Computer game competitions proving to be popular with teens

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

— Fun: Building an impregnable fortress without the limitations of gravity or pesky expensive building materials.

More fun: Designing your fort in a room full of peers who can brainstorm, inspire and occasionally impede your construction.

A happy, chatty group of teens spent Saturday afternoon in the computer lab at Hedberg Public Library playing Minecraft. The game, which has been available for play for a little more than three years, is a video game in which players create buildings, explore a computer-generated world and defend themselves from enemies.

Many teens can and do play the game at home, but they like it more when they can play with others, they said.

“It’s a lot more fun when you can see the person you’re playing with,” said Sam Hoffland of Janesville. He is a sixth-grade student at Monroe School District’s virtual school.

The popularity of the event supports Hoffland’s opinion. Every time it is offered, spots fill up quickly, said Laurie Bartz, a librarian who does young adult programming at Hedberg. Bartz brought the program to the library. On Saturday, she was on hand to answer questions and be appropriately impressed when participants occasionally called her over to see something cool they had built.

Fifteen teens were playing, including three girls. Most are in middle school, but a couple are high school students.

They were working in “creative mode.” They designed forts using an unlimited supply of building materials. Some worked in pairs. Some worked individually. One group of four worked together.

In three weeks, participants will test out their forts in a survival competition as enemies and virtual monsters attack them.

“A good analogy is that in creative mode, it’s like playing with Legos,” said Seth Meyers, 16, of Janesville. “In survival mode, it’s still like Legos, but you have to build the Legos as you want to use them.”

They built trapdoors leading to creepy dungeons, placed treasure chests containing secret traps and designed defensive lava flows on fort walls. They added animals and planted flowers and pumpkins in green spaces. They constructed libraries within their forts.

One fort had TARDIS, the 1960s-era phone booth that functions as a time machine in the television program “Doctor Who.”

The same fort had a rooftop fire pit designed for sharing s’mores with one’s enemies.

Not poisoned s’mores. Just s’mores, Meyers said when asked.

“They’re a good way to solve problems,” Meyers said. “Who doesn’t like s’mores?”

Upcoming events

- Teen Advisory Board meetings are open to any teen interested in participating. The meetings take place one Saturday a month from noon to 1 p.m. No registration is necessary, although you should call by the previous Friday if you want pizza for lunch. To learn more, call 608-758-6585 or visit the children’s desk at the library.

- Ongoing is the first teen winter reading program. The program concludes with a teen techno bash from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 2. The bash is then the kickoff for Teen Tech Week. To register, call 608-758-6585 or visit the children’s desk at the library.

Last updated: 8:14 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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