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International Games Day brings family fun to local libraries, gaming museum

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - IMOGAP's Carol Mathewson goes over shelves of new and historical board games.What are you doing this Saturday?

How about a game — a card game, a board game, a role-playing game, a video game, or perhaps making your own game — at your local library?

Libraries throughout the country are marking International Games Day @ your library, an American Library Association campaign to bring people together as games have done all across the world for ages. This year, many of the Westside’s public libraries are participating.

“This will be the first time that we’re doing this,” said Heather Waisanen, a librarian at the Garden Home Community Library. “Since it’s our first time, we’re going to do it nice and easy, and have people come and just play games ... for as long as they’d like.”

Garden Home and other libraries will have board games on hand for people to come in and play. They’re also welcoming people who want to bring their own games to set up and teach other patrons, or just play with their friends or families.

The Sherwood Public Library is expanding its International Games Day event this year after reporting a “modest” turnout last year, when it celebrated International Games Day for the first time.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Local game designer Bryan Koch opens up his new game, Ninja Squares.“Last year, we had the board games, and that was the biggest piece last year,” said library director Adrienne Doman Calkins. “This year, it’s new for us to have Giant Candy Land and the Wii U ‘Super Smash Bros.’ tournament.”

Sherwood is providing another new station this year where people can make their own games.

That’s a specialty of West Slope Community Library, which had more than 100 people turn up last year for International Games Day and is hoping to keep the momentum going on Saturday. Librarian PJ Bentley said the library is teaming up this year with Game Lab Oregon, which describes itself as “a group of game designers and enthusiasts” that play-tests games under development.

“They’ll actually be sending out professional game designers,” Bentley said, adding that the library will provide materials and the game designers will help people from 3 years old and up get started making their own games to play and take home. Because of the event’s popularity last year, the event will be held at the adjacent Raleigh Park Elementary School.

West Slope also holds regular game days, encouraging teens and families to get together and play together at the library.

“A day just for playing games is fun, but we already do that,” Bentley said. “And so we sort of take International Games Day as an opportunity to do something special ... something that’s just more engaging and designed to be a learning experience for kids, and for adults.”

Of course, West Slope will also have plenty of ready-made games on hand to play, too. Bentley said the library has even cultivated relationships with game studios to the point that some will send copies of new games to the library for patrons to play or even check out and take home.

“By the end of this International Games Day, we’ll have over 100 games in our collection to check out,” he said.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sean Moore plays a game of Europareise at IMOGAP in Beaverton.International Games Day is not limited to libraries, either.

The Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery, or IMOGAP, is also hosting an all-day open gaming event to showcase board games from all over the world. The Beaverton museum, which is nestled in a business park off Southwest Hall Boulevard near Washington Square, will even provide free refreshments.

Carol Mathewson, who co-operates IMOGAP with her husband Kyle Engen, said playing board games has become an activity for kids and adults alike.

“It used to be that you outgrew them,” she said. But “anymore, you don’t have to outgrow them.”

Bentley credits this shift for the rising popularity of International Games Day at his library. West Slope has been participating in International Games Day since 2011, he said, but the event has really taken off in the past two years or so.

“It’s grown a lot over the last few years as board games have gained kind of more mainstream popularity among families, and more adults are playing (them) on their own,” he remarked.

If you want to try your hand at making your own game, whether at Sherwood, West Slope, another library or one of the vibrant game stores that dot the Portland area, amateur game designer Bryan Koch has some advice.

“If you play a lot of games, then you get different ideas (for) different things,” he said, trying to explain how he comes up with the mechanics for his own games, such as Song-Froggy, which is for sale at IMOGAP and elsewhere.

He added, “Player interaction is important to me, at least, so you’re not just two people playing solitaire next to each other.”

After all, the point of the International Games Day campaign is to connect people with one another. So take a spin, roll the dice, pick a card — who knows how much fun you might end up having?

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