Archive for July, 2008

Runescape Club

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Runescape Club

Runescape Club

Runescape is a massively multiplayer online role playing game, set in a medieval fantasy style world. It’s fairly easy to master, it’s a long and deep game, and there are lots of ways to play (focus on chat, focus on quests, focus on leveling, focus on crafting, focus on making money). It’s popular with teens at a lot of libraries across the country, and UNPOPULAR with librarians because of it’s heavy use of chat, bandwith hog nature, and the undesirable behavior that is actually common to the age group (socializing, talking about the game, hopping out of chairs to see other player’s screens and offer assistance).

Some librarians ban Runescape. Smart libraries harness it’s popularity and build an easy program around it. Others fully embrace it and develop contests and discussion groups around Runescape. Not comfortable with Runescape? Organize a mini-lan party around Maple Story, Gaia, Teen Second Life, Small Worlds

You don’t have to play yourself, to offer Runescape Club! Simply reserve a handful of computers specifically for Runescape, and take sign-ups. If you can give them extra computer time (like, 2 hours, instead of 1, great!). Watch them play. Ask questions. Consider setting up a laptop & projector so they can take turns logging in to show their characters and inventories. Raffle off premium subscriptions ($5.00 for one month).

Glendale Public Library’s Velma Teague Branch offers Runescape Club twice a month, from 2-3 and 3-4 on a Saturday afternoon. Each session seats six players (Terry says one week he took a break and gave up his smooth gaming laptop to a seventh player). Some tips from Terry, librarian facilitator, follow.

  • Rule # 1: Runescape is the only site allowed
  • No formal agenda, other than to play Runescape
  • Do reminder phone calls so kids show up
  • Arrange to redirect bandwith to laptops for duration of program
  • Program runs for one hour, two back-to-back sessions. If slots don’t fill up in session 2, session 1 participants may stay
  • Require users to have accounts already when they come in
  • Suggestions for getting a unique username:
    • Consider the kind of character you want to have. then brainstorm names that fit that class.
    • Maybe there is a character from history, television, movies, or books whose name you want to use!
    • It’s ok if you want to use your own name; some tricks to disguise it: add some letters and numbers
  • Check in with them periodically to see if they need help
  • Get kids to help one another!
  • Invite kids to bring music – load iPods into radio/speaker/clock radio, taking turns playing music
  • Snacks recommended

Teen comments:

  • “There’s one thing that has gotten better in real life because of Runescape is my typing skills.”
  • “This is the only time I get to play”
  • Get a premium account (cost $5.00.month)
  • Can we do this every week?
  • “I play World of Warcraft, too” (teen listed off 4 mid-level characters)

This was a fun experience to observe and participate in. I marveled at the new & improved graphics, and played through the entire tutorial as infogdss29. It’s nice that you don’t have to choose from so many professions and crafts; anyone can mine, make weapons, fish, cook and cast spells, it seems. I was very proud of killing my first giant rat, and not burning shrimp over a cookfire, and smelting bronze bars to create a dagger. A grant for a half dozen gaming laptops would really make the program soar.

Thanks to GPL’s Velma Teague Branch for letting me sit in, and to the participants, for helping me when I got stuck.

Games in Libraries Episode 4!

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Listen up at

In the aftermath of the open gaming night at ALA, Scott Nicholson, Christopher Harris, Brian Mayer, Beth Gallaway, Paul Waelchli and Jenny Levine chatted and shared anecdotes about the evening’s events, which included:

Wits & Wagers

Wits and Wagers


Can’t Stop



Rock Band

Mario Kart

Dance Dance Revolution

Boom Blocks

Some questions raised:

  • How do you keep people moving between activities?
  • What will ALA Open Gaming look like night year?
  • What one piece of advice can you give to someone interested in getting involved in this games and gaming movement?
  • How do you deal with food in gaming programs?

I covered the winners of the ALA Gaming Citation, which I blogged about a few weeks ago.

