Hey everyone! We have approximately 25 hours till the first International Games Day activities kick off here in my hometown of Geelong, Australia, and I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what will happen over the following 27 hours or so.
It's not often that hundreds of local and academic institutions get together and decide to create a worldwide community like the one we're creating on November 16. Still less commonly does such an event become an annual celebration, and almost never is such an event run almost entirely by volunteers.
I have previous experience with worldwide volunteer movements - I spent a decade volunteering in various capacities for the Australian Section of Amnesty International (an experience that was highly educational as well as inspirational*). But given the obvious value of defending universal human rights, it's not surprising that AI can motivate thousands of people to collaborate across gaps of distance, language, and culture.
It says something important about both games and libraries that an event like ours can achieve something similar (even if less co-ordinated and more local in focus).
To me, it says that there is a reason people love both games and libraries so much: they are good for us. They help us build community, and exercise our minds in each other's company. We love games because they are fun - but "fun" is the signal that we're doing something good for us, the way kids naturally love to exercise both body and mind, singing and running and dancing and imagining and creating and puzzling the world out like the unstoppable forces of learning they have to be if they are going to work out how to inhabit this world and their culture and themselves.
It may be that, just as we have developed foods that exploit our body's natural response to sugars by over-concentrating them, there are forms of fun which are unhealthy - in fact, I would argue that many parts of the gambling industry, and some online gaming companies, which specifically hire psychologists to work out how best to hook people and manipulate them into keeping spending, are exactly that. And yes, even healthy fun can potentially distract us from more important things. But those facts don't invalidate the fact that we are drawn to fun for a reason. They just mean there is even more need for intelligent, active, critical engagement with games and play.
Similarly, we love libraries because we instinctively know that sharing culture is what makes it culture, and sharing wisdom is what makes a community a civilization. The internet is wonderful and amazing - witness how we're communicating, intercontinentally, right now! - and frees us from the tyranny of distance and other constraints of our limited physical forms. But not everything about being embodied is bad, and we learn and interact differently in person than we do online. We love libraries because they are spaces where we can be present with all of ourselves: physical, playful, social, cultural, intellectual, philosophical, and even spiritual if we are so inclined. Which is to say that, like games, we love libraries because they are good for us, as individual people and as communities.
And that is why I (and, though please note that I'm putting words in their mouths without consulting them, my volunteer colleagues) have thrown so much work into International Games Day @ your library this year. We want to celebrate games - and we also want to leverage that joint celebration of games to celebrate libraries.
So as my final blog post for this year's IGD, barring a few admin-y follow-up bits and pieces, I'd like to say some personal thank yous.
Thank you to all of you for being part of the IGD community, and joining us for this remarkable (in its own humble way) event.
Thank you to those same volunteer colleagues on the IGD Committee of the ALA's Games and Gaming Round Table: Diane Robson, Kristin Boyett, Michelle Chrzanowski, Amanda Foulk, Darla Gutierrez, Brian Mayer, and Teresa Slobuski - and I include in their number Jenny Levine at the ALA; though nominally participating as a staff member, she has (as every year) worked well above and beyond.
And, as always, thank you to the patrons for whom we do all this, who will, as always, be an integral part of transmuting the opportunities we offer into benefits for themselves and each other.
All best wishes for a fun and happy International Games Day @ your library! And don't forget, we want to hear all about it - make the time to send us your feedback and numbers and stories via the post-IGD survey, which we'll send you an email about early next week.
Happy IGD everyone!