Posted tagged ‘Wii’


May 20, 2009

Tonight at 7 at the Berkshire Athenaeum, I’ll be talking about the current state of video games, and what they have to offer libraries.  Tonight is also the first of Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays for the year.

So for everyone in the Berkshires, forget about spending the evening enjoying the gorgeous weather, the live performances, and supporting the local economy downtown.  Who needs that when you can listen to a fine talk on why video games matter, and then try out the library’s Wii for yourself.  All sponsored by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Target Audiences

May 13, 2009

Busy day today, I got to run two events, a web 2.0 workshop in the morning and then a video game program in the afternoon.  Both went great, with decent turnouts and some very engaged participants.  I particularly liked when our DDR free play turned into an impromptu dance party.

However, the one thing that is becoming aparent is we’re struggling a bit with our varied demographics.  My workshop was attended by a mix of staff and patrons, with somewhat differing levels of comfort with the material.  I’ve been planning my sessions for novices, but I have frequently had to rework things on the fly when they have turned into staff trainings or master classes.  Next week I’m running an evening talk on video games for the library, and have no idea what to expect.

Which brings me to today’s video game program.  We had attendees ranging from about 8 to 18, which made at least one parent a bit nervous about their child.  Now we’ve been trying to keep these programs fairly open, particularly as we’re struggling to have the time to properly devote to these sorts of programs.  We can’t afford to devote the staff time to running more than one of these programs a month, so we’ve opted to leaving them fairly open in order to maximize our audience on those occasions.  But the wide age range does make things a bit awkward sometimes.


March 24, 2009

Yesterday was yet another one of our Rock Band nights, but something felt different this time.I think we’ve finally crossed the tipping point.  Turnout was great!  And we were on an off day thanks to being kicked out of the auditorium to make room for our book sale.  A few regulars were absent, but we retained all the new faces from the last one, and picked up more through word of mouth (our advertising really isn’t doing anything).  I particularly liked that we had one group come simply because they were following some of the others to see what was going on, and they stayed for all three hours!  

I think more fun was had by all this time too.  There was tons of socializing, a surprising amount of headbanging (unfortunately literally in one instance), and just a great vibe in the air.  Everyone asked about next time, three people volunteered to bring extra equipment (including an x-box), and one even offered to make a donation.  By the time it was over I felt completely and totally elated (and subsequently had trouble falling asleep, but still managed to wake up at 6 am like usual).

Epic Fail

March 11, 2009

Today was our latest after school DDR event, and I’m pretty much ready to declare it a failure now.  We only had 5 participants today, and while there were some reasons that could have prompted an especially low turnout (first warm afternoon this year on a school day, fewer posters due to a printer failure) the fact remains that we’ve never had much luck with this program.

First of all, we’ve been unable to attract an audience during that time.  Our 5-8 session have done great, but we just can’t get teens to come right after school.  But also DDR has not been the draw that we hoped for.  Even those that came wanting to play quickly got bored and we’ve had to switch over to Rock Band every time.

I know other libraries have done very well with DDR, but I suspect we’ll never be one of them.

Talking About a Revolution

January 20, 2009

The Berkshire Eagle’s article on our DDR event was published today, and I am very pleased.  Not only did we get the first page of the weekly learning section and an above the fold link on the front page, but we got some nice art, a sidebar front and center advertising our video game events through the Spring, and a surprisingly good (yet still punny) headline, “You say you want a revolution”.

I’m impresed with the article too, in a way I’m often not where the Eagle’s concerned.  It’s a decent bit of publicity for us, while still remaining perfectly honest.  One of the attendees is quoted as saying they were just there for the food, while another says it’s nice to see the library finally catching on.  We don’t come off perfectly in the article, but we’re portrayed as an organization that is trying to be better.  I’m good with that.

Gaming Expands

January 15, 2009

Yesterday marked the start of our bi-weekly gaming innitiative.  We’re continuing with our monthly rock band nights, but now we’re trying to add in an after school program as well.  We had no idea what to expect yesterday, partly because of the different time, and partly because it was also the first time we tried hosting a DDR event.

The results were a bit mixed.  We were sort of hoping to attract a younger audience than the one we gained from the evening programs.  Instead we pretty much got some of our Rock Band regulars, that were curious about DDR, but determined pretty quickly that they liked Rock Band a lot better so we switched over.

On the other hand, we gained some publicity for launching the second monthly game day and got a reporter and photographer from the local paper to come out for it.  A number of the teens were interviewed on top of me and my co-conspirator so I can’t wait to see the article.

Speaking of which, I came across this one today for a Wii event elsewhere that I thought was particularly good, although horrendously titled.  Give it a read

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.

A Glutton for Punishment

November 20, 2008

Recently at my library I helped to put together a brand new computer lab.  Now we’re just about to put it into use.

