Category Archives: Video Games

Calm, cool, connected: Study suggests an hour of video games a day makes kids better-adjusted

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First and foremost, a big thank you to Casey Phillips of the Chattanooga Times Free Press for chatting with me and my son Finn about video games.

Read the full article here: Calm, cool, connected: Study suggests an hour of video games a day makes kids better-adjusted

I remember getting my Nintendo Entertainment System all set up for the first time when I was 7 years old. I had Super Mario Bros, Duckhunt, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Trojan as the lineup of for my first set of games.  I remember playing them endlessly while I dreamed about the characters, settings, and wondering just how did they make those games?  They opened my mind and I was forever changed.  Video games gave me something to think, dream, and learn about. A good portion of my youth was spent studying anything gaming related in the gaming magazines of the time. I became a walking, talking pre-Wikipedia for video games.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been pretty successful in getting video games into libraries. Kids, Tweens, and Teens are playing video games together in libraries in pseudo 80’s arcade-like settings and they are connecting with each other and creating community.  Friendships are being made over Minecraft, Mario Kart, and more.  When I go home, my son Finn and I will sometimes fire up the Wii U. We talk about who gets to use the Wii U gamepad (it’s a pretty coveted thing) and then we talk about the adventure we want to go on. Sometimes it’s Mario Kart, sometimes it’s Lego Star Wars, and sometimes it’s Super Mario 3D World. It doesn’t matter what game we play because the end result is the same: we play, we talk, we laugh, and we share.  We fill our heads with amazing adventures. When we’re not playing games, we’re sometimes re-enacting those adventures in the front yard.

Video games are amazing.

Thank you University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Many thanks to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro LIS Alumni Association (and Lynda Kellam) for having me at their event today.  My slides for my speech are above and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

REVIEW: Inclusion for iOS

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Perhaps it’s related to my age and how I was brought up in the Nintendo era of gaming, but I’ll never fully adjust to tapping on a screen to play a video game.  That’s why only a few iOS and Android games have caught my eye.  So many games for iOS or Android try to replicate the controller based playing experience and they fail miserably.  It is the games that take the iOS and Android enviroment and use it to their advantage that catch my attention.  Inclusion is one of those games, and boy oh boy does it do it well.

What is it?  
The unbelievably addicting numbers game where you’re pitted against the clock in an effort to reach the goal before time runs out. The screen begins to fade away while your fingers feverishly press the numbers in hopes of reaching the goal.

iOS Simulator Screen shot May 19, 2013 11.03.08 AM

What makes Inclusion work is the simple design.  As you can see above, the screen where you spend most of your time is easy on the eyes.  For a game that requires you to add and subtract quickly in your head, the great design helps you focus on the math.  And trust me, this is a good thing (coming from someone who is horrible at math).

At first Inclusion feels like a game you will play in quick 5-10 minute spurts.  But after you get into it, you find that 30 minutes to an hour has gone by as you try to keep beating your high score.  That’s what keeps me coming back to the game…I always want to top my high score and get my name on the Game Center leader boards.

For parents, you couldn’t ask for a better iOS game to give your tween or teen. Inclusion is high on learning, but even higher on fun.  “Educational games” like this are the ones that succeed in finding an audience. ****

Inclusion is (as of today) 99 cents, and it’s one of the best 99 cents I’ve spent on an iOS game.  Highly recommended.

Get it here at the App Store
Read more about Inclusion here

**** I put “educational games” in quotes because 1) I really dislike that term and 2) Inclusion isn’t an educational game, but instead a fun game that has a few educational elements and 3) I couldn’t think of anything better.

 

 

REVIEW: Wii U

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Before I start this review, I have to say one thing: I love everything that Nintendo does.  I am going to do my best to give you an honest review of this system and not let this get in the way but….I mean, c’mon.  Mario and Zelda are so awesome.

THE GOOD

  • Nintendo TVii is so very rad…..and I already have a smart TV.  For the past two years I’ve loved my Google TV.  Of course I’ve had complaints with how it is set up but I overlooked that…until I got my hands on TVii.  The design is beautiful, simple, and makes watching TV actually quite fun.
  • Google Wii Street U is awesome.  I haven’t had any situations where it has totally helped me out but being able to use the tablet controller as a sort of viewfinder into a totally new world?  Pretty cool, especially for someone like me who’s moving to a new city.
  • And the games.  I have two: Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Brothers U.  They’re not the best games in the world, but they’re fun.  And that’s why I’m playing video games in the first place…to have fun.
  • Speaking of fun, one more thing: this thing is a BLAST when you have at least 3 people playing.  An absolute blast.

