Video games and camp generally do not mix... BUT...
Here's a shot from one of my all-time favorite camp movies, "Wet Hot American Summer" (which is completely inappropriate for campers or people who are easily offended). The joke is that the kids are taking a hike, although they are preoccupied with state of the art (ha!) gaming machines.
Up until the last couple of years, hand held gaming was not a huge issue at camps. This had to do with both the devices and the nature of camp. Every place that I visited had a fairly strict policy against all electronics - Gameboys being no exception. Of course, the Gameboy was not a social device (no matter what way you cut it). From Tetris to Pokemon, the Gameboy and it's younger brother, the GBA, were single service and therefore incredibly easy to ban. In addition, there were at least half a dozen of them somewhere in the bottom of the pond...
Times are changing. The Nintendo DS and the PSP are both wireless. This equates to camp gold - a large gathering of like kids outside of the school setting who I can play against. The logic is not just "camp is boring so I'm going to plug in"... instead campers are thinking about networking, sharing and essentially socializing.
Of course, the responsible adults that run camps (me included), still enforce the archaic ban without hesitation. YOU DON'T COME TO CAMP TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES!!!
...you do come to camp to interact with new people... to break the ice and participate... to do things that you've never done before.
What are positive camp memories? I learned a ton of great card games at camp... and I remember them all because it was as much a social phenomenon as a programming one. In fact, at my camp card-playing was outlawed... perhaps that's why it stuck so long?
Sometimes *banning* something that is popular is not the best solution. If kids are going to bring their iPods and DS's and PSPs to camp despite our best wishes, we need to find a solution that's fair to everyone. Instead of just assuming that technology is negative, we should evaluate the potential of using technology in specialty areas.
The Seatle Mariners (half owned by Nintendo) have downloadable content (such as stats and replays) as well as the ability to order from your seat using the DS. That's incredible! Can we repurpose the same program for problem solving initiatives? Perhaps the days schedule will automatically upload to your DS every morning. Maybe we can include some slideshows for parents?
The possibilities are endless. REALLY.
Welcome to Camp 2.0 - it's a new world; about time we caught up.