Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reality is Broken, So Come Play Video Games at the Library

Games in the Library: A Gaming Tournament
Thursday, November 17, 2011 7:00 PM
Carmichael Library
University of Montevallo

We live in a broken world. Corporations siphon billions of dollars from the public, taking money and jobs from people who are most needy. Every day, the United States and developing countries like China emit countless tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, escalating our climacteric and imperiling the future of life on this planet. Access to clean water is a crisis that transcends national boundaries; every twenty seconds, a child in the world dies because he or she does not have clean water to drink. Our most respected institutions turn a blind eye to corruption and abuse.
There are a lot of ways we could be spending our time to do something about these problems. Does anyone seriously think that playing video games should rank among these courses of action?

There are some scholars in a rapidly-growing field called Game Studies who suggest that game play can attune learners to the qualities of active engagement in a world of fragmentation and pain. Jane McGonigal, for instance, is among these scholars and says that the 300 billion hours we spend each week playing video games is anything but a waste of time. McGonigal argues that we actually aren't spending enough time playing video games (see her recent TED Talk below). Games, game play, and the study of gaming can unlock new patterns of learning and teach people how to solve real-world problems by cultivating essential skills like decision-making, time management, and collaboration.

Another ambassador for game play as a conduit for learning is Cathy N. Davidson, who argues in her recent book, Now You See It, that "Games are unquestionably the single most important cultural form of the digital age" (146). Davidson points to games as activities that radically improve the skill with which learners can divide attention and move from one task to another (an essential skill in the online world). Yet games don't just make us better learners for the sake of knowledge; rather, games are among the most effective ways that people find out about real social problems and become compelled to take action. According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 97 percent of U.S. teens play some form of video games. Of these, about half of them report that playing games make them think about (or indeed have introduced them to) moral or ethical issues. Just about everyone learns what effective, fervent action in the world looks like by playing video games.

With that reality in mind, the Carmichael Library, in association with the University of Montevallo Game Studies and Design Program, will host an evening of game play on Thursday, November 17, 2011. Inspired by the American Library Association's National Gaming Day @ Your Library, this event will feature circles of board game and video game tournaments. Come experience games that you haven't played before, like Settlers of Catan. There will be food and prizes. You can respond to the Facebook invitation, of you can just show up and play!

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