Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

2016 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 2015, 2014, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way before we jump into everything: 2016 wasn’t a great year for most of us and there are way too many reasons out there to put here into this blog so I’m not gonna do that. Let’s try something else, something that we all remember from way back in 2014-2015: positivity.

At the time of this writing, I have successfully arisen from my slumber on 337 out of the 366 days in 2016. I’ve spent most of the time I have been awake during those 337 days doing two things: spending it with my family or working for my community. I don’t have a fancy photo or some numbers to show you to back this up. I can just promise you that my family, our home, and the Benson Memorial Library continue to exist, thrive, and go about doing things that have a positive impact on the world. It’s the only thing that we know how to do.

I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music. I’ve played so much Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve got to watch some great films. I can’t recall what their titles were but they were enjoyable in the moment.

I did eat way too much food and I didn’t go on enough walks. I am going to do my best to fix that in 2017.

I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people this year as I did some traveling. I think traveling is the best…you get a chance to connect with people you have never met before, and in doing so your world grows and you grow as a person. I never want to stop growing and being a better Justin. I think that’s where my recent obsession with cyborgs comes from. Cyborgs can upgrade and change. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do that myself as a human being. I think I’ve got it!

Goodbye to you 2016. I can’t think of a better way to say au revoir than Bowie’s Lazarus.

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

REVIEW: Animal Crossing New Leaf Welcome Amiibo

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Originally released in 2013 (2012 in Japan), the Nintendo 3DS version of the popular franchise gets an update…3 years after it was released. I have to admit I was thrown off a bit when this update was announced, but as a very avid Animal Crossing: New Leaf fan I was so excited that I jumped out of my pants.

You can read all about the improvements made in the update by clicking on this sentence. While I do really enjoy the added Amiibo compatibility, my favorite part are the added items and the MEOW coupons, which reward you daily for accomplishing tasks around your town. I was already visiting my town daily to shake trees, collect fruit, and more, and with this update it gives me even more of a reason to say hello to my townspeople. The new and returning characters are just as you’d expect from any character in the Animal Crossing series…adorable and instantly loveable. They fit really well into the world of Animal Crossing and I look forward to seeing them in my town everyday.

Anyone who is a fan of the Animal Crossing series will love this update. It packs so much more into a game that was already full of great joy. New Leaf is the pinnacle of the series so far and I am curious to see where Nintendo takes this game when their new system comes out in March 2017. In my opinion, it would be hard to improve on this amazing gem of a game but I’ve been surprised before.

 

All Time Favorite Books

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Here’s the LibraryThing collection

People still ask me what my favorite books are even though they know that I’m not that kind of librarian, so I made this list as a handy dandy reference. These are the 19 titles that have changed my life.

A List of 50 Fantastic Video Games According to Justin Hoenke

It is hard to place these in order listing my favorites at the top, so this is instead a list of great video games that are some of the best ever created. Totally pay attention to numbers 1-10 on the list though!

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Image by Raina Telgemeier. Used with her permission because she’s really nice like that.
  1. Animal Crossing New Leaf
  2. Zelda: A Link to the Past
  3. Super Mario 64
  4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  5. Super Mario Maker
  6. Shining Force
  7. The Legend of Zelda
  8. Splatoon
  9. EarthBound
  10. Super Mario Bros. 3
  11. Super Mario World
  12. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  13. Shining Force II
  14. Super Mario Galaxy
  15. Super Metroid
  16. Kickle Cubicle
  17. Metal Gear Solid
  18. Shadow of the Colossus
  19. Resident Evil 4
  20. Mario Kart 8
  21. GoldenEye 007
  22. Chrono Trigger
  23. Final Fantasy VI (aka Final Fantasy III)
  24. Mega Man X
  25. Super Mario Bros.
  26. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  27. Resident Evil 2
  28. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  29. Final Fantasy VII
  30. Minecraft
  31. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
  32. Super Mario Galaxy 2
  33. Final Fantasy Tactics
  34. Tetris (NES version)
  35. Asteroids
  36. Galaga
  37. Clash at Demonhead
  38. North VS South
  39. Sim City (Super Nintendo version)
  40. NHL 94-98 (Sega Genesis versions)
  41. Super Mario Bros. 2
  42. Panzeer Dragoon II
  43. Dragon Force
  44. Mortal Kombat (series)
  45. Street Fighter II Turbo
  46. Street Fighter III
  47. Marvel vs Capcom 2
  48. Aerobiz (Super Nintendo version)
  49. Doom
  50. The Simpsons/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/X-Men (arcade game)

