the games people play

We’re going to play a little game. A much hyped electronic device will be released in the next little bit, and here are some details. Do you know what it is?

Reading, collaboration

3 fast processors

Social networks, learning

Always online

Got it yet?

Digital media hub

Problem solving, research

All High Definition content

Will make millions of dollars this December

Any luck? The device in question is the XBOX 360. For more details on the (quite amazing) specs of the machine, see all of the links from The Xbox 360 Unveiled on slashdot, but let me say here that the thing will have more computing power than any machine on which you might be reading this right now.

The most interesting announcement to me was the fact that all XBOX 360s will be able to participate in XBOX Live, which is the online component to the system, for free (though the free accounts will be limited). And all XBOX games will be Live ready. XBOX Live allows players to do things like create an online identity, participate in multiplayer games and download additional content. This will be a huge sphere of information and social interaction in which libraries aren’t present. I’m not saying that libraries need to have an online presence on XBOX Live (if anyone wants to pay me to do that, I’m listening), but simply that we need to be aware it is there.

Sadly, there’s another way in which libraries won’t be present when it comes to XBOX 360: meeting the cultural needs of our younger patrons. To my knowledge there aren’t many libraries that circulate videogames, although doing so would greatly increase libraries’ relevancy for many young people. So would holding gaming nights at the library, like Ann Arbor Library District and Bloomington Public Library The mission statement at the library for which I work states that we’re to “meet the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs” of our community. What about you?

If yours says something similar, and you’re a member library of the Metropolitan Library System, you’re in luck. Jenny and I are organizing and writing a grant to bring gaming to MLS libraries. We’re hoping to get a “Gaming at Your Library” kit that can be circulated to member libraries. The kit will consist of the necessary equipment to hold a gaming night at a library. The details of the equipment aren’t 100% solidified, but we’re looking to get about 12 consoles (6 Playstations, 6 XBOX 360), 11 LCDs, 1 projector, 1 screen, and perhaps some headphones and stereo equipment. With readymade PR, this kit will be a no-brainer way to captivate the young patrons of MLS libraries.

To get things started, there’s the Gaming at Your Library tech summit. From there, we’re going to accept member libraries’ requests to be part of the action. More details about the hardware, games we’re going to choose, and other developments will follow. We’re also looking for comments and suggestions, so don’t be shy.

11 thoughts on “the games people play”

  1. I’m curious, which version of the Playstation are you planning on purchasing? Sony just announced that the PS3 won’t be out this year, so there’d be a delay in getting that one.

    Also, have you considered some retro gaming? A couple of old NES systems, or the more recent ‘plug the controller directly into your TV’ packages of Atari games (such as here: http://www.jakkstvgames.com/atari.html) might make a nice affordable side attraction at the tournaments.

  2. Hey Chad! Long time no see.

    We were hoping that PS3 would be out in time for the grant, but I read a while back that it wasn’t likely. So we’ll go with PS2.

    I think that PS3 will be even more amazing than XBOX 360, but we can’t wait for it.

    We’ll see if Nintendo comes up with anything amazing with their (self proclaimed) Revolution, but I’m skeptical.

    Having some retro plug-in controller things is a great idea. I would love to hear the commentary from the kids as they play the games.

    My post re: XBOX 360 might make it sound like I’m really into gaming, but I’m not. The only thing I have is a controller plug in thingy for Tetris. Oh yeah! But it is two player!!

  3. A few quick suggestions from a former fringe member of the videogame press who’s now working for the libraries:

    1. Pick one platform.
    Having both PS and Xbox systems is going to be a bit redundant 80% of the time due to releases across the major platforms. Plus neither system will play with the other. The key question for most gamers (aside from cost) is the console movers. Those games like Halo on the Xbox which are exclusive to the system. In my case, I went Xbox because of Crimson Skies was exclusive to that system. The tech specs of the system never came into play for me. It was always a question of the availably of the games I wanted to play.

    2. Talk to the major players.
    EA has taken a roll in the development of the next generation of game designers by funding the creation of a program at USC. Microsoft have donated Xboxes and Xbox Live kits to the USO to help families stay connected by gaming while a loved one is on deployment plus the Gates foundation helps to fund WebJunction.. So run this pitch by them as well as Sony and Take 2 to see if they would be willing to help.

    3. Different games for different folks
    Keep in mind that the type of games that you pick is as important as the system. Sports games will bring a different crew than RPGs. RPGs with their turn based systems will take longer to play than shooters. Shooters will freak out a portion of your community with their levels of violence. God games like the Sims are tough to do with a group. Reto and Puzzle games are more for older gamers as a rule. The key is to rotate the games and the format to keep things fresh.

    4. XBL on the 360 Pros and Cons
    If you go with the Xbox 360 keep in mind a few things. The rig has been called by one critic, the Xbox 1.5 with a cash register.

    1.5 because it does not support HD-DVD nor does it have the technical horses that the PS3 will have. (Sony doesn’t want to ever what to hear how their box is underpowered even if it means giving Xbox a head start, something MS feels they need given the PS2 head start on them last generation).

    The cash register is Xbox Live. MS has been talking about micro content such as buying levels or allowing players to upload and sell a car they built for a certain game. That’s how they plan to get away with free accounts. Plus Xbox Live accounts are tied to the Xbox, not the player. So all it would take is one library patron talking smack to have the account tied to that Xbox start taking a reputation hit.

    Hope this was helpful,

    David

  4. @david

    thanks for the comments, they certainly help.

    i see your point about picking one platform. flexiblity is the main reason (i think) we are thinking about choosing two platforms. it would be nice to give participants choices of what they want to play. We’ll have to think hard and see if we would be selecting any exclusive games and go from there.

    i do have some preliminary contact info for the Gates Foundation. your comments re: funding from them are right on and exciting. i think MSFT/Sony would be silly to not want to get associated with this project, and to make inroads into the library world. that’s just me tho.

    interesting thoughts on XBL. i’m not quite sure how much we’d do with it, but it sounds like this model will make them even more money.

    i understand that the PS3 is being touted (and seems like it’ll be) the XBOX 360 killer, and frankly i think it would be the better system for the project (especially the great variety of content stemming from Sony’s ties to the companies making the games) but the timing was just not in the cards.

  5. What a great idea! I’ve wanted a library to do that for a long time now!
    However, I’m with you on getting multiple platforms. You’ll get more people to come in with multiple platforms, since there’s a lot of brand loyalty amongst gamers. Not only that, someone who has a PS2 might come in to play a game like Halo that doesn’t cross over. Multiplayer games can be an absolute blast! Halo, 007, Tekken, Gran Turismo, and DDR! I’m so thrilled that someone is actually doing this! All the fun and possibilities!!

  6. Hi again Aaron!

    Seeing DDR listed there by Corrine reminds me…

    The main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has weekly DDR sessions in their teen section. They have an Xbox and two of the more expensive dance pads that you can buy. From what I understand its been a big hit.

    I don’t know if they’ve organized any tournaments, but it might be ‘something different’ to draw people in.

    Can you tell I’m really interested in this topic? :)

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