When it comes to the game of life, being one step ahead is vital, especially for PlayVS founder, Delane Parnell.
The company has changed the lives of high school students by equipping them with opportunities to not only play the game but also by opening the doors to hundreds of scholarships across North America, in turn, acting as an entryway into professional gaming as a way of life.
Now the Detroit native’s story is being told through “Ahead of the Game,” written by Kevin J. Ryan to spotlight the young entrepreneurs’ unique journey and shed light on the impact that his company has had on youth across America.
Parnell joined AfroTech to discuss why he agreed to go through with the book despite not initially thinking it was time, his love for esports, and the power that hard work has to unlock the life of your dreams.
AfroTech: Okay, so tell us. Why esports?
Delane Parnell: I find that people overcomplicate esports sometimes. When they first hear it, it feels very broad and very big and very unconventional, but it’s really not. It’s this concept of two teams competing in a highly organized competition. So, whether it be football, basketball, or eSports, it’s really all the same thing.
I played Monopoly a ton as a kid and I still actively do today. For my friends and me, it’s equivalent to poker. We get together on a weekly basis, we play a game, we keep track over the course of a year as to who wins and there’s a ton of bragging rights associated with it, and I think that the game of business, especially in a business that relies on partnerships in the way that ours does can be taught through the game of Monopoly. It will teach you sales strategy, business development, how to negotiate, and so forth. I’ve built my own business in that same way.
Some of the partnerships that we’ve been able to strike in and carve out a position within the universe of gaming are unique to us and allow us to make a great impact.
AT: How did “Ahead of the Game” come about?
Delane: I had nothing to do with the book in terms of not only writing it but also getting it published. In fact, I was pretty opposed to it early on because I didn’t want that sort of coverage in my life in that sort of way in a world where people could have this perception of me before even meeting me, due to reading a book.
I will say that I am incredibly grateful that someone saw that what I was doing was interesting enough to cover and invest years of their time on. Kevin Ryan is an awesome writer, Harper Collins is an incredible publisher. So, I’m happy to have them join focus to share the story of myself and PlayVS as a company.
AT: And you’ve done so much for the youth through your company. What has that felt like for you?
Delane: It’s the greatest privilege that I’ve ever had and I’m incredibly grateful to just be in this position. We started PlayVS four years ago and we have a team of 100 plus people now.
The team, I would say, is probably my greatest achievement. To be able to build something that is so exciting that 100-plus people would decide to dedicate their lives to fulfilling its mission is really exciting for me and I keep that at the top of my mind.
I love meeting those people and making sure that we’re always on track and that we’re always putting our best foot forward with respect to the business. We’ve been able to go out through our business and reach so many kids across so many schools and build a real community around the concept of scholastic esports.
There’s still a long way to go with respect to what we initially set out to do when we first started the business, but we certainly came a long way and put our dent in the gaming universe. So, no one can ever take that away from us.
I mean, the sheer idea that we made video games a high school sport is pretty crazy so I’m very proud of it.
AT: As you should be! Just reading up and seeing how much the platform has done for children is so inspiring and dope. I saw that you got the stamp of approval from Sean "Diddy" Combs in the book’s foreword. He mentions how the next Black kid who wants to chase a dream can know it's possible through your story. How does that feel?
Delane: For Puff to say that is an honor. When I heard that he was doing the foreword for the book, it was a very humbling moment, you know. To have someone that you looked up to your entire life, who helped pave the road for Black entrepreneurship in big business, was just a full-circle thing.
Big Sean has a line from I believe the first Detroit mixtape that goes ‘I’m just trying to make it to the top so all my dogs know it exists,’ and that’s the mission for me. I hope that through PlayVS and other ventures throughout my career that I’m able to be successful so that everyone around me, especially kids of our culture can know that it’s possible.
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