Our children have too much unstructured time. Families have limited resources to connect to meaningful activities. And what outlets do kids who are not athletes, musically inclined or aloof have?
As a youth, I spent many days hanging out at the video game arcade. I only developed proficiency at foosball but enjoyed the sights, sounds and watching others compete and bring those machines to their electronic knees. But now, all of the technology that amazed me then exists in the current generation home console units.
It is time to bring back the neighborhood arcades, version 2010.3. Storefronts and mini-malls remain vacant in these troubled areas and could be quickly modified into a technological drop-in community center. Donations from video game and computer industry corporations would provide hardware, software, consultation and technical assistance needed for start-up. Once locations have been set-up and established, the community impact would be immediate and resonant:
- Area residents hired and trained to manage sites, provide guidance in using the equipment, monitor activity in and around the facilities, etc.
- After-school, weekend and school holiday access for families,
- Multipurpose use for school-sponsored field activities, structured mentoring and tutoring areas, kiosks for product demonstrations, appearances by industry professionals and game celebrities, corporate-sponsored healthy eating café, gross motor activity sections,
- Corporate-sponsored areas with featured hardware and software, opportunities for training, certification and continuing education geared toward video game industry, and
- Support for learning styles and intellectual strengths.
Once established, these educational and entertainment centers can provide needed family and community supports. Students and parents could earn credits through scholarship, stewardship and volunteer efforts; local law enforcement personnel can include the centers as part of their patrol routes and possible off-duty work; legislators and community leaders can show evidence of working and flourishing community-corporate partnerships and educators can encourage game developers to include learning standards in game design.
These are a few benefits of the video game industry directly investing in communities for immediate results. While this will not solve all community ills, it would be a start. And I do not believe we will see news reports of shootings by children with a gun in one hand and a game controller in the other.