Some of the resources mentioned in the podcast:

What did you think of episode 3? We’d love to hear your comments!Want to contribute to Games in Libraries podcast? We’d love to hear about your gaming stories–successes AND flops!–as well as game reviews and other topics. Send MP3 files 5-10 minutes in length to Scott Nicholson by August 1 2008.

Gaming in Libraries in the News

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation has just awarded to the Georgetown County Library a grant of $600,000 to expand their successful interactive gaming/computer program for teens throughout the county. The library will receive $200,000 per year for the next three years to continue their work at Carvers Bay while establishing the program at three other public libraries.

Starkville (MI) Public Library held a 2-day Monopoly tournament, won by a local homeschooler.

The Fayetteville Public Library has been providing a videogame experience for all ages since May; event organizer Monica Kuryla comments that “the 21st-century library is turning into a community media center. It’s about the social experience of the community,” and gaming furthers that purpose. The article also cites Scott Nicholson’s work with GameLab at Syracuse.

The Longview Library is leaving Rock Band set up and available from 3-6 on Wednesday & Thursdays all summer in the Library’s soundproof, air-conditioned auditorium.

Carroll County Public Library is offering game tournaments this summer. “Video games are actually a perfect fit for the library,” said PR specialist Lisa Back… “A lot of video games focus on learning and they have a social aspect.”

Vashom (WA) Library offers a mix of gaming experiences: board, card, computer and console, and has for the last ten years in their Late @ the Library programs every other month for four hours on Saturday night. “We wanted to give the teens something to do at the library … It’s really given them a sense of ownership of the library,” Librarian Hester Kremer said.

Gamespot sponsored a program featuring the PS3 and Wii Fit at the Bossier (LA) Parish Library with plans to return in the fall.

The Serious Games Portal picked up on libraries getting serious about games. with a nice round up blog post about notable gaming initiatives and ALA’s Verizon grant.

The Detroit Free Press has an article about how libraries have reinvented themselves in the digital age, and because of it, libraries in most communities are thriving.

The Teen Scene at the Waco Library is using a blog to promote their gaming events. Notice the poll about DDR in the left menu

Other Gaming news:
Rock Band II’s track list hase been released, with 84 songs to start with and more available for later download.


Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Entertainment Software Association’s Electronic Entertainment Expo ran this week in Los Angeles, CA. It’s an annual computer and videogame expo for developers, publishers, programmers and other industry types. Since it’s become invitation only, a event for the public — Entertainment for All— takes place October 3-5, 2008.

What happens at E-3? It’s a like a trade show. Console companies and game publishers hold press conferences and parties to announce and celebrate new developments and products and show off game demos. The video game television network offers near complete coverage, including televised press conferences. Microsoft’s was on Monday night, and their big announcements were:

  • $50 price drop on the XBox 360 Premium edition, good news for libraries considering this as a purchase
  • Netflix partnership to stream movies direct to your XBox360; don’t forget both microsoft & Sony consoles double as a DVD player, so with apublic performance license for films or anime, you can get a lot of programming mileage out of a console
  • Highly anticipated titles your gamers will want: Final Fantasy XIII!

Nintendo’s press conference stressed they want to  break down the psychological barriers between gamers & non-gamers, and they are committed to content creation and community building. Their top announcements: 

Sony declared 2008 to be the year of the PS3! Other announcements:

  • Little Big Planet will allow gamers to create games, combining social networking, user-created content & gaming in one title
  •  A number of PS3 best sellers will be dropping to $29.99 (titles include Need for Speed, Rainbow 6 Vegas, Assassins Creed, Elder Scrolls, and Ninja Gaiden, to name a few; this is GREAT news for collection development! 
  • Another 130 titles will be released for the PS2 before the end of the year – the PS2 isn’t dead yet! At just $129 new for a slimline PS2, it’s a great bargain for budget conscious libraries.
  • Playstation Home is still in the works – to combine games, film, music & more
  • Highly anticipated new releases: DC Universe Online, Resistance 2, God of War 3
  • More games available through Sony Online Entertainment (Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty, Crash Commando, PAIN Amusement Park, Flower, Siren: Blood Curse, Rag Doll Kung-Fu: Fists of Plastic) means libraries may want to consider subscriptions to SOE.

