It was a well intentioned but underpublicized and marketed event, National Gaming day, 2011. Chances are if you are reading this it may be the first you have heard of the idea, which took place on Saturday, November 12. The concept is simple and effective…pick a day as a way to united family and community in a central location…the library…and use games as the rallying point for all in the group. After all, kids today are more and more about gaming, parents still have an affinity for board games, and libraries are one of the places in almost any community where endless resources for education exist for people of all ages at little to no cost. The event was promoted by the American Library Association as a community and awareness building initiative. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that libraries, like most education-based organizations in the U.S., are critically underfunded these days, so getting the word out or spending time being innovative is not a huge option. So the day came and went with not as much fan-fare as what could be. So here are some thoughts on how to expand, market and make National Gaming Day a bigger success going forward.
1- Make it about not just board games, but gaming in general. Board games are great family events, but in this day and age in order to connect with multiple generations “gaming” means interactive, it means mobile, and it means digital. Presenting new concepts of traditional games and connecting all online where families can play with other members not just in one library but in libraries across the country would be a huge promotion, one that a gaming company could underwrite. It would be a shared experience just like sitting around the table, but to a much larger audience.
2- Make it about education and strategy as well. There is a growing push to use Mind Sports…checkers, chess, bridge, poker, even scrabble, backgammon etc…as a way to promote strategy, and thinking as well as combating diseases ranging from ADD to Alzheimers. Include not just playing games but teaching these games to families and groups as part of the day. Maybe even a national tournament or competition tied to the day would be another hook.
3- Welcome, don’t shun the video game crowd. From Facebook to Zyenga, the casual game brands with huge dollars are looking for ways to expand into education and traditional groups who may not play or understand what gaming is. Use National Gaming Day with the libraries as a hook to work with these deep pocketed companies to co-promote educational and community platforms through gaming, that expand the library beyond its physical boundries. Video games in some ways may be considered “mindless fun but the educational value of gaming is growing with each passing day, and uniting these two communities would make great sense.
4- Use the day as a platform for innovation. Many groups feel gaming alienates kids from normal conversation and traditional interraction, so use the day as a way for parents and kids to come together on a common ground. Use the games, traditional and digital, as a platform to spur conversation by showing families how gaming of all kinds can be a rallying or conversation point,a and how these games and companies are creating innovative concepts and platforms for industries of all kinds.
5- Make it not just about the physical, but about the virtual. The library building is the center of the community on many fronts. However finding one day or time to get families to a location during the day is tough. Therefore by using the virtual and digital worlds as a pass-thru to pull people together makes great sense. Maybe the physical library becomes the central hub where all members have to go to for information or to participate in an activity throughout the course of the month, and culminates with another activity where the family unites in the home on another night. Gaming is all about the shared activity more than the place, so making it convenient and fluid can help expand involvement.
In short, the idea of National Gaming Day is a great one, and has the potential to reunite families around a common simple purpose…playing games for fun and thought. It also has a huge upside in revenue for libraries and education if promoted with gaming companies and brands looking to engage new and diverse groups. It can also serve as a bridge builder across generations, breaking down the stereotypes of board games as boring and video games as mindless. All in all a smart idea that has huge potential to grow in the future, just like the digital world.