Archive for November, 2008

Games in Libraries Episode 8!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Listen up at

If you missed the Games, Learning and Libraries Symposium, get the wrap up at the roundtable discussion following Open Night on Monday night. Also features interview with Nintendo, Highsmith and Wizards of the Coast, and a reminder about National Gaming Day activities (now past, but may give you ideas for next year!). In this episode:

  • Nintendo reports that more libraries that bring video games into the library increase attendance and 1/3 return for other (non-gaming) programs. We are encouraging the libraries to put video game systems into their libraries – it’s up to them to decide what kind of programs they want to do, how they want to check things out, etc.
  • Highsmith now sells library tables with boards from chess/checkers/backgammon painted on, and bundles packages of Wii consoles controllers, games and televisions on locking carts. They sell the cobalt flux pads with 2-year warranties.
  • Wizards of the Coast introduces WizardsPlay for organizing programs.

National Gaming Day a Success!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

We’re still going through all of the data from National Gaming Day (November 15), but we’ve already got some pretty amazing numbers and stories. Here’s what we know so far.

  • 617 libraries registered to participate
  • 597 libraries reported results back to us
  • 14,184 people participated in NGD at those 597 libraries
  • 5,548 people played Pictureka! on Gaming Day
  • 1,137 people played Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering

That’s pretty amazing, given how little lead time most libraries had. Most were public libraries (95%), although we did have a few academics, schools, and even a park library and a military library participate. The anecdotes they gave us show an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. Here are just a few of my favorites (honestly – I really did pare down this list!).

  • “I was beaten – twice – at Pictureka by a 3-year old!”
  • “Our library has a tough time, as do many, with attracting tweens and teens to programs and getting them to be ‘excited about the library’. Gaming day at our library was great because kids/teens came, they were excited and enthusiastic, and had a great time. It was really great to have many of them who see me everyday asking me my name (they never really cared before) and kept asking if we would be doing more events like this and if we would definitely be doing this next year.”
  • “It was great to see the YA Room filled with teenage boys. We have one 8th grade patron who has been a very shy and quiet teen, but with video games he is a champ, friendly and out-going; he totally came out of his shell. Never thought a library could do that.”
  • “We have a library orphan that is here all the time. He uses up his computer time (2 hours) then usually gets in trouble for boredom related disturbances. On Saturday, he actually sat and played Pictureka and Scrabble with another child (and came up with several 5-7 letter words, a miracle for this non reader) Later on the boys were ‘caught’ playing Risk with 4 other children and one of our library substitutes was giving them a lesson on strategy. The best part is that this child was able to stay at the library most of the day, before he was asked to leave for playing with the big screen in the meeting room!”
  • “One of our teen patrons who has recently moved to our small town came to tell me that one of the video games we purchased for the programs was not compatible with the system we purchased. He asked to ride with me when I took it back and helped me pick out another game to take its place. He asked me if I owned the library. I replied that I was the director but that I didn’t own the library, I only managed it. He asked me who did own it and I replied, ‘Well, you do.’ I explained that public libraries were owned by the citizens that used them and/or lived in the community, that their taxes went to pay for the services. He thought about it for a minute and said ‘That’s really cool! I guess I’ll have to hang out here more since it’s mine.’ It made my day.”
  • “At least two different parents were shocked to learn that we were not charging admission for our event, and continually thanked us for hosting it. At least one parent got their first library card – we kept the entire library open, unlike at our first event where we were only open for the gaming event. This was a major plus.”
  • “The Pictureka! game was great for intergenerational groups. I also witnessed a non-English speaker pick up the card pieces of the game after their children had left; perhaps trying to match the word ‘hair’ with finding hair on the board, etc.”
  • “At one point there were eight people playing [Pictureka!] at once. The race to win was between a ten-year old and an eighty-five year old.”
  • “I had advertised that you could duel the librarian at Guitar Hero and cut your fine in half, or beat her and and have it erased. I had a 12 year old show up that I had never seen in the library before carrying his own guitar. His mom told me that he had been up since 6:30 waiting to come to the library. He didn’t have any fines, but I told him I would duel him for some copies of Thrasher magazines that we were selling. He stayed most of the day and thanked me over and over again for having a game day.”
  • “Also, one of our patrons (a crotchity old man if ever there was one) would play chess on the computer if we would let him. When he got bumped off, he came downstairs to our National Gaming Day room and played Pictureka for 3 hours straight – with patrons of all ages!”
  • “Two sisters who had been playing backgammon via online connection for years showed up to meet at the library for gaming day and loved it. They never thought about meeting at the library to play before. They had such a good time actually meeting face-to-face they asked if they could continue to come to the library and play. We were happy to oblige them.”
  • “We had a 6 year old come in with a mohawk hairdo ready to rock the library on Rock Band. He was ready to take on the high schoolers.”
  • “At the end time, I had to ask a group of teenagers to leave. They responded quickly and started moving toward the door and then one of them said, ‘Do you want some help with these chairs?’ At the time I was too tired to turn down help and enthusiastically said, ‘YES!’ They helped me put the room back in order very quickly, moving a dozen tables and about 50 chairs. But my favorite part of the day had to be hearing the teens cheer for each other during the Brawl contests and clap at the end of the battles. They all got along so well even though we had quite a range of ‘teenagers’ — 18 to 8!”
  • “The Smash Bros. Tournament drew a large, cheering crowd as the battles were very intense. I also had the joy of [seeing] a 12 year old girl defeating a grown man, patting him on the back and telling him maybe next year.”
  • “There are a group of kids in our small town who tend to be unsupervised and are seen often ‘hanging out’ downtown. They came into the library, saw the brand new magic sets and it was like Christmas to them. They offered to open the sets, sort them into decks and get the game organized. They then stayed for hours playing and invited other friends to come join them. It was so nice to see these kids off the streets enjoying our library and they were so surprised to hear that the cards would be available to them anytime the library is open. I’m sure we will see a lot of them in the near future.”
  • “A young mom came in with her two elementary aged sons. Upon seeing all the games out and hearing about the program, she said, ‘Wow! I didn’t know there were fun things to do at the library! I thought it was all about being quiet! Guess it’s okay for me to bring my kids in here after all!’ “
  • “An 11-year-old girl played games with her 9-year-old brother for 4 hours, and told me, ‘I haven’t been on the computer the whole time I was here!’ “
  • “Not so much an anecdote, but the fact that people came and stayed most all day. That was a great thing for us.”
  • “To win the door prizes, everyone was given tickets to enter into the various drawings. The kids got one ticket for coming in, one ticket for playing their first game, and an additional ticket for each person to whom they taught a game. This caused many of the kids to go out of their way to introduce new games to kids. Many even really enjoyed teaching.”
  • “It was like bringing them into a new world that they didn’t know would be available to them locally. They connected with the library staff and just kept thanking me and expressing their amazement at our library collection. One ordered sci fi books, one picked up Sci Fi books, one requested Civil War materials, 1 requested a tour of our Virtual services. Basically it opened eyes and created interest for people and gave the library great exposure. We will be adding a monthly gaming day to our program.”