Further press coverage is online from G4TV, Jostiq, and Gamasutra, among other sites.

Gamers in the Library? Panel at ComicCon

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Of possible interest, to any of you attending Comic-Con:

Saturday, July 26; 6:30-7:30 Gamers in the Library?

Did you know that at least 7 out of 10 libraries support gaming? From consoles to D20, board games to CCG’s, gaming in libraries is a hot topic. Find out about this seemingly odd combination with Kearsten LaBrozzi (Glendale Public Library, Arizona), Susan White (University of Advancing Technology), Mike Pawuk (Cuyahoga County Public Library), and Merideth Jenson-Benjamin (Glendale Public Library, Arizona). Hear about successful programs, learn pitfalls to avoid, and find out why gamers in the library are here to stay.

Room 30CDE

Game Contests

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

H&M announced the winning virtual design chosen from over 1000 entries to be created in real life. The black and white striped tunic/sundress will retail for about $15 beginning July 31.

Julie Brasil of San Francisco is the winner of the Sony G.I.R.L. (Games in Real Life) game design competition. The prize? A paid internship at Sony Online Entertainment, and a $10,000 scholarship to attend the Art Institutes School. Official G.I.R.L. t-shirts and a blog about her internship experience are forthcoming.

How could your library duplicate one of these contests? Certainly, you could provide tools for a costume or clothing design contest for the Sims or Teen Second Life, using software like Gimp or Photoshop.

And for game design, there are lots of free tools out there for making text adventure, 2-D and 3-D games:

Check out this article on Teaching Game Design from School Library Journal!

Gaming in Libraries in the News

Monday, July 14th, 2008

The Arizona Daily Star picked up the story about ALA’s $1 million Verizon Foundation grant in an article, Libraries Booking Young Gamers, and interviewed, among others, gaming panel expert Liz Danforth. Liz has some great talking points in the article. Way to go, Liz!

The Malpass Library at University of offered a second gaming night on Friday July 11. Events included dominoes, Wii DDR and a LAN party.

The London (Ontario, Canada) Public Library, produced a short and sweet blog post to introduce patrons to videogames, with links to resources on game ratings, game quality, and popular titles. “Gaming is no longer the domain of the young,” writes a staff member.

Manitowoc-Calumet (WI) Library System is offering a series of tournaments, funded by an LSTA grant. “Libraries are all about literacy, but literacy isn’t only reading and writing. … Literacy is about technology,” says Rachel Muchin Young, the library’s public relations manager

AASL is planning its 2009 annual conference in Charlotte, NC, and specifically mentions requests for information about gaming. Proposals are due by September 15, 2008.

I hadn’t heard of the LOEX conference, but one attendee wrote up a post about two sessions on gaming.

A librarian in Stanley, Idaho is launching gaming services this summer, and seeking best practices for small town libraries.

In general gaming news…

Hasbro has teamed with the Electronic Arts to create a sanctioned Scrabble game that began private testing Monday at Facebook and should be publicly available later this month. The popular Facebook game, Scrabulous, is unauthorized, and Hasbro have demanded it be removed. An interesting twist in the gaming and copyright debate!

Led Zepplin continues to decline licensing for recreating their music in videogames. “It ain’t about the money,” says Jimmy Page’s manager.

2007 Gaming Census

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

—Please distribute to other lists as appropriate–

Announcing the 2007 Gaming Census!

This is an annual survey done by Dr. Scott Nicholson, associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, and is designed to collect information about gaming programs run in libraries in 2007.  This can be any type of game (board, card, video, chess, puzzle) at any type of library (public, school, academic, or special).  The focus is on gaming programs, where the libraries schedule an event of some type featuring games, and on gaming programs that were run sometime during the 2007 calendar year.

