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Could Gaming get Millennials Interested in Genealogy?

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Not long ago, genealogy was considered to be a hobby for people who were senior citizens. Things changed a bit after some genealogy related TV shows popularized a hobby that involved detailed research and hours of searching. Middle aged people began wondering about their family history. The younger generation, however, isn’t so keen on genealogy.

The Millennials are people who were born between 1982 and 2002. This generation has been connected to technology since they were babies. They are good at multitasking, frequently over scheduled, and have completely different motivations than did previous generations. Members of this generation could easily be more concerned with student loan debt than with whatever their ancestors may have been up to.

What can be done to help Millennials become more interested in genealogy? According to D. Joshua Taylor, the answer will be found in gaming. He doesn’t mean the simple games that have been played by children for generations. Instead, he is talking about video games.

D. Joshua Taylor is the president of the Federation for Genealogical Societies. He is also the data strategy manager for He says there are certain things that genealogy has in common with the video games that many Millennials enjoy. Both offer a way to escape to “another world”. Both are more interesting when there is plenty of community involvement. Both allow for networking through various websites, social media, and conferences.

To be clear, D. Joshua Taylor isn’t in the process of building a genealogy game for the younger generation. Instead, he is pointing out key items that such a game should include or make use of. For example, he suggests that a video game could be adapted to help young people record “living memory”.

In other words, he wants an interesting and fun game that would collect up the things that a young person posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other forms of social media. The idea is that those individual posts could be lost to history unless something is done to preserve them. I think he is looking for a video game that would incorporate something like Storify.

Perhaps the key to getting this younger generation interested in genealogy is via video games that touch on some basic concepts that genealogists also focus on. Right now, the video game that D. Joshua Taylor wants to see does not exist. Maybe one of the Millennials will create it! Until then, there are some simple genealogy based games to try.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has three simple video games that teach players about DNA. One involves DNA sequencing. Another one lets players construct RNA. A third teaches how a ribosome functions.

Family Village is a Facebook game created by Funium. Players build up a village that is populated with their relatives and ancestors. The game incorporates a small amount of genealogy research in a fun way and encourages players to find out more about their family tree.

Image by Eric Holsinger on Flickr.

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