If you didn’t get to join in this year, be sure to start planning now for next year’s event on November 14, 2009. We also want to thank everyone who participated this year to help make it such a success. It will be a tough bar to clear next year, but I have every confidence we will!

Tomorrow is National Gaming Day!

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Some NGD resources, courtesy of Jenny Levine: 

For those of you who are participating in the “Pictureka!” board game activity to count the most number of people playing the same board game on the same day, Dr. Scott Nicholson has posted a video to help you learn the game and to share tips for using it in libraries. He also makes suggestions for other board games you could provide if you want to extend play beyond “Pictureka!” Watch the video at 

If you plan to offer videogame play on Saturday and this is your first time getting started with something like this, be sure to listen to the October 2008 episode of our “Games in Libraries” podcast for lots of tips and advice for hosting videogame play. Listen to or download the audio athttp://www.gamesinlibraries. There are some general tips for non-videogame play, too, so this actually has a little something for everyone.


If you plan to participate in one of the national videogame tournaments set for Saturday, you should have received an email yesterday with detailed instructions from Eli Neiburger. If you didn’t get that email or if you haven’t signed up yet and you want to join the Dance Dance Revolution, Rock Band, and/or Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournaments, please contact Eli immediately at There is some basic information available at, but he can answer your questions related to these tournaments.

If you’re finalizing some PR to send to your local newspaper or TV station, don’t forget that we have an online toolkit of materials you can send out or adapt for use. Find them at (this link will redirect you to the ALA website). There’s also an FAQ with general information about National Gaming Day at (this link will redirect you to ALA’s  “Games and Gaming Resources” site). 

If you signed up in October for the free game kits from Wizards of the Coast and you have not yet received them, please contact Tom Ko at 

If you are at a public library and you have not yet received your donated copy of “Pictureka!” from Hasbro, please contact ALA’s Development Office at before November 30 for follow-up. We probably won’t be able to get a copy to you before National Gaming Day (although some games may still be in transit), but you’ll still get your copy of the game as long as you notify us before the end of the day on November 30. Please be sure to provide your full postal address when contacting us about this.


