From prehistory to modern times, gaming has been a family pastime. We have all read stories about the first Olympics, the canoe races of primitive tribes, and bocce ball competitions in ancient Rome. Families have competed in Mancala, chess, Xiang Qui (Chinese Checkers), and Mah-jongg, to name just a few games. And today, board games, card games, and games of strategy are still engaging families. However, these traditions now include competitions that never would have been imagined by our ancestors.
The Lake Wales Public Library in Florida joins hundreds of libraries across the nation in incorporating family gaming activities into their programming. Like other libraries, Lake Wales’s budget constrictions limit the funds available to provide these activities. How can these financial limitations be overcome to implement programs? By being creative!
Library programs are successful when they are regularly attended by families. Lake Wales Public Library has created a strong core program of gaming events by scheduling them weekly or monthly. Chess for Kids was the library’s first attempt at family gaming and has continued each Tuesday after school and each Saturday morning for over a decade. The recruitment of a volunteer chess coach laid the groundwork for this program. It was not difficult in our community to find a person with a passion for the game and for teaching it to families.
Chess enthusiasts can be recruited in almost any community. Supplies to begin a chess program in your library can be acquired as easily as placing a sign at your circulation desk requesting new or used boards and game pieces. More costly competition chess sets are not necessary to begin a small program. With a donation of one or two chess sets, or an investment of less than $20, and a willing volunteer, a family chess program is off the ground. Set up a chess board and they will come. Information on developing chess programs can be found at the official Web site of the United States Chess Federation (uschess.org).
Board games are an inexpensive and easy way to begin a family gaming program. Publicizing your library’s desire to provide family gaming events and requesting donations of board games may result in a great response. Family game nights are a fun way to bring kids of all ages together, providing a fun, safe after-hour’s event. Extend invitations to scout troops, churches, schools, and organizations that promote family activities. Games such as Pictionary, Cranium, Wits & Wagers, and Apples to Apples are great for family play.
Consider a theme for these events. Get creative with a Retro-Game Night. Participants can compete in classic board games such as Candy Land, Sorry!, Clue, Uno, Battleship, The Game of Life, Scrabble, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Connect Four. Joining the American Library Association’s (ALA) National Gaming Day (ngd.ala.org) is a great way to receive free games for your library. In 2009, our library was given six different games, including MarioKart Wii and chess, just for hosting a gaming day at the library. Our patrons had a lot of fun and it was a great experience to be a part a nationwide event. November 13, 2010 is the next National Gaming Day.
Gaming creates a sense of community among players. What better way to expand on this theme in a cost effective way than to super-size your family gaming events? With a little creativity and a few sheets of poster board, many popular board games can be super-sized. Playing life-size chess is as easy as utilizing poster board to create a chessboard in a 12’ x 12’ or larger space. Printing or drawing each chess piece on black or white construction paper or poster board creates the game pieces. Punch two holes in the upper edge of each sheet, tie a long string between the holes, and you have a chess piece that can be hung from a player’s neck. Players take their places on the board and the game begins. This is also a great way to teach the game of chess. Literally stepping through a game can be an eye-opening experience for new players. A master player who chooses the moves can run the life-size chess tournament, resulting in a great family gaming event. With a little planning and a few supplies, life-size games can be created from such classics as Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, and even Battleship. (source www.schoollibraryjournal.com / visit www.cityoflakewales.com/library for more info)
The first version of the Game of Life was titled The Checkered Game of Life and released by Milton Bradley in 1861. Another popular board game maker was Parker Brothers, which makes the famous Monopoly game which was released during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.