Community Spaces and Game Places

INTO THE COMMUNITY

Welcome back to another session of Mind Meets Game! After reaching out to the gaming community, tapping into online communities, and navigating communities of practice issues, I became blatantly aware at how often the term “community” appears as an essential function of life in its multiple iterations. So today, we are going to talk about…yes… communities!  

All Alone in a Crowd…

During the day, I navigate an academic community, work community, friend community, and a myriad of online communities that overlap all of these rather these. Then at night, many times I find myself entwined in communities of avatars running about fantastic gaming worlds…yes, while still maintaining my role in all of the previously mentioned communities. I half wonder if I over socialize…then it hit me just how alone one can be in a totally digital social environment. The other night I noticed how only the soft blue light from a paused game screen was the only thing that separated me from absolute darkness. Even though I had all of these communities at my fingertips, there was really no one there with me at that moment where it all went quite and the shadows encroached on all sides. I half expected to hear a Hank Williams song seep through the thick air, and if any human could ever capture a sad, lonely tune, it’s Hank. I only share this personal moment in time because I think many of us are wired into technology driven communities only to realize a deficit of actual physical community. Those of us who recall the arcade days realize what it meant to bring games and humans physically together into a community. This is not to say that online communities are substandard at all, but there is a different dynamic when actual people gather to play games. Back in the day, there was just something about putting your quarter up on a pinball machine to mark your turn or rushing to a friend in need by dropping a quarter into a Galaga machine just in time. That was then, but can physical communities still get involved in video games? Then, this happened…

The Purge is real…

This relates to an incident from this summer. I enjoy evening runs around my local campus, and I use the term run liberally as my version of the activity often more resembles a brisk jog, power walk, or even a long-stride gimp at times. Most nights are dead quite during the summer, but as I entered the quad around 11:30 on this fateful night I saw roving mobs whooping and hollering. Groups of three to ten or more furiously traversed the terrain. Save for fire and flying bullets (which could have still happened), I thought “Oh my God, The Purge is real and it is on tonight and I gotta get home and lock the hell down.” Then, out of no where what must have been a 225 lb. dude that slightly reminded me of an unpainted Kratos rolled up with his crew. Still in purge mindset, I thought “holy shit, I’m being purged right here, right now.” What came next blew my mind. He excitedly asked, “Have you seen Squirtle?” I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as I tried to scoop my chin from the sidewalk. Here was this group of beserker-looking dudes voraciously hunting for a cute, blue turtle. It was that night that I discovered Pokemon-Go was born. Over time the new wore off a little and my nightly runs are not quite as insane anymore. Still, whatever anyone will say good or bad about the game, it physically brought people together from all imaginable demographics. I learned two things that night…physical communities of gamers are still very possible if there is a common endeavor and also, if you are a digital Pokemon, you better haul ass because your days of freedom are numbered, my friend. 

Community in a Common Space

Moving foreword, I wonder if we can look to our local community centers to further facilitate video game use in similar way to Pokemon Go? Certainly, Pokemon has a greater marketing budget than most of our local centers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that gamers can’t gather around a common cause for good, productive means. Maybe part of the problem is our view of community centers.  When we think of these place, intermural sports, dance class, aerobics, and various types of art programs come to mind. Each of these activities should be part of community center activities, but I think video games can have an identity there as well. Understandably, it’s often hit and miss with video games because of budgets, space, and center goals sometimes do not align well. Within these considerations, we should explore how to better optimize games at such locations and how each of us can add something to the community in this way. And that’s a big part of the puzzle…how do we get involved? If only a few people like the Squirtle hunting madman put the same enthusiasm towards games in such spaces as community centers, what sorts of possibilities might present themselves? We’ll get to that next week and also… 

NEXT EPISODE: Inside a Community Center with Tim Stubbs…

To get some answers we sought out Tim Stubbs, the Facility Coordinator for Bowling Green Ohio’s Community Center. As you might imagine, Tim is a busy guy running the center, but he graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the small game area at his facility. Tune in next time as we see what we can learn this interesting interview. Until then, play on!

 

 

 

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