Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fun And Games In The School Library 

Students play games of all types here (note: I'm writing from work, in the information commons), and we've never really frowned upon it. Sure, I guess we'd say something if the multimedia stations were being overused for major multiplayer networked gaming, but the library primarily gets kids playing tetris, fling-the-cat, spank the monkey, and other cute low-fi timewasters from the endless glut of the gamewide web. You know, the stuff you can access quickly, and play for minutes or hours with little to no mental commitment.

No worries, right? Such microgaming is harmless or better: the blipscreens take up little bandwidth, give the brain a much needed breather, and keep the hand-eye coordination up up up. Heck, some of them ever tax the brain, pushing creativity, logic and problem-solving, and even three-dimensional geometric envisioning while the wrist goes numb.

Not enough for some people, apparently. Someone today proposed -- department-wide -- that we should help the students use their game time "well" by giving them quote-educational-endquote games. Not sure here if the logic is that a library which carries both People magazine and cheap paperback sci fi is somehow expected to have higher standards (and a higher cut-off threshold for the collection) when it comes to gaming...or merely that, just as Seventeen and Vibe are (obviously) a gateway to reading Dickens and Homer, a few hours of The Sims 2 or 3D Ping Pong leaves students secretly longing for something which claims to be educational but actually has no more skill or thinking involved than the stuff which is available free.

And, as if it weren't going to be hard enough to compete with the no-download-necessary ease of the Addicting Games mentality, the proposal is to lend these educational games out from behind the check-out desk, since otherwise we'd end up engendering -- horrors! -- more game play, especially during the game-taboo hours of study hall. (Not that students ever play free games during study hall now, of course.)

To be fair, I belive my proposing and enterprising counterpart when she says that her daughter loved getting her own copy of Zoombinis. My case here, though is that getting your own copy isn't the same as getting it from the library staff when you want to use it...and, also, that Zoombinis (and other nominally educational games) are no more or less educational than the games which students already play on their own. The fact that this particular student is unusually prescient and thoughtful in comparison to her peers is noteworthy, but not relevant to my argument.

I know my thoughts here are a bit oversimplified, and that it's easy to rant here in the blog, outside the work community, when work takes a turn for the silly. I was going to write something pithy and oracular in response to it all, but then I realized I don't care so much. If people want to make a difficult path to a slightly more "educational" gaming opportunity than the current organic, perfectly acceptable, often fully developmentally-appropriate and highly educational practice, who am I to say it's not worth the bother? Time will prove me right, adolescents will go on being adolescents, free online games will continue to be at least as educational as anything we could actually provide for students upon request, and those "other" games will gather dust behind the circulation desk, mark my words. And wherever I am, I'll be laughing myself silly, trying to hit 20k on Slide Out.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:21 PM |

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