By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
While the Dover Library has always been a place where kids gathered for fun events, with COVID-19 severely limiting the number of people you can have indoors at any time, many of the library’s programs and gatherings have had to go virtual. From virtual Pictionary, haunted houses and escape rooms to an online teen advisory board meeting, the library has remained active in seeking to bring Dover kids together, even if that means bringing them together over the internet. Looking to replicate the success of one of their more successful virtual events from a few months ago, on Saturday afternoon, the library held a Mario Kart tournament for kids and teens aged 10-17.
As librarian Angie Howes explained, “We actually held a Mario Kart tournament back in May, and it was so much fun, we thought we’d bring it back as a feature during International Games Week. Mario Kart is one of those games that attracts participants of all ages, and never goes out of style. One of our goals as a public library is to offer fun and engaging virtual programming during COVID times, and who doesn’t love to sit around and play video games with friends on a chilly Saturday afternoon?”
One of the interesting things about the tournament is that while they could not play face-to-face, those who wanted could take place in a Zoom discussion while playing. This both made the tournament more interesting and allowed for the competitors to stave off a little bit of the loneliness that has come with the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic.
“Both tournaments that we’ve held have incorporated the Zoom aspect, because it is so much more fun to be able to see the people you’re playing against, engage in a little friendly competitive banter, and feel like you’re a part of something. A lot of us are experiencing loneliness and isolation during this pandemic, but the live Zoom reactions made it feel like we were really sharing in the experience together.”
In the world of video games, there are certain teams, characters or techniques that have developed dubious reputations for their over-the-top effectiveness. As great an athlete as Bo Jackson was, he was never as absurdly good as he was in “Tecmo Bowl.” Prime Mike Vick in the early 2000’s mean that most “Madden” matchups were between the Atlanta Falcons in red jerseys and the Atlanta Falcons in a black jersey. The grenade launcher in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” was christened the “noob tube” because of how quickly it turned new players into seasoned killers, and the Teutons were so overpowering in “Age of Empires” that PC gamers who didn’t major in World History couldn’t understand how we’re not all currently speaking Teutonic. But according to Howes, “Mario Kart” is far more balanced, so the best players tend to be, well, the best players.
“Every character in Mario Kart comes with its strengths and weaknesses, so whether you’re a winner or a loser really comes down to individual playing style. Those who had the most success tended to be well versed in the game, and their prior experience helped them to predict which shortcut to take, which direction to turn next, and how to press the button at just the right time to give their driver a little extra boost at the start. Of course, it also can come down to luck, and getting that handy red shell at exactly the right moment.”
Overall, the tournament went well enough that some kids were calling for another one. With COVID cases once again rising, it looks like that’s something that could happen again. There were four months between the first and second tournaments, so there may be some time to get in some more practice.
“The tournament went very well. The kids all had a really great time racing each other and trying to beat the librarian. It can be dicey playing games with kids, who might not have learned what it means to win or lose with humbleness and grace, but all of our participants remained cheerful and just grateful to be playing. We had five players participating for the full hour, and they were able to complete multiple tournaments. We didn’t use elimination, because we didn’t want anyone sitting out while the rest of the players continued having fun. At the end of the hour, all participants expressed an interest in joining more Mario Kart tournaments in the future, which is always an encouraging sign that we are on the right track (pun intended).”