Some Ideas for Fall Play: Ease into the new school year with games that facilitate social interaction.

My new School Library Journal Article is out on alternative social games to help students get to know each other and learn to work together.


After much work, the Games and Gaming Member interest group in the American Library Association has become a Round Table.

I am thrilled to be a part of the steering committee that will be helping to set up the new round table. I will be working with many other talented and leading librarians exploring the role that games have in all library types and how we want to represent and support these ideas and programs. We hope to work on things leading up to and into Midwinter ALA and I will be sure to keep things up to date here. So if you can, be sure to join the Gaming Round Table !

Also, don’t forget that National Gaming Day @Your Library is coming up. Don’t forget to register and participate in what is a wonderful way to show the value and fun that gaming brings as a library program.

Word on the Street

Designed by: Jack Degnan

Number of Players: 2 to 8

Grade Levels: Middle School and Up

Length: 45 Minutes

Curricular Connections: ELA – Vocabulary, Word Structure, Spelling

Investment: Low
Return: High

The word on the street is “SCORE” for Out of the Box. Yet another engaging game that gets students working with language. I brought my review copy of Word on the Street to work with several sixth grade classes on English and Language Arts skills and this was the runaway hit. The combination of teamwork and competition brought out the best in the students as they worked together to brainstorm and agree on the most strategic word choices each round. They listened and gave suggestions, switching between leadership and support roles organically without teacher prompts. They grew as learners and leaders… but most importantly they had fun! (more…)

Mindflex has finally made its way to my eagerly awaiting hands and I must say that its debut for any audience does not disappoint. Mindflex is a fun blend of dexterity and concentration as you work a ball around a circular obstacle course that you set up beforehand from the various accessories that come in the box. The basic mechanic has the player using their level of focus to control a fan inside the base unit. The more one “focuses” on something, anything, the higher the ball should go and vice versa. From my experience, I can’t say if it is “focus” but there is some attentive change necessary for manipulating the ball and that varies for the individuals playing. Some needed to talk to lessen their concentration while others can simply manipulate the ball with ease. In either case, the ability to affect an object with some aspect of your brain’s activity is impressive even if it is not true telepathy.

First go’s at the game usually comprise of just getting the feel for controlling the fan that makes the ball go up and down. Once you become comfortable, the next challenge is maintaining that control as you attempt the turn the knob that rotates the fan around the obstacle course. While this is the least impressive aspect of Mindflex, I will say that it still a bit of a challenge to maintain a certain level of focus while also manipulating the knob.

The obstacles are fun but can grow old after repeated uses. I can see Mattel putting out obstacle expansions to maintain playability over a longer period of time. That being said, they are good fun for you first adventures. Included in the box are posts that allow rings to be placed at various heights for the ball to be passed through. I find it much easier to maintain the high level of focus needed to  pass the ball through a higher hoop than the trickle needed to make it though a lower one. There are cages with adjustable walls and floors for making mini-mazes, as well as a few other interesting obstacles including a tube with a low entry hole that allows you to shoot the ball across the game with a “burst of focus”.

While not overly complex, each of the obstacles (and the game itself for that matter) leaves you with a sense accomplishment and wonder. It brings to reality one of those surreal moments where we dance close to our crazy dreams. Am I actually moving the ball with my mind? No… but I am actively adjusting the level of a fan with the electrical energy that is firing off in my brain and that is pretty damn good enough for me. What excites me is that this is the first mainstream foray that this technology has into the game and toy market. I can only imagine what the possibilities are as this technology matures and become more sophisticated and refined. Mindflex is an experience, one that I highly recommend everyone to at least try.

National Gaming Day is fast approaching and looks to be shaping up to be another wonderful year. While Hasbro has promised games to the public libraries, school libraries are not left out this year. There are games available for the first 1000 libraries that register and this includes school libraries! Registration will be closing soon, so school libraries interested in participation should register and get themselves on the map.

While the event takes place on a Saturday, that does not exclude school libraries from participating. If you are able to organize a student event on that Saturday there are a lot of great resources on both ALA’s Library Gaming Toolkit as well as NDG’s website. One great idea for the bold and daring is to have a “lock in” starting on Friday night. This would be a whole evening event where students, teachers and parents are locked in the school and participate in various events, programs and fun activities. What a great idea to center a lock-in around gaming with students, teacher and parents playing games all night and into NGD!

If you are unable to host an event, you can still support your community libraries that are participating by volunteering your time or helping to advertise the event in your school. Put up posters! Talk it up in your library! Give fun and informative announcements in the morning! You are a strong bridge between the students and the public and academic libraries. The memories and impressions you help establish will guide their interactions with these institutions. By being present and offering your time, your are showing your support of the services and programs they are providing.

Don’t dismiss NGD because it is on a Saturday, be creative and get involved! Gaming has withstood the initial criticism and emerged a strong and valuable resource that creates community, develops the individual and stimulates the mind.

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