Library offers online teen gaming group
By Taylor Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – Grab a keyboard and a controller because the Portage County Public Library is offering a new online gaming group for teens.
The “Teen Online Gaming Group” started in November to help youth in various library groups stay connected during COVID-19, but the group is quickly gaining traction as teens around the county are looking for new ways to stay engaged this winter.
Library Associates Lisa Pett and Deb Roloff spearheaded the group. Pett runs the Dungeons & Dragons youth group and Roloff works in Youth Services. The duo wanted to find a way for kids to connect and have fun safely.
“With COVID preventing face-to-face interaction, we wanted to bring like-minded individuals together, combining their interests in reading and gaming, to interact and socialize,” Pett said. “Using Zoom and a variety of online gaming platforms, we are able to provide that in a fun and safe platform.”
The group started by weekly on Thursdays, playing the popular game “Among Us.”
“Our teens tell us that when you play with friends, it is more fun to discuss, hear and see the people you are playing with, and know that you won’t have the unknown players jumping in and out of games randomly,” Roloff explained. “All of which makes the experience more fun.”
While the games offer a social alternative to gathering in person, setting up the games, Zoom conferences, and other communication apps offer the kids far more than gaming skills, according to Pett and Roloff.
“Today’s teens are learning how to communicate online through Zoom and Discord, but this is a more relaxed and social setting than a school meeting,” Pett said. “We emphasize appropriate online interactions and conduct, and it’s a safe space, really, for kids to have fun. Our goal is to enforce the idea that the library is here for everyone, it can be remembered fondly as a place that provided new and different opportunities, fun social interactions, and hopefully a positive influence in each of their lives.”
Psychological journals and publications, such as “Psychology Today,” have praised video games for their ability to help children develop cognition, creativity, and social skills. Pett and Roloff see the group as a way for new gamers to dip their toes into the “digital waters” and for seasoned players to find new friends.
Pett is looking at expanding into other games.
“In the future, we will be trying other online games such as Jack Box Games, or tabletop games available on various sites,” Pett said. “Currently, the teens have requested to play Among Us each week but have also expressed an interest in testing other games as well.”
The Teen Online Gaming Group meets every Thursday, 4-5:30 p.m. and is available for grades 6-12. For more information or to register, contact the Youth Services department at 715-346-1549.