Video games continue to be a source of community based learning and entertainment for youth and teens at Skokie Public Library. We have embraced this and provide multiple channels for youth and teens to participate either individually or as a group. But we really value group gaming as it supports collaboration, communication, and community, which are key 21st century learning skills. Here are a few community based gaming opportunities our gamers enjoy.
Minecraft continues to be the most popular game at SPL. Kids use library accounts or their own accounts to play on open servers like Hypixel. Bed Wars can create quite the commotion, with kids yelling out support commands across the Lab and everyone cheering loudly with a win. An outside perspective might see this as just noise but staff are hearing how kids are effectively communicating with each other and celebrating collaborative successes.
In addition to open servers, SPL offers Minecraft EDU, where participants can create their own worlds that they can revisit and rebuild over and over again. EDU is popular in waves and tends to be a good start for younger players just getting the hang of the game.
Switch Gaming in the Lab
This fall we purchased a Nintendo Switch for in-Lab use only. Our main video gaming consoles are located in teen specific spaces, the Junior High Zone and the High School Lounge. Staff in the Lab felt it would be helpful to provide a non-computer based gaming opportunity for elementary aged kids and the Switch was a great fit. We initially offered the Switch just with the Labo kits. Kids helped staff build the cardboard kits and seemed to enjoy a more immersive gaming experience.
We then decided to add Super Smash Brothers Ultimate when it was released in January to our Lab Switch. Kids were mostly playing at the high counter along the Lab’s perimeter. Now, kids are playing with each other, utilizing the large display monitors to project their game to the entire Lab. This also welcomes participation from our staff member, who often plays computer based games with the kids. The display monitors really help showcase the learning and fun, and encourage participation from others who may not realize we offer this type of opportunity.
Teen Video Gaming Tournaments
The Switch encouraged us to revisit gaming tournaments for teens. We’re trying to offer these events quarterly and restrict to participants in grades 6-12. This 2 hour event uses two Nintendo Switches and accommodates about 30 players. The top two players win GameStop gift cards and we provide snacks and water.
We use a large wipe board to keep track of rounds and winners. And we have one projection screen and one large mobile display to show the game for the crowd. Teens love this event and it’s incredible to see the connections participants make with each other.
Gaming Credenzas in Teen Spaces
We also offer regular access to Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 games in our teen spaces. Junior high schoolers can checkout controllers and have access to set games selected by staff in the Junior High Zone. High schoolers can checkout controllers and a wider variety of games from our collection to use in their space.
We’re curious to learn how other libraries provide access to video gaming for their youth and teen patrons. If you’re providing programs or general access, please share how in the comments.