 

Connecting the Arcade to Reading (Guest post by Jessica Meyer)

20150826_190149NOTE FROM JUSTIN: I had the great privilege of working with Jessica at the Chattanooga Public Library…in fact, I hired her! Jessica has awesome ideas and connecting the arcade to books was one of her best. I’ll shut up now and turn it over to the great Jessica Meyer…
Arcades are awesome. They are big tween/teen draws, they facilitate trans-literacy, allow socioeconomic groups to mix and make friends, and  are just really fun.
Our arcade pulls in big numbers – it and the button maker pull in delightfully obscene numbers in face. Only, after a while I noticed a trend with our arcade gamers- they don’t check out books or even seem to realize there are books here. As a book addict (yes, predictable, I know) this got under my skin. It ate away at me. I put a display in the arcade, not the most amazing but it always featured cool graphic novels, fiction about video games, and even some non-fiction about game design. When I set this up I was so excited – I just knew this was how I was going to sneak book reading into the lives of this kids.
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It didn’t work. I changed the books out about every week and half and when I was in the arcade playing with the gamers I would oh so causally bring the books into the conversation. Only twice were the books taken.
It bummed me out BUT I also saw it as an opportunity to try something new, think of something better. We have only a few rules in on our twee/teen floor but one was that each day a new game was put into each system and that was the game of the day. You didn’t like, come back tomorrow. Then I really listened to my kids – no matter how many times we told them it was one game a day, they asked if they could change the game. That was the answer – they could earn a game change. Instead of telling them same ol’ spiel I told them they could read any book for 20 minutes and get to change the game. 

I posted a sign in the arcade and told  a few leaders of the arcade teens. Then I made one of our comfy chairs next to the desk our the designated reading chair and kept a tab of the Google Timer open on my desktop. Teens started asking and reading right away.

Here’s how it works:
  1. The teens approach a librarian and ask to change the game
  2. Teens pick out a book, OR get some awesome reader advisory for a book
  3. Read for 20 minutes
  4. Pick out a new game and be the first person in rotation to play it
It was so awesome. I had to amend the rules that a game could only be changed every two hours per system so that the reader would have at least two hours with that game. The kids had to read near us but they could read anything they wanted. This facilitates much awesome reader advisory – especially for reluctant readers.

In the summer I put in our least popular games and had readers change the game at least 2 times a day, typically more. At least two kids told me they did their entire summer reading requirements while in our comfy gamers chair. More than once I had teens ask if they could wait to change the game until they finished a chapter or even their entire graphic novel.They wanted to keep reading. It was so awesome.

(Read more from Jessica! Her blog Bathtub Reader can be found here)

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Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

Taken from the New York Times article “Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children” by Jane E. Brody.

It seems like every six months or so an article comes out that talks about the dangers of (insert here) screen time, video games, computers, iPads, etc on kids today. I don’t know if it’s a slow news day or its just something that gets a lot of clicks and likes, but hey, they keep on coming.

I see this argument from two sides: as a parent and as a librarian. I see what technology does to kids AND adults: it kind of totally mystifies us! We want to use it, we want to have it in our hands, and we want to play with it. I think it’s important to realize that this argument doesn’t just apply to kids. Adults too get sucked into technology. I see parents (myself included sometimes!) lost inside of their smartphones. It’s an escape from the world and sometimes a nice 5-10 minute break.

I also know that too much technology can have an effect on a person. I find myself getting tired and worn out if I’ve looked at my computer or my phone too long. I see my own kids getting cranky and bored when they’ve watched way too many toy review videos on YouTube.

Technology is awesome. Technology lets us connect and learn in so many different ways. This week, I’ll be part of an interview process at my place of work to hire a new Youth Services Librarian. You know what? We’ll be doing all of our interviews over Skype. Technology helps bring the world together. Technology like video games help us take part in stories and adventures and connect with other like minded people.

What this article, the many others before it, and the many others that will come, should be focusing on instead is balance and the importance of having conversations. Talk to your kids, whether you are their parent, their teacher, or their librarian. Talk to them about how important technology can be in their lives. While you’re at it, also talk to them about the importance of balance in their lives. It doesn’t have to be all technology all the time. You need balance. You need variety. I like to tell my sons that it would be AWESOME to have ice cream all the time but in the long run I’d probably die really quickly and that would suck. They get it. Don’t have ice cream all the time. Spice it up. Have some lima beans in there too. It’s that way with technology/video games/iPads/etc: sprinkle in a walk, play a musical instrument, have a conversation, etc. Balance is awesome.