THE BAD

  • Nintendo is pretty horrible at going “social” with the gaming experience.  I find the Miiverse to be very clunky and not really engaging.  Sure, it’s cool to type notes or draw doodles and share but who really cares in the long run.  I don’t.
  • There are still some layout and design kinks they need to work out in regards to the Wii U menu and how players can find things.  I find myself going in circles sometimes when what I am looking for should be right under my nose.
  • And the games.  Like I said above, I only have two and not many of the other ones impress me that much.  I am most excited about the games Nintendo is making and those will eventually come out.  For now, I’d love to see other game developers make some neato things that really make use of what the Wii U can do.

THE VERDICT

  • Overall, Nintendo’s gonna come through and deliver some great stuff.  It will take a lot of time but trust me…they always come through.
  • Would this be good for libraries?  You bet.  It is a social gaming experience.  Get the deluxe set and enough controllers to have five people playing at once.  People will dig it.
  • Will it last?  Nintendo stuff always seems to last despite Microsoft and Sony doing bigger and better things with their systems.  Nintendo has focused on the same thing that they always do with the Wii U….fun games….and this will continue to pay off for them.

 

Debacle by Design: Building a Game That Won’t Make Money

Debacle by Design- Building a Game That Won’t Make Money - State of Play - Boston.com

Over the past few months, I’ve been chatting/brainstorming/working with the amazing Kellian Adams of Green Door Labs on an amazing game called Project Arachne (if you want background on the project, read this article here!)

We’ve got the team together and we’re moving forward with the project.  Our next step is, as Kellian puts it ever so perfectly:

Okay, now’s the hard part. How do we fund it? We’re working with a library, so we can’t charge people to play. We also can’t get budget dollars from the library’s annual fund, because this is an experimental game, not something that’s sanctioned in the budget of a public place. We can find a corporate sponsor that might be willing to work with us. We can build the game in a way that it will travel to other libraries that could license it and offset some of our initial costs. We could also crowdsource it, but that hasn’t been really been done with this type of library project before. We could also write about a million grant proposals. I’d been chatting with some incredible educational media producers, like TERC EdGE and the Kickin’ Kitchen video project, who have been funded by grants.

That’s where we are now and you know what?  That’s totally cool.  We believe in Project Arachne and we are just jazzed to be working on this together as a team.  Kellian goes on in her post to sum everything up:

Just don’t expect that a “game that will never make money” will suddenly and magically make money. It will most likely lose time and money – and you and your team will be so proud of the time and money that you lost. You’ll love it and be glad that you did it.

I’m just so honored that Kellian picked me to be on her team.

Know any libraries that may be interested in Project Arachne?  Get in touch with Kellian @ Green Door Labs: http://www.greendoorlabs.com/

Learning to make video games! (via Laura Koenig)

Yesterday, Laura Koenig (@2nickels) shared this on Twitter.  I love this!

Photo by Laura Koenig (@2nickels) via Instagram http://instagram.com/p/TeXKMdB0lV/

Photo by Laura Koenig (@2nickels) via Instagram http://instagram.com/p/TeXKMdB0lV/

From Laura:
We collaborated with the Children’s Technology Workshop to teach middle schoolers the basics of creating their own video game using Scratch.

SO RAD!  Thanks for sharing Laura!

A Few Things I Learned in 2012

Once Thanksgiving hits, I get into a particular mood that lasts until around right after dinner on December 25th (yup, I’ve narrowed it down that much).  This mood finds me slowing down, reflecting, and thinking back to what has  happened to me over the past year.  I look back at what I’ve learned and try to summarize that into a nice little package that I can carry into the new year.  It helps me grow as a person because that’s what I believe one of my major jobs as a human being is…to keep growing and being the best Justin I can be.

(I did this back in 2010 with this post and it seemed to be a good thing….that post was read 1,347 times!  It also inspired others to do the same and I had a great time reading what others had to say.)

