Posted tagged ‘gaming’

Where Are the Gamers?

January 12, 2009

Today I spent a decent amount of time communicating back and forth with another librarian who was looking into purchasing a Wii for their library.  So evidentally I’m now the video game expert for the consortia, which I’m cool with.  But the interesting part of this is while was sending e-mails back and forth one of my co-workers, who just received their MLS, came by and we began discussing games and libraries.

Specifically, she was kind of surprised that gaming wasn’t as wide spread as her coursework, and some of the professional journals, had led her to believe.  The real shock was when she learned that we were reported as being the first Mass. library to hold a game night, and that was just a few months back.  Happily many others quickly followed, but it’s still not exactly the next big thing in libraries that it’s been hyped as being.

So what’s the hold up?  I think it’s that we just don’t have enough librarian gamers.  Most of the successful gaming events I’ve become aware of seem to have one thing in common, someone on staff that feels passionate about bring games into libraries.  Partly it helps to have someone with the technical expertise to set everything up, but more importantly you’ll do a much better job of connecting with your audience if you can relate on their level. 

Hence, library’s need to hire more geeks.

Video Game Archives

December 30, 2008

I’m back to ploting my workshops for the end of January and have been trying to come up with some nice clear examples of ways in which libraries have been able to incorporate video games into their functions.

Now lo and behold, thanks to a friend I have been gifted with links to duel video game archives.  For the US there’s the  University of Michigan Game Archive, and for the UK there’s the National Video Game Archive.  Both are fairly new endeavours, although Michigan already has a reputation thanks to the national gaming in libraries day initiative they pushed forward earlier this year.  Both are wonderful ventures, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more such projects as time goes on.

Books and Games Again

October 6, 2008

The Times (via Linda Braun) has another report of books and video games today, but this time I’m feeling a little more cynical towards it.  The article is split between libraries and schools using games to foster scholarly activities and novelists capitalizing on the interest in gaming to market their books.  The former point is well taken (although I find the arguement that reading instruction manuals will improve literacy a bit dubious, particularly because hard core gamers don’t read them).

The later is true, but the article uses some really poor examples.  There are some great works in both the publishing and the video game world that bridge the two.  This article sticks entirely with the novels, and focuses on one person in particular who is in marketing first and an author second, not a great formula for success.  On the other hand there are people out there like Sean Stewart who came to the form (via Cathy’s Book) after having his feet firmly planted in both worlds first.

And on the other end of the spectrum, the article seems to presuppose that video games have not yet found a way to reach the same level of narrative complexity as books.  And while I agree they could be better, so could the great majority of novels being written today, and there are a huge number of games that have found ways to incorporate truly clever writing (Psychonauts, Sam & Max, Portal), complex narratives (Killer 7, GTA), and fictional worlds with incredible depth (Bioshock, Okami).  There may not be a game yet that has successfully combined all these elements, or at least not without sacrificing the gameplay to accomplish it, but there are plenty that have come close (I’ll actually accept some arguements in favor of Portal and Okami for having succeeded) and I have no doubt we will be there in the very near future.

All Pervasive Part Two

September 17, 2008

Just a follow up to earlier.  I guess I was wrong and gaming in libraries is still news, even if it shouldn’t really be.  I had two interviews on our game night set up today, although one fell through due to scheduling issues.  I don’t think our renovations garnered this much attention.  I can’t really knock the publicity, but I still stand by my earlier thoughts that a library using games should not be news, it’s a core service.

A Good Issue

August 13, 2008

The new American Libraries is out and I’m pleased to report that I read through an entire issue without getting annoyed by anything, and this was the self-congratulatory conference wrap-up issue.  Either I’m mellowing out or they’re actually getting better.

In all honesty there actually are a few decent, albeit brief articles in this one.  Adam Bennington has one on the value of Wikipedia, that actually includes recomended information literacy lessons using the site.  There’s also a nice article by Scott Nicholson the compares gaming and storytelling activities in libraries, which isn’t the most original idea within the gaming community, but is probably novel in the library context.  Even some of the conference write ups were pretty good, particularly the long summary of Ron Reagan’s opening speech.

If you Still Need an Excuse

July 2, 2008

A few more links today on why gaming in libraries is important.

First up is a sizable video (via Librarian In Black) on gaming in libraries that lays out the case of games very very well, and has some nice interviews with people like Jenny Levine and Michael Stephens to boot.

And secondly, the annual report of the Entertainment Merchants Association has just been released, and as reported by GameSpot, for the first time gaming sales have surpassed those of dvds.

101 Uses For A Wii

June 26, 2008

Now that we’ve gotten our grubby little hands on a Wii (along with Rock Band and DDR) a colleague and me have been trying to work out how best to use them.  We sadly do not have the means to set them up on a regular basis, so we are looking at periodic (possibly monthly) programming.  Our pitch was for teen gaming nights but now we’re both thinking that we should open up our target group some more (largely because most of the staff is interested so we’re assuming others outside the library would be as well).

So, I have a few questions and I’m very interesting in what peoples’ opinions are:

1) How do you market an adult gaming night and how different should it be from a teen one?

2) Is it better to treat a gaming event as a competition or are people more interested in just playing for the sake of playing?  Is this different for adults and for teens?

3) Would teens be ok with playing with 1 library staff team?

4) How much time can I justify playing the game in order to unlock things before our first game night? 🙂

Games and Design

June 17, 2008

Clive Thompson posted a great article on Wired today that looks at games as a means of teaching high-end technical skills.  The main focus of the article is the upcoming game Spoor, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the Sims, which will allow players to design their own lifeforms.  Thompson had the chance to demo it recently and sees the game as a means of “democratizing 3D design”, which I find really exciting.

Then he takes his argument one step further to analyze the skills sets that various games are capable of teaching.  The Sims is the world’s best CAD tutorial, World of Warcraft teaches online management skills, and any D&D game you could possibly mention can be used to make database management kind of fun.

But according to Thompson, what is even more important than the rudimentary skill set these games can teach is the basic understanding of how these things work.  Next time a young gamer goes to see the latest Pixar movie they will have a feel for how the movie was made, and maybe a few will say to themselves “I can do that”.

Librarianship as Gaming

June 15, 2008

This might single me out as an even bigger dork than usual, but I think I have come to view my job in gaming terms, and this is something that seems to help me out so I thought I’d share. As I mentioned the other day I have a little trouble focusing on specific tasks. It can be a nuisance sometimes, but more often than not keeping my mind broadly focused has been a great aid when it comes to problem solving.

Take for example the 200 or so Russian books I had to find records for the other week. Given that I don’t know the language or the publishing conventions this was a pretty difficult task. So I went into the project thinking of it as a cryptograph (it does help that I took some linguistics courses back in college) and it became far more enjoyable. Similarly when I was creating original records for one of our manuscript collections I was able to look at the job as a puzzle (I actually did use oneacross, a crossword puzzle solver to help decipher some of the handwriting).

This is just how my mind tends to work. I look at everything from reference questions, to cataloging, to fixing network issues as puzzles to be solved. That mindset keeps me thinking creatively, and it keeps me optimistic since all puzzles have answers.

But enough of me as the self-help guru. I’ll try not to do this again.

More Gaming Links

June 10, 2008

I’m in the middle of forming a video game programming proposal for my library, and so I’ve been doing some more research on the subject.  And what do I find, Jenny Levine has beaten me once again.  Her latest list of links is short but they are all must reads on the subject.  She’s done a nice job of covering both the case for libraries, and why the form is deserving of increased critical attention.  Just go to her site and check them out.