You can take this survey at until the end of July.

Data from last year’s census has been valuable in helping us to understand how libraries are using gaming and to get funding for other gaming programs.  Adding data abour your institution to our census will help us better understand how libraries are using data.  You can see the publications that have used this data at   The results from this survey will be presented at the 2008 Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium.

Questions?  Contact Scott Nicholson at Thanks!

Recording of Games and Gaming MIG available

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

An edited recording of the Games and Gaming MIG meeting from ALA annual, along with links to all of the Blatant Plugs made during the meeting, is available at the Games in Libraries podcast blog at .  More notes from this meeting can be found earlier in this blog.

Hey! I Want to Do That Too! Gaming and the Elementary Age Child

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Slides should be appearing soon on the ALSC wiki

My bookmarks from the session are online at

This Sunday afternoon session began with Smart Moves as people filed into the room. Smart Moves is a non-interactive DVD from Fablevision, that contains a series of body puzzles designed to strengthen the corpus collosum, the connection between our right and left brains.

The ALSC ChildTech committee put together a mini poster session to highlights successful children’s tech programs. The Showcase of Success is also online at

“Until you’ve tried it you don’t understand.”
~Dr. Warren Buckleitner, founder of the MediaTech foundation & editor of Children’s Technology Review journal

Buckleitner’s presentation focused on the story of Mediatech at the Flemington Free Public Library, NJ, where is a trustee, and present and future of children’s technology.  He encouraged us to consider media in two ways:

  1. Interactitve media (IM) , which includes videogames, toys, handheld devices, interactive DVDs, MP3s, and electronic learning aids — thehardware doesn’t matter; focus on the behavior (interactive)
  2. Linear media: Linear DVDs, books, etc.

Buckleitner imagined a school where kids want to come, where the teacher is the senior or teen, where the text is the Internet, where the bus = a bicycle. This is the vision for MediaTech at the library – a tech and gaming lab with 700 registered members that averages 22 visitors a day. Incidentally, MediaTech is not just for kids. There are developmentally appropriate things for each age range. MediaTech is open 1-5 T Thursday & Friday, 1-9 Monday – Wednesday and 11-1 on Saturday.

What would (Ben) Franklin do, in 2008? What kind of library would he build? Don’t forget that access to games & tech is like a digital divide.

Start a Mediatech in YOUR town! get a CPA, get an attorney, get the schools on board. But, embrace the uniqueness of your town. Don’t fight if you can’t win. The library provides basics, but MediaTech expands library offerings, with unique resources.

Mediatech has three types of social interactions: an opening meeting room, a cross shaped set of computers where all monitors face same direction, for individual or group use, that also face a projector & screen to enable classes and lecture hall style. iChat & video camera makes it a smart classroom.

People in community came out to help build and teach. It’s a way to showcase local talents and interests. Services were donated from a lawyer and accountant. PCS donated from PC magazine, site become first wifi spot in Hunterdon County. At first, kids did all of the custodial work but it was a disaster. Staff found ice water is a great bribe to get kids to help out. Kids make all the signage. Donors bought steps for $1000 each; one is still for sale. A Donation Jar and Suggestion Box are essential resources.

One activity is the Series Games Testers Club that meets weekly – they dissect gender, violence, commercialism of a game circulating game collection. This is just like doing a book discussion group.

MediaTech owns 4000 game and software titles, all donated. There are no M or A/O rated games. The collection is being cataloged by library and will be shared to other libraries in the county. Kids play games online (FunBrain , Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean) and on consoles (Rock Band! \m/)

The filter is being able to see all the monitors; duct tape is a great theft deterrent. So is a (fake) webcam that is “recording everything they do.”