MANAGEMENT
Here’s the deal with management.  Everyone has their own style and everyone is entitled to that style.  I say that everyone reading this should follow their own style, develop that style, and respect everyone else’s management style. That way you’re happy with what you do, you’re growing,  and you’re also not wasting energy on disrespecting what others are doing.

The approach which I have developed over the last few years is a combo of the following:

  • Let your employees be themselves: for example,  do you have a talented artist on your staff?  If so, let them draw/doodle while they’re on the service desk.  Why?  That’s what they’re good at and who knows, just maybe one teen patron will see that and strike up a conversation with that employee.  And who knows…that conversation could really change some lives.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?
  • Be flexible:  If someone calls out sick at the last minute, doesn’t show up on time, or forgets to do something, don’t be the manager that holds it over their head for weeks/months/years.  Life happens and it’s best for us to be sympathetic to everyone involved.  It may mean some extra work for you as a manager, but that’s ok.
  • Encourage creativity: One of the coolest parts about working in a library is the many awesome people that you work with.  Ask someone why or how they got into libraries and I’m pretty sure you’ll find an interesting story.  After you hear that story and you learn about the people you’re working with, encourage their creativity and let them be themselves.  Everyone has something rad they can give to your library.  Let them give that to your community.
  • Be fair: You may have a manager title and get paid a bit extra for that, but who cares.  Shelve books, straighten up the shelves, wipe the windows.  Do the things that every other library employee does.  You may have departments, teams, job titles, whatever, but remember this: we’re all in this library thing together.

I also keep coming back to this quote from my 2010 Emerging Leaders class:

“The leader’s  job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”
-Frances Hesselbein

KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN
Sometimes it is very clear when a major change has happened in your life.  It’s an odd feeling: something just feels off, not right, and you feel uneasy about your place in life.  After having a few of these moments over the past two years, I’ve learned that it’s my body telling me that I should stop something and change.

It could be a health thing (like going vegan), a work thing (should I move onto something else?), or something personal.  No matter what it is, recognize that feeling and do what you can to change your life.  Uncertainty is a very scary thing, but being stuck in a situation that makes you feel horrible is even worse.

BEING AN AWESOME PERSON IN A TEEN’S LIFE
What’s the goal of the teen library? Library school taught me that it was about bringing teens closer to the resources they need.  That’s still very true and very important for teen librarians to remember, but having done this for five years I’ve discovered something else that trumps that goal and it’s this: be an awesome person in a teen’s life.

Think back to when you were a teen: you probably thought that most adults were lame, out to get you, control your lives, or just something not that great.

That shouldn’t be the case with teen librarians.  We should be an awesome adult for them.  Be proud of who you are, be proud of what you do, and share your life.  I’m a 32.5 year old white dude who has an awesome wife, two super cool sons, loves the Beach Boys, and really digs Nintendo video games.  A few of my teens may think that’s lame, but that’s who I am and I’m damn proud of that person.  Encourage your teens to be happy with themselves and lead by example.  They may not see you as the coolest cat around but they’ll respect you and think that you’re pretty awesome.

I CAN DO ANYTHING THAT I WANT TO DO
This year I made a pretty significant step towards moving into the next chapter of my life.  I’m not there yet but things have been put in place to (hopefully) allow me to move ahead.  It was scary as hell.  I found myself in situations that I was not accustomed to.  I found myself thinking about a future that may or may not be in line with the professional life I’ve led so far.

Out of it all I feel like I’ve gained some new kind of confidence.  I’ve realized that if my heart and mind are in the right place, I can do anything that I want to do and that in time everything will be OK.

YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM EVERYONE (YES, EVEN THOSE PEOPLE YOU TRY YOUR BEST TO AVOID)
I have a few of these people in my life.  As much as I try to minimize the amount of time that I interact with these people, I always end up leaving my interaction with them with some morsel of knowledge that helps me grow up.  I guess that whole “keep your enemies close” and “challenge yourself by being in uncomfortable situations” thing is true.

BE NICE TO EACH OTHER
I think that I summed this up in every other area of this post but it deserves to be said again: we’re all very different and we all have our own way of doing things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be nice to each other.  Be kind.  It’s amazing what life can be like when you cut a good deal of negativity out of it.

Thanks to everyone for reading.  I hope your holiday season is awesome and filled with love and excitement.  And here’s to 2013!  It’s gonna be a super rad year.