Why Wii?: Adult Gaming in the Public Library
If you're like me, perhaps you started seeing a new word recently—Wifi-- and puzzled over it, then started seeing Wii, and thought somebody must be misspelling something, and what were all these annoying intruders into the lexicon, anyway??? Well, the former is pronounced like hi-fi, is usually hyphenated, and is a type of wireless Internet service. The latter is pronounced like "Wheeeee!," and I'm sure that interjection has escaped from the mouths of many who tried the Nintendo Wii videogaming products in public libraries or elsewhere. The Wii is a video game console that can be used with a wide variety of software products including Wii Sports, with which one can play virtual tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing.
When I say "videogaming" do you think teenage boys? If so, think again. According to a report of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, over half of American adults play video games. 23% of survey respondents 65 and older and 40% of those 50-64 report playing video games. Video games include games online and/or with devices such as desktop or laptop computers, game consoles, cell phones, Blackberries, or other handheld organizers or portable gaming devices. Older adult gamers play games more frequently. Over one-third of gamers 65+ play games every day or almost every day. 28% of adults in the study have used a game console such as Xbox , PlayStation or Wii.
A recent article in American Libraries magazine tells us that Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library began Wii gaming with teens around 2006. When staff, especially then-manager of Senior Spaces there, Allan Kleiman, saw how seniors in senior centers and nursing homes were taking to Wii, he thought, "Why not libraries?" Teens were used as mentors and training instructors; they had to demonstrate their ability to teach adults the technology by training Kleiman and Youth Librarian Theresa Wordelman. After a few months, the older adults became accomplished gamers and started teaching others themselves. They've since had multi-screen game events, with simultaneous bowling, Guitar Hero, and Brain Age Academy, and they've held tournaments between the teens and their former mentees.
NYPL has jumped into the gaming pool with both feet. March 21, 2008—"Game on @ Your Library" came to Astor Hall (the jumbo vestibule for the Humanities and Social Sciences, aka 42nd Street, Library). The Reason: 18 branches got Wii gaming equipment and lots of software programs, for both in-library use and loan, and a new era had begun. Fast-forward to today—libraries have moved from gaming programs for children and teens to Wii gaming for adults of all ages. The Bronx paper The Riverdale Press recently came to the Bronx Library Center to check out the regular Friday afternoon sessions. My only mini-quibble with the writer is where he tongue-in-cheekedly states adults and seniors come to "stay active, make new friends or simply goof off." This last "reason" is a stretch. I happen to know that the staff at the Bronx Library Center keep careful track of everyone's score each week—it's all there in black-and-white recorded for posterity and while the activity and socializing are certain, I would be surprised to see goofing off in this venue. By the way, I peeked at the scores and they probably average 130 or more.
And not only Bronx Library Center. Not to be outdone, the Francis Martin, Parkchester, Mosholu, and Throgs Neck libraries, all in the Bronx, have been offering free Wii gaming for adults. It's spreading—check at your local library to see what's happening there. "Wii" are coming to you, as well. Evelyn Muriel-Cooper at Bronx Library Center and Galina Chernykh at Wakefield are a few librarians who consider it part of their job to travel hither and yon--to senior centers, nursing homes, and who-knows-where-else with the Wii paraphernalia, for the gaming pleasure of all they meet. I am impressed. I remember going to Scrabble Day in a library once, and being matched up for a game with complete strangers. The novelty of it gave me a wonderful memory that persists, twenty years later. The American Library Association celebrated the first "National Gaming @ Your Library Day" on November 15. All kinds of games—both board and video—were played in libraries throughout the country. Start practicing now and maybe you can be a Wii star this November. What games do you like to play? Have you ever played a game in a library?