Kenny Rae has been passionate about video games for most of his life, seeking comfort in consoles as he struggled with shyness while growing up.
Now the adult learner has opened up about how sharing his computing skills with others during lockdown helped him to come out of his shell.
The 37-year-old, from the Seaton area of Aberdeen, has even received a top award for his work with an education charity over the past year.
Kenny said his efforts with the Worker’s Educational Association (WEA)’s Reach Out project has really helped him to become a more outgoing person.
Over his 10 years benefiting from the Reach Out initiative, which works with marginalised and vulnerable people, Kenny said he has learned all kinds of new skills and overcome many difficulties.
Learning new skills in the pandemic
When the pandemic started, Reach Out projects were moved online.
At that point, Kenny started threads on the WEA’s social media pages to discuss his love of video games with others, and even hosted live video game demonstrations over the internet for his learning community.
He said: “Since we couldn’t go to any of the WEA Reach Out classes and they had to go online due to Covid, I said I wanted to start a gaming page for all the students to see, because I really love my gaming.
“I’ve been playing since I was about eight years old and never put the controller down, so wanted to share my knowledge and interest on all different kinds of games with everyone, and what you can get from games and learn from them.
“For me, it made me feel like I had better confidence, because it was something I know a lot about.
“I was a very shy person, and still kind of am, but it’s really helped me come out of my shell a bit more.”
Developing new opportunities
Through Reach Out, Kenny has developed all manner of abilities, including in the worlds of art, cooking and outdoor activities.
While working on his video gaming project, he learned digital skills like operating Zoom meetings, sharing links, and wiring up his gaming consoles to demonstrate live sessions of games online.
He added: “Not a lot of folk know about Reach Out but that’s a shame, because I think it’s amazing.
“Every class is free, which is great for people in financial difficulties, and it really helps your mindset if you’re troubled with things.
“I’d like to give a massive thank you to all the staff and the students, and my wife Nicola as well because she really helps me get the confidence to do things like this.”
‘Self-proclaimed gaming geek’
Steve Murison, a tutor with Reach Out, said he was very proud of Kenny’s achievements.
He said: “Reach Out has been a project in Aberdeen for more than 30 years now, and it provides adult education for all, there’s no barriers or fees, it’s available for anyone above the age of 16.
“Kenny is a proper, self-proclaimed gaming geek and he’s very proud of it.
“He’s always helped out with some of the IT roles, but has sometimes struggled with group work, and felt under pressure.
“But when Covid hit, we set up a private Facebook page to continue lessons online, and within that page we had a few threads, and Kenny took the helm with the gaming thread to the point that he was actually running it.
“He started doing regular quizzes, engaging with all the new learners that were maybe a bit intimidated by social media, and built bridges with his gaming knowledge.
“It really grew arms and legs, and really came out of his shell.
“He’s gone live a couple of times, which is kind of unheard of with a lot of our client base as it’s quite a frightening prospect, but he really stepped outside of his comfort zone.
“It’s unbelievable, he’s not a shy character, but quite reserved in a way, so I think it’s really struck him now that he’s done so well, getting this award really is a massive thing for him.”
WEA has now granted him an “enhanced digital skills” award in recognition of his recent efforts.