Getting children in the Internet age to rush to the library during spring break might seem like a mission impossible, but that’s just what San Francisco kids are doing thanks to an innovative partnership between the city’s public library and Nintendo.
With the increasing importance of digital skills like programming and coding, educators, employers and others are exploring new ways to teach today’s children these and other essential technologies. Enter San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and Nintendo. The progressive Northern California city and the Japan-based video game giant are answering the nationwide call for digital learning for all children by teaming up for an event teaching youngsters the basics of video game design.
At a Wednesday evening event at The Mix at SFPL, participants, including parents, attended workshops hosted by Nintendo game designers in which they learned the basics of video game level design. As a teaching tool, Nintendo chose the Wii U game Super Mario Maker, which lets players create their own Super Mario worlds and share them with others online. Super Mario is the world’s best-selling video game franchise of all time, with some 528 million games sold since the intrepid Italian first appeared in Donkey Kong some 35 years ago.
Children were encouraged to work together to design their own game levels, with creative results Super Mario Maker owners can download on their Wii by entering the code E02B-0000-020F-B9DA in the game’s Course World. The many children on hand were having so much fun that it was hard to tell that they were actually learning valuable tech skills. That, said Nintendo of America executive vice president Scott Moffitt, is exactly the idea.
“Showing kids that video games are not just fun to play, but also fun to design, is very important to Nintendo,” Moffitt said in a press release. “Our event… taught children creativity, collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking.”
“Technology is letting librarians engage with kids in new ways. At the San Francisco Public Library, a child might pick up a book, code on a laptop or sit down at a gaming console with a friend,” added SFPL Youth Centers manager Megan Anderson. “Games like Super Mario Maker allow kids to take control of storytelling elements and game design and encourage them on the path from consumers to creators. The library is here to create those opportunities for all kids across the economic and technological divide.”
The divide is stark in San Francisco, as it is throughout much of the United States. According to a 2014 report by the city’s Human Services Agency, income inequality in the City by the Bay is on par with developing nations like Guatemala and Rwanda, with more than 1 in 7 city residents living in poverty while the median household income topped $78,000, among the highest in the nation. Despite the city’s incredible wealth and the region’s role as the global capital of technological innovation, nearly 1 in 8 residents lack Internet access and according to the city’s Department of Technology, fully half of low-income households have no online access.