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Photo Courtesy of the Visual Production Center Game Nite attendees look on as Western students Ashlee Miller (left, foreground) and Tom Pinkous (right, foreground) engage in a game of Wii bowling at Game Nite, held Sept. 3 at WIU's Leslie F. Malpass Library
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First Game Nite of Semester Kicks Off at Malpass Library

September 5, 2008


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MACOMB, IL - - Ashlee Miller, a Western Illinois University freshman communication sciences and disorders major from Springfield, OH, was able to pick up more than a few spares in the WIU Leslie F. Malpass Library Wednesday night. Surrounded by her friends and the unmistakable sound of crashing bowling pins, Miller noted it is rare to be able to "bowl" near the periodicals.

"I think it's a unique thing. A lot of other colleges don't let you come out and play with a Wii in the middle of the library," she said, just after missing a spare due to a difficult split.

More than 50 people -- from the Macomb community as well as Western students, faculty and even a few alumni -- turned up on the library's third floor Wednesday night to attend another round of Game Nite, an ongoing event the members of the Malpass Library staff have been organizing since Fall 2007.

"We had more than 50 people attend one night over the summer, and we're hoping to regularly exceed that now the school year has started," said Jeffrey Darensbourg, marketing and outreach librarian for University Libraries. "One of the best things about it is it brings together campus and community. Last time, we actually had a couple of retirees attend, and they played Wii tennis."

Darensbourg noted that a big part of Game Nite at Malpass is to provide a reason for people to come into the library and help them get acclimated, particularly if an individual or group of individuals are new to Western.

"We're always looking for ways to bring more people into the library, to show them this is a welcoming, fun place," Darensbourg added.

After composing and snapping a digital shot of Game Nite attendees enjoying a round of Wii bowling, Phyllis Self, dean of WIU's University Libraries, agreed with Darensbourg's assessment. She also noted, besides providing fun and a welcoming environment, other reasons Western's library staff members spend staff time and resources on organizing and running Game Nites at Malpass are attributable to the educational and community benefits of gaming and gaming activities.

"One reason to do this is the whole issue of gaming theory and how it can be educational," Self explained. "The other is that we're trying to make the library a community center, something for the entire University as well as for the community."

More and more libraries -- academic and public -- are getting into gaming, as gaming theory and its correlation to learning make further inroads into the education realm.

In 2006, the MacArthur Foundation launched a five-year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative "to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. Answers are critical to developing educational and other social institutions that can meet the needs of this and future generations," states the initiative's website (digitallearning.macfound.org/site/c.enJLKQNlFiG/b.2029199/k.BFC9/Home.htm).

The American Library Association has also established an annual "Gaming, Learning and Libraries Symposium" (gaming.techsource.ala.org/index.php/Main_Page), which will have its second incarnation this November near Chicago.

When asked about the gaming in library naysayers, Self admitted, at first, she even raised an eyebrow to the whole idea of gaming in the library.

"I think there are a lot who still question it. I even had questions in my own mind when we first started to talk about gaming. But then I thought about gaming theory and how students learn--those areas need to be explored," Self said. "Some educators, well, we have taken how we were taught and applied it to our students today. But these students grew up with the technology and learned to work in groups. I didn't learn to work in groups when I was in school--that was foreign to me."

Sean Cordes, instructional services librarian at Malpass, noted too that gaming activities -- both board games (which are also part of the Malpass Library's Game Nite events) and electronic games -- in the library not only reveal that students and younger individuals are engaged in a social learning activity, but the Game Nite events also demonstrate how people of all ages can teach each other.

"One of the things we found is that seniors were teaching the students how to play board games, and the students were teaching seniors how to play the Wii and the [other] electronic games. So it brings a cross-generational interaction aspect into the library," Cordes said.

Transfer student and recreation, parks and tourism administration major Tom Pinkous from Sandwich (IL) admitted his reason for showing up at Malpass' Game Nite Wednesday had more to do with fun and socializing than learning.

"I'm a Super Smash Bros. [game] addict," he said just after entering the fifth frame of his Wii bowling game with Miller. "I hope we can break it out tonight."

A couple of individuals playing tennis near Pinkous seemed to be in step with his hankering for Super Smash Bros., as they nodded their heads at the mention of these high-action electronic games that feature the Mario Brothers characters (of Donkey Kong fame).

"I also hope they do this more often," Pinkous added.

Pinkous will get his wish, as Malpass Library plans to host three more Game Nites this semester, from 7-10 p.m. on Thursdays, Oct. 2, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4.

For more information about Game Nites, contact Andrea Falcone at A-Falcone@wiu.edu. Visit Western Illinois University Libraries at wiu.edu/library/.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations