By Harold Goldberg
Last week at the Mott Hall III middle school across from Crotona Park in the Bronx, the New York Videogame Critics Circle taught its first class of our Games Writing and Journalism course. Whitney Meers, Isaac Espinosa and I were thrilled to see a full class of 12 smart, enthusiastic middle school students, all of whom already knew a fair amount of game history.
That’s partly due to the work of educator Ryan O’Callaghan, who’s prepped these young people with stories of gaming’s past and its present. Students seemed to already know my narrative history book, “All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture).” They also had read the investigative work of former Circle member Jason Schreier, especially his coverage of the terrible work-long-hours crunch situation at many game companies.
I was sick with that cold everyone seems right now to have as I entered the class. But as soon as the kids began discussing games in an animated way, the adrenaline kicked in and the 90 minutes passed like one minute of time. There was an important word I noticed on the room’s wall: UNAFRAID. We were all unafraid that day.
There was such a positive response by the school’s students to this class that Ryan had them submit work prior to our event. The most enthusiastic folks who would do the work were chosen. And there is a fair amount of work. Participation counts. Writing during class counts. And after students write a game review, a poem and a game narrative during the semester, our Critics Circle judges will choose the best three writers, who will receive scholarships when they go to college. We’ll donate a Nintendo Switch to the class as well; we always end each session with a games competition. That’s done without any trash talking about winning and losing. We believe every student’s already a winner – just for playing and for taking our course.
Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the president of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.