Computer Lab

Computer Lab

 So after building the damn thing, how could I resist the urge to use it.  Thus I’m now working on creating a series of 1-hour workshops for our patrons (and no I haven’t finished preparing my first workshop yet that I started a month ago).  After some brainstorming with our reference staff I’ll be doing a few advanced classes on the catalog (after a colleague covers the basics), an introduction to LibraryThing, a bit on the current state of video games that’ll partially serve as a plug for our Wii nights, and eventually one on web 2.0 applications.

More to come.

Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero

October 30, 2008

We’ve had a lot of success at my library with our Rock Band nights, and I know we’re not the only library to get results from such an event.  But now with the releases of Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2 there’s the issue of which of these two platforms to support.  So, now that I’ve had a chance to play both (Rock Band on the 360, Guitar Hero on the Wii), here’s the run down.

The Soundtrack:

The on disc soundtracks are a bit of a toss up.  There are a dozen songs shared by both games, including some of the best ones (American Woman, One Way Or Another, Everlong).  On top of that there are also a number of bands represented by both games, which also covers a wide range of Rock music (Steely Dan and Nirvana for example).  So clearly both games are coming from a similar background.

But there are a few differences that give the edge to Rock Band in this category.  Rock Band has a clear advantage due to its head start on downloadable content.  As of now there are about 200 additional songs that can be purchased to add to the game, not to mention about 2 dozen free songs (including the 20 free downloads that come with the game).  I’m also going to give Rock Band props for having a bit more variety.  Guitar Hero has 3 bands represented multiple times on the track list, and while having both Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary available is nice, I prefer having extra bands represented given the option (save the duplicates for the downloadable songs).


Here Rock Band is the clear victor.  Guitar Hero doesn’t feel like it was adequately play tested.  For starters, many of the songs feel unbalanced, I don’t know why anyone would be interested in playing Stranglehold on vocals for example, unless you’ve really got nothing better to do in your life for a few minutes than not singing into a microphone.  Similarly the easier difficulty versions of many of the tracks don’t seem to synch terribly well to the audio.

Which brings me to Guitar Hero’s greatest fault, its designers forgot that what makes these games so good is their immersiveness.  Rock Band tries to be believeable in its characters and settings, Guitar Hero tries to be ridiculous instead.  Everytime I see a poltergeist flying through an auditorium, or the stupid evil eye background whenever you play a Tool song it takes me out of the experience and reminds me I’m playing a game and not music.


Neither of these games are exactly renowned for their graphics, but they don’t really require much.  However, I’m bringing this up because of how awful Guitar Hero actually is in this respect.  Somehow it’s gone backwards, producing a game that looks far worse than its predecessor.  The animation makes all the characters look inhuman (which is unforgivable considering the amount of motion capture done in the game) and the visuals often don’t sync up with the audio.  Rock Band by comparison is smart enough to not show someone playing when they shouldn’t be.

So comparing the two games really comes as something of a blow out.  Guitar Hero has a good soundtrack, but almost nothing else going for it.  Rock Band 2 is just a solidly constructed game.  Plus today Harmonix was awarded the exclusive for developing the Beatles repertoire into a future game, so they have some added momentum going into the latest round of the console wars.

Rock Band: the Aftermath

September 24, 2008

Our first video game night was a huge success.  We drew a crowd of 86, which was incredible compared to the rest of our teen programing events.  But man am I exhausted .  We went all out for this event.  Four of us kept things running, with some extra help from the youth commission.  Our director and a rep from the friends were also in the audience to keep an eye on things (and in the case of the friends to see how their investment panned out, they were happy).

We drew a great crowd too.  I’ll admit to having been a bit worried, partly because we had no idea how many people to expect, and partly because of worries over the vastly different skill levels of those who came.  The later actually did pose some problems as the less skilled players tended to fail out of their turns quickly.  But the kids we got were great, with many of the better players chipping in to help the others.  I began the night by playing a tech support role, which was quickly rendered unnecessary.

Which was great for the second half of the night when (after a little coaxing from our childrens librarian) I challenged anyone who was willing to a guitar dual.  I was really surprised by how much the audience actually got into this.  The biggest cheers of the night came from this portion actually.  For quite a few the people there this seemed to be the highlight.  But despite the fact that I’ve already been issued challenges for the next time, we may change how we run it again.  Too few people get to play, and after playing 12 of the hardest songs on expert in a row I can barely feel my arm.  The current thinking is that we’ll just do it as a winner stays on sort of thing.  But then maybe I’ll be recovered in time for next month.


We’ve got a few other glitches to work out as well.  We could probably use to do a better job of organizing the order of play.  We also really need to improve the sound.  We tried to tap into the speakers in our auditorium and we failed compleatly.  We wound up having to use the ones embedded in our projector, which worked okay for the people playing, but was nearly impossible for the audience to hear.  Although it may have worked out okay for the radio broadcast in the back of the room (getting interviewed live with a time limit was a bit weird).

But we’ve got a month to improve on that and we’ve got an incredible base to build on right now.  Despite my current exhaustion, I can’t wait for next month to come.