Finally, we’d like to thank our sponsors for the first ever National Gaming Day @ your library, Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast. We appreciate their generosity and look forward to working with them again in the future. 

The only thing we’re asking of you is that you please fill out our feedback survey after National Gaming Day. Whether your library is just playing one round of “Pictureka!” or hosting professional-level videogame tournaments, any data you can give us for the survey will help us paint a more complete picture of the day’s events and of gaming in libraries in general. So during your NGD activities, please count how many people play “Pictureka!” throughout the day and how many people play any other games you offer.When you’re done, just go to to answer the questions and tell us about how things went. The survey will remain open until 7:00 p.m. CST on Tuesday, November 18, and we’ll do a press release with numbers on Wednesday (November 19). Please feel free to email us links to any press you receive for the event, as well.

Thanks again for participating in the first-ever National Gaming Day, and we look forward to doing this again with you next year!



The Power of Play

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Jon-Paul C. Dyson, of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester NY might exemplify change. The Strong Museum was formely focused on American history and American life;  it’s the second largest children’s museum in the country, with a large collection of toys, dolls (over 3,000) and games (1000 board games from the early twentieth century). Learned the audience wanted a hands on experience, changed their mission, and jumped from 68,000 to a half million visitors over last couple of years.  Expansions include the National Toy Hall of Fame, and Reading Adventureland, a history of children’s books. There is an intersection of games play and reading. What is play? (you know it when you see it! ) It’s not unique to species (birds, dogs, primates). Play is:

  •  Fun
  • Voluntary
  • Rewarding (its own reward)
  • In a Magic Circle (its own world)

6 Elements of Play

  1. anticipation
  2. surprise
  3. pleasure
  4. understanding
  5. strength
  6. poise 

 Benefits of Play

  • It refreshes us
  • Increases our flexibility

Next steps for libraries: do we seek that intersection of play, games and reading? Support some games? All games? Provide any play? Best play? Resources:

Gamer Dad: Helping Kids & Parents Find the Right Games

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

“You have to be a gamer to understand games!” ~Andrew Bub


Andrew Bub, parent and game reviewer and creator of the site Gamer Dad  promised that by the end of the session we would all be gamers. He built on comments from our other kyenote speakers: that everytime a new art form enters our media, hysteria ensues. Movies, horror comics, rock & roll, even penny dreadfuls etc. The video game discussion always seems to boil down to violent or catharsis? Perhaps Nintendo did a disservice by promoting the concept that video games are for kids.


What is a gamer? Someone who is …

  • Smart
  • Curious
  • Competent
  • Like new things
  • Not idle
  • Up for challenge
  • Wants to learn new skills
  • Not necessarily looking for blood & gore, violence & death – looking for a complex game that involves player interaction
  • Competing for bragging rates
  • (sounds like a lot of librarians I know!)

Andrew provided an overview of game genres, and concluded by sharing the kinds of questions he gets from parents.


Q. What future jobs are games preparing kids for today?

A. Programming and robotics for a start.


Q. Can you convince my parents to let me play Grand Theft Auto? (Since he endorsed Halo 3 as not all that bad, compared to real life)

A. “It’s up to your parents.” He advises them not to, but he doesn’t say NO and doesn’t judge parents who say yes


Q. Are games addictive?

A. They are gripping, in an “I can’t put it down” kind of way.


Q. Do games desensitize us?  

A. None of the hardcore gamers at PAX wanted to see Gamer Dad’s scar – too gory. Even young kids understand fake is fake and real is real, and the video game environment offers consequence free play.


Q. What games do your children play?

A. Wii, Hulk, High School Musical: Sing It





Real Data on Video Game Violence

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

“We got trouble right now, right here in River City” ~Larry Kutner, quoting the Music Man

Clinical psychologist Dr. Larry Kutner, author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games started with breaking presentation rules to show the history of people’s response to violence in media. Attacking media for content has been, in the past, a distraction to detract for political scandal; at one point even BOOKS were under attack for the characters, plots and settings (penny dreadfuls gangster movies, comic books).  

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2005 found that 52 % of kids 8-18 play video games; 35 % play computer games. Unrecognized satire and teaching youth how to commit crime are major concerns. Teens and adults know the difference; young children may not. Other concerns:

  • DC Sniper – “He trained and desensitized with video games (Halo)” vs Shooting a giant alien bug doesn’t enable you to pick up a gun. Turned out the youth in question had a history of torturing animal and actually learned how to shoot with a real gun and paper plate targets.
  • Columbine: Harris & Klebold played the bloody shoot em up video game Doom vs these games have been played by millions of people, with only 2 outlayers.

