National Gaming Day is November 12 – a week from Saturday. It’s “an initiative of the American Library Association to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games.” [source]
Even if the idea of gaming makes you a little nervous, there’s so much you can do with your teens to celebrate NGD. School librarians may choose to hold an even prior to the day (Saturdays aren’t so great for us), while public librarians whose libraries are open on Saturdays can celebrate on the day itself. whether low- or high-tech, you’ll be able to pull something fun together with these ideas:
National Gaming Day isn’t just about console and computer gaming. In fact, NGD encourages board game playing through its initiative to give free board games to the first 1,000 libraries to register (register here, BTW, but the board games may be gone by now).
Schools may want to hold an after-school tournament in Scrabble, Monopoly, or Risk; card games might also be popular. Or, you could have a general game afternoon/night with multiple games set up around the room that students can choose from. One fun way to get students gaming is, if possible, to leave games out throughout the day – Connect 4 is a simple, quick game that teens seem to like; checkers could also work. If you do choose to play Monopoly or a similar strategy game, be sure to set a time limit, otherwise you will be playing until the wee hours of the night. These ideas would also work well in your teen room, or perhaps you could even take over your library’s multi-purpose room for the day. Provide snacks and be sure to take lots of pictures of gameplay and of the winners. (Which reminds me that prizes, if only candy bars, are excellent ways to entice teens to play.)
Teens in both schools and public libraries might enjoy teaching younger children how to play games like Cranium or Apples to Apples. If you have a chess club, make sure to plan a special meeting of the group on NGD. If you don’t have a chess club, this is the perfect time to plan and promote one!
Video gaming is another major component of NGD, with players all over the country participating in nationwide Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Frogger tournaments. In order to take part in these tournaments, you had to register by October 30. If you have registered, visit this page, which has all the details.
Even if you missed the deadline to participate in the national tournament, you can still stage a tournament of your very own. Choose a game that’s interesting to teens of varied ages (and both genders) and create a sign-up sheet where teens can register, either in paper at the library or via your library website/blog (a wiki is a great tool for this).
Once you’ve got your participants, you can create a leaderboard. Fighting games like SSBB are easiest, because once a teen gets beaten by another player, he or she is out — or moves to the “losers’ bracket.” If you choose to play a game that compiles points – like Guitar Hero or American Idol, you can rank players by number of points scored. First- or third-person adventure games, like Final Fantasy or Tomb Raider, do not work well in this format. If you need help selecting a game, ask your teens.
Since the goal of NGD is to be social, holding an event where teens play each other – or teens in other places – online can be a great way to bring people together. As LAN (Local Area Network) games are not my forte, I will simply share my go-to resource for this kind of event: a 2009 article in School Library Journal that is, as far as I know, still current.
While having teens play non-netoworked games might not feel as social to you – in other words, teens hanging out in one room, all playing their own individual games – for some teens, this may be a comfortable and fun experience. If they’re all playing The Sims, for example, they can share with each other what they’re doing and give each other tips. In fact, this brings me to my next suggestion, which is to create a general gaming club. Members could get together monthly to discuss new games, perhaps even trade games, and to give each other help with challenging games.
Make your own games
Finally, gaming means creating game, too, at least in my book. Hold a Scratch workshop to teach teens the basic commands of gaming, and then have them either build a game from a template or from their own imagination. Remixing games that are hosted on the Scratch website is another option. For some Scratch resources, check out my post from September on the subject.
Inanimate Alice is another game design program, but as I am wholly unfamiliar with it, I’ll just refer you to their website, which offers tons of great tips and ideas.
Homemade games can also be physical games. Put out cardboard, dice, markers, paper, glue, and anything else that might make a fun game. If you want to buy basic game pieces, you can find plastic or wooden figures at craft stores or even discount stores. Make sure to have teens write down the rules to their games, and make the games available for other teen patrons to play! Here are some resources to help you design a board game workshop
- First Steps in Board Game Design
- Make Your Own Board Games
- Homemade Board Games (includes templates and sources for supplies)
No matter how you decide to celebrate National Gaming Day, remember that it’s all about community and having fun. If you make that the center of your events, you’ll be sure to have a successful NGD event. Enjoy!