One of the great things about human beings is that we’re constantly proving we have the capacity to learn – even when we appear to be goofing off.
That’s sort of the idea behind the American Library Association’s annual International Games Day, an all-day event that takes place Saturday at libraries around the world, including several branches throughout North Carolina.
Now in its fifth year, Games Day was created by the ALA to help participants build interactive and learning skills by bringing communities together for a day of board games, video games and online games (made available through special access to GameTable Online).
One goal is to promote interaction between people of different generations and school levels.
“We’re really hoping to attract people across the ages,” says Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association. “That’s one of the things that’s so valuable about this.”
So far, it seems to be working, thanks in part to an array of game options.
“The things that work well in libraries are the things that have that social, party aspect, where different generations can play,” says Jenny Levine, strategy guide at the American Library Association headquarters in Chicago.
Levine is the ALA’s primary coordinator for Games Day. (When she visits her local branch for the annual event in Chicago’s western suburbs, Levine likes to play word games such as Apples to Apples and Telestrations (sort of a combination of Telephone and Pictionary).
Levine says the games-day stories she hears from different branches each year are gratifying. Parents intend to drop off their kids at their local branch, but stay to play games with them. Young folks who don’t normally visit the library end up volunteering for clean-up afterward.
Teens mentor seniors on the art of playing video games. And they build team skills while playing video-game tournaments in real time against students from faraway towns.
A lot of great unexpected things happen at these events, and Levine remembers one particular favorite story.
“A girl who is blind brought a card game she had that had Braille included, so she could play with sighted players” says Levine. “And she never really gets to do that.”
Last year, nearly 28,000 people of all ages participated in game-day events in more than 1,400 libraries in the U.S., and 21 international libraries in 14 countries.
This year, the Orange County Main Library in Hillsborough is one of the many branches hosting the synchronous online Super Smash Bros. Brawl, scheduled between 1 and 3 p.m.
Jessica Arnold, the teen and adult programming coordinator for Orange County’s library, instituted regular game days for middle-school kids at her branch a while ago.
Arnold admits that, like many grownups, she’s a Super Smash Bros. novice. But she likes it for a good reason.
“You’ve got kids who know every single move, and they’re going to completely dominate,” Arnold says. “And then you’ve got people like me, who just mash buttons to see what the character will do next. And sometimes you can win with that! So that’s my kind of game.”