When the Teen Tech Week grant was written, it was hoped that we could get teens interested in more library programs. Teens will show up to use the computers to chat with friends and watch internet videos, but mention digital literacy or STEM/STEAM and they’ll look at you like you’re an alien. Don’t get me wrong; our schools are hardworking, Title I schools that strive to teach students what they can. But a rural area of Lafourche Parish is not really at the top of the list for the fast paced information technology industry.
Like any library in the country, we know we have to get them young or we lose them until they’re adults. And without many options they’re not going to stay in this area. The public library still has that stereotypical “the library is where the losers hang out” view to contend with among the teens. Our programming has to be unusual to get them in. We all know video games are always a popular draw. I’ve used free programs like Scratch and Kodu with them before. But the funds and resources to host a large scale video game design program were simply beyond our scope before now.
It’s been a week since we started our Teen Tech Week Game Design Camp and it’s going better than we could’ve hoped for. Nine teens started making their RPG video game the first meeting, and more have promised to join over the weekend to catch up. We have a mix of teams, partners, and independent game designers working away. Most have chosen to show up daily to work on their game instead of spending time on Facebook and YouTube. Quite a few of the college bound highschoolers have asked about degree programs in computer animation and the gaming industry. They had no idea the library was capable of offering so much for them to enjoy. Some of them had never visited the library before. They regret that now.
By the end of the month, we hope to have ten games for patrons to beta test that were designed by our teens. The minimum assignment is to create four maps for players to explore, playable characters, and an enemy encounter. If any of them will have a fully created game by the end is questionable, but somehow I don’t think I have to worry about them not reaching the minimum.
Leaving the library before closing is another question.
Kristen Angelette is a branch assistant at the Lockport Public Library in the Lafourche Parish System. She works with teen programming, grant research, and graphic design.