the Office of Media Relations during the summer of 2010.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.