Buckleitner advised that we “make it inconvenient to steal!” Build a sense of ownership – kids will take care of it. A daily inventory keeps stock of all items. Everything is labeled, and outlined, so it’s easy to see at a glance when something is not in it’s place. A receptionist records who comes & goes. Members have to be registered members. When items go missing, every parent gets a phone call. Items get returned. All software is labeled MediaTech. Security locks are also an option.

Noise can be an issue, even with MediaTech on the second floor. Headphones help; kids self-regulate volume very well.

There are no time limits – the kids work it out – staff training on child management is provided. The “go outside & cool down” approach is often a workable solution).

Lessons Learned:

  • you’ll laugh and cry
  • If you build it they will come
  • it belongs to all
  • never say no
  • everyone has a crisis at one point or another
  • someone always needs help
  • ask for help
  • be an asset, not competition
  • needs the most help at first
  • Listen to your gut and trust your instincts

Don’t just link to game sites! Have things for kids to create on every computer. “Get kids off” said Buckleitner. Instead, look for games and software that encourage socialization, expand skills and knowledge and offer multiple challenge levels.

Some Recommended Software:

  • Scratch, game design software
  • Google Earth, 3-D maps
  • Animationish, doodle pad & flipbook software
  • iMovie, movie creation & editing software
  • Garage Band, music & podcast creation software
  • PBS Kids, games & interactive media
  • Other bookmarks to good websites
  • Hook up a musical keyboard or microscope with a USB port to one computer for kids to play with

Consumer Reports WebWatch: Kids Online

The Case for Rock Band:

  • Quality time
  • Multigenerational
  • Teamwork
  • Reading
  • Biofeedback – pitch
  • Report card style feedback – serious skills needs improvement

Looking toward the future of children’s tech:

  • More Nintendo (Warren compared the DS = 1 laptop per child. Touch screen, Wifi Voice recognition, droppable…)
  • Bigger Interaction
  • More connectedness
  • More power per dollar
  • Sandisk MP3 recorder
  • Growth: from 2 platforms to 20 different platforms

Next, Buckleitner showed 87 things in 2 minutes! I wish this had been the focus of the session. Here is what I caught, as things that are notable (not necessarily good, but notable). I caught 25%:

  1. EyeClops, the bionic eye that plugs into your TV and magnifies the stuff you focus n up to 200 times
  2. Hyper Dash, an active game
  3. SingStar, a karoake game for PS2 & PS3
  4. Kid Works, software to build creative writing skills
  5. Giggles, computer software for babies
  6. Plant Tycoon, a real time gardening sim
  7. Lego Universe, a Lego MMOG
  8. Barbie Girls Club VIP a virtual world dedicated to the Barbie universe
  9. Disney Fairies create a fairy, play games
  10. Inspire Data, a data literacy tools that shows data visually
  11. Drawn to Life, a DS game where your drawings make the game
  12. Jam Sessions, a DS guitar simulator game
  13. Boogie game for Wii, PS2 & Nintendo DS
  14. Kidizoom Cam, a digital camera for kids that contains games on it
  15. Pusle Smartpen, a digital quill for taking notes
  16. Tango Desktop software
  17. Rock Band for Wii, PS2, PS3, & XBox360

Why Interactive Media?

  • You can fix your mistakes: undo, save, reverse features
  • Symbolic & abstract
  • Adapable to level
  • Control, trial & error, empowerment
  • Supplements text
  • Opportunity to build a better mousetrap
  • Computer use is through the roof, but book circ is NOT decreasing

A great tip for librarians: there might be no way the powers that be will let you spend 10K on videogame equipment… call it interactive software & you’re in.

Circulation Issues

  • Saved content an issue – create a policy that the library is not responsible for saved games or personal data; take out of circ until you are ready to clean off content
  • All the disks get a label – permanent marker like a sharpie
  • Use the same security you do with CD or movies
  • Some will get scratched, you can buff it out, you’ll loose some

Two resources that I shared in the Q&A sessions: