Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=181455
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 9:14:29 PM CST
YOUmedia is an innovative space for teens housed on the first floor of the Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago.
Game on: Teens go out on the town to the library
Chicago teens play video games on a large television screen at the Harold Washington Library. Others in the YOUmedia center played games and did homework online. One girl tapped out an impromptu tune on electric keyboard. Friends sat laughing and chatting around tables.
The center is the place to be on Tuesdays, a place to try out and discuss the finer arts of video gaming.
At a table in the large, colorful room in downtown Chicago, five teenage boys sit at a table strewn with laptops, a comic book and video games. They study HTML computing coding on a Tumblr page, share videos on YouTube and spontaneously begin shooting their own movie with a small flip camera.
Much like the rest of the 40 or so teens in this room, they are noisy, friendly and full of ideas.
And here, at their weekly meeting at the library's YOUmedia space, noisy is A-okay.
Taylor Bayless — a young woman with a masters in library and information services, vibrant red hair and dinosaur earrings — leads this Library of Games group.
“We’re starting to move away from the idea that libraries are just about books,” she said.
Through the meeting, she worked to focus the teens’ energy, reminding them, “We’re all supposed to be working on things now, guys.”
They planned video game reviews the teens are individually producing for the group blog, populated with podcasts and written articles by Library of Games members.
High school senior Nikkei Ferron, 17, discusses his review of "Perfect World International," a massive, multiplayer online game — one that is played by people around the world in real time on a shared online network.
Ferron decided to also write an article that examines the unspoken social code of interacting in a digital space.
He explained to the group that he wanted to review the game because he really liked the character customization options it offers.
Ferron travels over an hour from his home to join the group every Tuesday. His school, Chicago Virtual Charter School doesn't offer extracurricular and only meets in a “brick and mortar” building once a week.
“It’s nice to actually get out,” he said.
For a teen, it’s rare that getting out means going to a library but, in YOUmedia, librarians are working to redefine what a library is all about.
Before YOUMedia and the Library of Games, group members Kaillif Ammen and Stanley Ng both said they thought of libraries as quiet places full of old people and books.
Now Tuesdays at the library with friends - discussing games and how copyright laws pertains to YouTube - means buzz, chatter, music and laughter.
The program and adults such as Bayless are redefining libraries to include all types of media, including video games.
For Ammen, a 15-year-old sophomore at Jones College Prep in downtown Chicago, playing a new video game he’s planning to review is a bit of an issue. He’s grounded. And when he’s grounded, he said, video game are the first thing to go.
When he’s not grounded and not in school, he can play games up to 10 hours a day, he added. Ammen spent most of the meeting, and stayed with Bayless after the others left to work on improving the group’s blog. He played with the page's HTML using a resource called Hackasaurus, which allows users to see on their own screen how manipulating a website's coding affects the page without actually changing it permanently or for any other user.
He said he would love to focus on learning skills such as these at school. Even though he’s grounded, he’s allowed to come to the Library of Games because it’s an educational environment.
Bayless said she’s seen an improvement in his schoolwork since he started writing and producing for the group website.
Ng, a 16-year-old who also attends Jones College Prep, said he has also gains a lot from coming to the library every week to “express my ideas and my opinions about something I feel really strongly about.” He likes to produce podcasts for the group.
“Before the podcast, I was usually a very shy person. But, since the podcast and since I’ve become host, I’ve been a lot more active in talking to people,” he said.
In addition to improving writing and technical skills, playing and analyzing video games teaches teens critical thinking skills.
Games “require a player to think critically and problem solve in ways that they don’t get from reading a book,” Bayless said.
“The thing that surprised me is that teenagers won’t just play any video game. They really respect well-made, well-constructed game,” she said.
The teens discussed their favorite types of games and poked some fun at a yet-to-be-released game called “Beastly.” The game will be reviewed on the group’s website in coming weeks.
One teen explained, “It's a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast” and they all broke into laughter.
While demand to join the group has at times been more than the library can accommodate, Bayless said any teen who is interested in talking video games is welcome to come.