Libraries and Gaming

In yesterday’s New York Times there was an article on gaming and the elderly.  It seems that video gaming among this particular population is trending up.  In fact, “older users not only play video games more often than their younger counterparts but also spend more time playing per session.”  The article also found that individuals 50 and older “accounted for more than 40 percent of total time spent” and that “women spent 35 percent longer” than men.

Older gamers are getting into gaming because it is good exercise – both intellectually and physically.  Casual games provide them with a way of keeping their minds engaged and active. The more physical games like the WII can provide them with a way of getting physical exercise.

The article mentions that research on the impact of gaming on diseases like dementia is sparse.   However, the latest research in neurobiology is coming to the conclusion that our brains are not as “hard wired” as we previously suspected.  (See Marc Presnky’s article on digital natives)  Until recently we were taught that external stimulation had relatively little affect on the structures of the brain.  Researchers are now finding that this simply is incorrect.   In fact, gaming seems to have had a profound impact on our brains.  Prensky suggests that we now think differently as a result of the introduction of technology into our daily lives.

What does this have to do with designing better libraries?  Well, quite a bit!  All educators – including librarians – need to develop an understanding that technology has had a profound impact on how we act AND how we think.  We need to develop systems that reflect how learners learn today. Libraries and library systems have traditionally taken a very linear and very text-based approach to accessing resources.  This approach, it turns out, may actually be detrimental to the educational process.

The first rule of education is engagement.  Games are by their very nature engaging.  As a result, our users are turning up in these environments more and more often.  They are there and we need to be there as well.  So, my post is a question really….what is the library community doing about getting into gaming in significant ways?  Who are the leaders in this area and what are they doing to make library resources and services more accessible through game environments?

2 thoughts on “Libraries and Gaming”

  1. Pingback: The Fifth Law
  2. The claim about physical exercise is a bit of a stretch (pardon the pun). The Nintendo Wii does not offer much exercise and it is easy to cheat with smaller body movements. It is more likely to cause RSI. But heck it is good clean fun!

    I have found a library website with a few errors is entertaining for some users, who love to phone and tell me (the webmaster) how to fix it and where it could be better. I encourage this, as it leads to a better website – and uses the grey cells (Theirs and mine). “If you don’t use it you’ll lose it”applies to grey matter as well as muscles.

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