Who are the school shooters?  More people are shot & killed in restaurants than in schools 2002 – there were 37 non drug non gang school related shooting in 27 years. Only 1 in 8 showed any interest in games. If there is a profile of the school shooter, it’s male, and had a history of depression.

In fact, violent crime is down, although arrests for simple assault are up! Why? People are more likely to call the cops, which leads to a mandatory arrest.  Are games linked to aggression and violence? Youth who play M-rated games are linked to higher rates of aggressive/deliquent behavior; girls who play games daily are more likely to bully; not causal, but do watch for patterns to see what else is going on that children’s life. Most kids who play M rated games at age 12, 13, 14 are JUST FINE. Note that the context of violence is not addressed in ESRB ratings and are a concern for parents; kids are concerned about language more than sex or violence.

 In the future:

  • Expect more trajectory research, similar to what has been in the past with youth and television viewing.
  • Games will promote creativity, learning and healthy social relationships 
  • Increased realism in games may mean less realistic video game violence 

Some good questions about child development followed. Kutner noted ethical games (Bioshock, GTA) may appeal at a specific age/developmental period. He also remarked that the majority of children’s play up until the age of 5 is VIOLENT. Taking things, grabbing things, etc. It has a purpose (see Bettleheim’s uses of enchantment). Also kids will do the great switcheroo: show a really violent game and ask it they have/rent it… and when the parent says no, offer a second, less horrible choice that was really the one they wanted, all along. 

GT System Update

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Eli Neiburger, AADL gave a fast update on the GTSystem that 29 libraries have signed up to use.

  • Tournament scheduling & programming
  • Check in/Registration
  • matchmaking brackets
  • scoring
  • leaderbaords
  • ability to develop a site theme or use another URL

Eli did a live demo of setting up a tournament and viewing the leaderboards to pull out data. Requirements to participate for DDR, Rock Band, and SSBB are posted online. Upcoming features:

  • flash driven console
  • video chat
  • library card swipe to register and SKIP the line
  • More games & modes
  • porting XP and levels, so that going to the library becomes part of the game
  • creation of clans and leagues 


Alignment: How Connecting Games Opens Doors

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Christopher Harris and Brian Mayer from Genesee Valley BOCES talked about their document, Board Games and the AASL Standards for 21st century learners that aligns board games with AASL standards.

Using a tag team approach, Brian spoke about selection: using authentic games–ones that are not designed to teach something specific (95% of those fail). Choose games with curriculum alignment–addresses specific content. Time is a factor that comes into play–a game that you can introduce, teach, play and discuss in 42 minutes (average class period). finally, think about return on investment–consider what the students will get from playing the game.

Brian tapped out and Chris talked about alignments using The Making of a President: 1960 to share how the game aligns to New York State curriculum and AASL Standards.

Paul Waelchlifrom St. Norbert’s College rotated in to talk about aligning board and video games with ACRL standards for information literacy; bringing it into daily life, even, using gaming as a bridge to learning and developing a specific skillset. Paul pointed out that Fantasy sports games are played by 19.4 million players–more than World of Warcraft! and playing fantasy football involves  active application of information literacy.

 Q. What is the role of the school librarian here?  

A. to be the liason, the entry point.


State of the Union: Gaming in Libraries in 2007

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Scott Nicholson from Gamelab presented findings from the 2007 gaming survey. PC & board gaming is down; console gaming is up. New this year: policy questions (4% expressly forbid gaming); information on tournaments (not working as well in low income environments). Gaming is not a standalone program – tie-in other library programs like summer reading. The most popular game in libraries is… Guitar Hero Everyone WON a copy of Backseat Drawing Goals:

  • providing entertainment
  • attract new useres
  • community hub (school libraries)
  • serve active users
  • create publicity (academic libraries)
  • introduce other service
  • improve skills/knowledge
  • new media support 

Negative Outcome: we annoy other users about 10% of the time Positive Outcome: 3/4 of the time, participants came back for non-gaming service  Cost: on average, $650 

  • 22 libraries – $0
  • 49 libraries- $10-50
  • 2 libraries – $15,000 & $25,000 (Columbus Metropolitan Library)

To REPEAT a program cost about $2 per user – libraries on average ran 14 programs a year.  If our goal is to reach underserved users, repeat programs is a way to change their behavior/use of the library. Next steps:Watch for assessment toolsTake the 2008 survey in 2009 (and keep good track of your programs so you can report in the future)   Requests from the audience – Please track:

  • use of teens/volunteers to staff programs
  • stats about circulating games 

 For prizes: Red Octane

More GLLS 08 Coverage!

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Who else is blogging/tweeting? If you are blogging/tweeting don’t forget to use glls2008 to tag your posts!  Please leave a comment with your URL so we can follow along with you.