Cutting-edge librarian, Maggie Hommel, has created video gaming programs at the Park Ridge Public Library in Illinois. Hommel embarked on this course of action because she sees “gaming as fulfilling the developmental needs of teenagers through physical movement, social interaction, competition, achievement, and self-definition.”
Libraries all around the country, realizing the central place video games hold in the lives of young people, are using this medium to bring kids into the library. The state of the art library in Walnut Creek, CA has an array of different video game systems kids can play, along with futuristic projection screens that descend from the ceiling. Libraries seem to be truly entering the technological age.
At the Clymer Public Library in Pocono Pine, PA, senior citizens are even getting into the act. Like many libraries around the country, folks in Pocono Pine made use of the Federal Library Service and Technology Act to fund their “Savvy Senior Space” which contains amenities like extra lighting, large-print magazines, and a Nintendo Wii that has become a star attraction for seniors. “The game system gives seniors much needed exercise,” said Program Director, Laura Laspee. “You hear laughing and high-fiving, a fact which shows how this game system is actually building community. We are also seeing that it is an inter-generational bridge, because seniors are coming in and playing with their grandchildren.”
In the rush to condemn video games as conduits of violence, it is easy to lose sight of the many benefits that video games offer. They teach hand-eye coordination, and help to heighten visual-spatial acuity. Research presented at a New York University conference last month confirmed this view. “People that play fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition,” said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester. In a recent interview on Good Morning America, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor demonstrated great understanding of the power of video games. “We know also from the Annenberg polls that youngsters in middle school level — sixth, seventh, eighth grade — spend, on average, 40 hours a week in front of a screen,” O’Connor said. “If we can capture just part of that time, a little bit of it, to get ‘em in front of a computer screen to play these games, they’re going to learn.”
Librarians, teachers, researchers and a justice of the Supreme Court are aware of the benefits of video games. Although some people have great difficulty playing in moderation, we need to be more mindful of the great advantages. Yes, we do need to indulge responsibly, or risk becoming addicted, like the many cyber junkies I work with in my cyber recovery groups. But let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. Video games and technology are here to stay. Let’s spend some of our energy finding ways to use them to enhance and improve our lives.