Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


World Series of Video Games on CBS

Sunday at noon, CBS will broadcast the World Series of Video Games, including hugely popular games Guitar Hero II, World of Warcraft, and Fight Night Round 3. This is huge.

In spite of gaming's continuing march towards mainstream acceptance -- the first generation of gamers are now parents gaming with their own kids, after all -- there are some challenges to translating the experience of viewing the championships in person (an experience limited to gaming superfans) and making the experience of viewing them on TV enjoyable for a broader (read: non-superfan) audience:

It is a task that in some ways is no less daunting than that of the early baseball television producers who eventually realized that a camera way out in center field would provide the best view of pitches.

Editor Jesse Gordon figured out a work-around that sounds both useful and not terribly intrusive:

Mr. Gordon had added six fat red health meters, like digital fuel gauges, reflecting the fortunes of the game’s players. For anyone actually playing the game, the same information would be conveyed by just a few minuscule pixels tucked in a corner of the screen. “We need to add the health bars so TV viewers can understand what’s happening,” Mr. Gordon said. “Otherwise, forget it.”

Fascinating. I wonder if any gaming libraries are doing this on a smaller scale; perhaps recording video of gaming tournaments (or encouraging gamers to do so themselve) and posting them to YouTube.



Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 3

The final day of the Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium squeezed a lot of great information into only a half-day!

Gregory Trefry from GameLab and NYU spoke first about Big Fun, Big Learning: Transforming the World through Play. As one of the founders of the Come Out and Play Festival, Gregory spoke about big games. These are games that, as the name implies, are much bigger than a traditional game; they can encompass a whole city, or even all of the Internet. Most big games are a variation on one of four common games: tag, hide and seek, scavenger hunts, or capture the flag. The beauty of big games is that they allow you to get up and be active, while participating in a competitive setting with lots of people. This presentation probably got me the most fired up, the most excited, about gaming in the library.

Beth Gallaway made two great presentations as well: first, in Digital Downloads for Gamers, she discussed the various online options for gamers, such as subscription game services, games to download on library computers, and game websites. Then, in Core Collections, Beth shared information on how to create a circulating game collection at your library, and presented some of the challenges to creating such a collection. Beth has provided links for all the services and information she shared through the GLLS2007 tag on her del.icio.us account.

The final keynote address was given by Liz Lawley, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In Games Without Borders: Gaming Beyond Consoles and Screens, she discussed how we should make real life more like a game, rather than making our games more like real life. Some interesting facts shared by Dr. Lawley is that for many people, online shopping feels like work since it requires a computer, so there is increased sales occurring at physical stores. Yet by contrast, Generation Y values their computers and cell phones over television, something that is the reverse of how older generations feel.

The conference wrapped up with a winner receiving a Wii console, donated by Nintendo America. But this wasn't just your ordinary door prize; the lucky winner had to win two different games to get her prize.

More information, such as PowerPoint slides and related information, will be posted to the conference's wiki in the coming days, so I encourage you to take a look for more information. Feel free to comment here or send me an email at melinwonderland@yahoo.com, if you'd like to know more about any presentation that I've mentioned.

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Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 2

The second day of the Gaming, Learning and Libraries Symposium was chock-block full of great information, both theoretical and practical. There's not enough space to go into every program I attended, but hopefully the highlights will excite your interest!

The day started with a keynote speech entitled Libraries, Gaming and the New Equity Crisis from James Paul Gee of Arizona State University. Dr. Gee spoke eloquently about the need for libraries to play a role in the spread of new literacy, a form of literacy that's not just about print. There are several gaps that exist that affect the ability of students to learn, including literacy, applications, knowledge, tech savvy, and innovation gaps. Interestingly enough, technology alone is not enough to close these gaps; without a framework of mentoring and support, technology will actually cause these gaps to widen.

The bulk of the day featured many innovative break-out sessions. There were certain presentations that I found especially interesting. First was Growing a Gaming Group/How They'd Do That?, showcasing the gaming events held at four different Illinois libraries. Julie Scordato of the Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library dispensed lots of practical advice on Getting Gaming on the Table. As a LiveJournal user, I was particularly engaged during We're in UR Library Bein UR Books: Making and Using Book-Based RPGs with Middle-Schoolers. Kit Ward-Crixell gave an engaging presentation on how to use LiveJournal to encourage young teens to role-play as characters from their favorite books. Finally, Eli Neiburger discussed Tournament Games for Any Occasion: Choosing the Right Games for Your Audience, and his presentation was full of fantastic information on what games to consider for gaming tournaments.

The day was wrapped up with a teen panel, moderated by Stephen Abram. It was a great opportunity to find out more about new technologies from a group of teens.

I took some time yesterday evening to download and start using Second Life. I haven't really understood the appeal of Second Life, and now that I've seen a bit of it . . . I'm still having trouble with it. But I'll certainly give it a fair shake, and who knows what might happen?

If you're interested in more information on any of the programs I've discussed, don't hesitate to comment. And take a look at pictures of this event!

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Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 1

I'm here in Chicago attending the first ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning and Libraries Symposium, and it's already been a fantastic event. The conference opened on Sunday at 1pm with three keynote speeches.

First, Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT spoke about What Librarians Need to Know About Games, Media Literacy and Participatory Culture. He shared a quote from Scott Osterweil, who discussed the differences between a spelling bee and a game of Scrabble: how the spelling bee taught students to memorize words they'd never use, while the game of Scrabble taught students spelling and word usage with little penalty for mistakes. Dr. Jenkins also talked about how more than half of all American teens--and 57% of those teens who use the Internet--could be considered media creators. A white paper co-authored by Dr. Jenkins discussed several questions about ensuring access, providing education in critical understanding of new media, and learning ethical community standards. For more information, you can consult http://henryjenkins.org or Project NML

Next, Dr. Scott Nicholson from Syracuse University's School of Information Studies discussed Who Else is Playing? The Current State of Gaming in Libraries. The founder of the Library Game Lab, Dr. Nicholson has been performing studies on recreational gaming in libraries, and not just electronic gaming. As there is a lack of basic research, Dr. Nicholson's group has been using science to understand the phenomena of gaming. The results of the first study, Understanding the State of Gaming, was released at the symposium; the second study, the 2006 Gaming Census, will be released shortly. More information can be accessed at http://gamelab.syr.edu.

Finally, Eli Neiburger from the Ann Arbor District Library shared his experiences of running gaming programs, and told the audience about The Payoff, Up Close and Personal. Gaming doesn't have to be expensive; you can borrow equipment and use staff to minimize costs to as low as $150 for your program. The great thing about gaming programs, Eli said, is taking content that normally is consumed individually and making it into a social event. AADL also features a feature-rich software that allows tracking of participants in video game tournaments, and this software will soon be available for other libraries to use. You can get more info on the software, GT System, at http://gtsystem.aadl.org. For more info about the gaming programs at AADL, you can access http://www.aadl.org/aadlgt; the slides from Eli's presentation can be accessed at http://aadl.org/files/techsource.pdf.

The evening was capped off with video game tournaments hosted by Eli, in which yours truly competed in DDR and Wii Tennis. I so have to get me a DDR setup and a Wii now.

More posts on this great conference will be coming soon!

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