The game's the thing
I am a gamer. At 42-years-old, I calculate that I've been playing video games for about... 34 years. I had the first Atari 2600 system, a TRS-80 computer (on which I learned to make my own games in Basic), a ColecoVision machine... and a bunch of other platforms over the years. Everything from the same computer I do work on, to my phone, to an XBox 360 and a Wii. I now play with my 8-year-old son, who kick's my... scores... in Super Mario Galaxy, Star Wars Battlefront (1 and 2) and BoomBlox. He's just started playing the XBox version of Sid Meier's "Civilization," and I couldn't be prouder. It's a hard game, with lots of reading, and a lot of elements that are absolutely required for strategy games.
Yes. I'm proud of my son's gaming abilities. For years, computer/video games were the social and cultural equivalent of, well... something nasty and bad. I don't even know. But when I'd talk to non-gamers (just about everyone) back in the 80's, I got blank stares. By the time I was in college, video games were clearly "here to stay," but were also something adults talked about as being bad for kids in the same sentence as drugs, booze, partying and "that rock-and-roll music."
Sigh. Oh, well. Part of being into a fringe activity is being misunderstood, I suppose.
Now, however, games are clearly big business, and a big part of the cultural and social landscape. And libraries are getting into the act.
This is not new news.Jenny Levine (here, not here) has been doing library game stuff forever. In fact, I found my way to an article on library gaming in my home town paper, the Columbus Dispatch, from a post on her blog, the Shifted Librarian. It's a good post, and a good article, and explains many of the benefits of gaming in libraries.
The best quote of the piece, which Jenny also highlights [stop taking my blog fodder! ;-) ], is, I think, the following: "Gaming is storytelling for teenagers."
Except I haven't been a teenager since Regan was president, and gaming is storytelling for me, too.
Years ago, I was asked by a non-gaming friend to explain the attraction of gaming, specifically playing MMOs. "It just makes no sense," she said to me. "Why do you want to pretend to be someone else, in a made-up place, with a bunch of other people who are pretending to be someone else?"
I remember shrugging and saying, "I don't know, exactly. You read novels, right?" She did, and nodded. "Well," I asked, "What's the attraction of reading something that came from someone else's imagination, that is explicitly untrue, and that only ends up existing in your head?"
She smiled and said, "You got me."
I'm not saying playing games is the same as reading. And I'm not saying that doing one in any way replaces doing the other. But there are stories in games. And there is imagination, strategy, thinking, creativity, fun, friendship and community. Those are all things I hope my son can find at every library he encounters.