Everyone else did a fab job taking copious transcripts of the Gaming in Libraries 2005 Symposium . I didn’t have all that typing in my fingers, so I sat back, listened, and jotted down some thoughts when the spirit moved me.
There were many great things about the conference, but there was one thing I liked in particular. And no, it wasn’t the fact that I got to play Mario Kart during the breaks. I was really pleased to hear that the same language I’ve (used and) seen being used to motivate people to get libraries involved with weblogs, RSS, and other social software was the same language being used at the symposium. Both the act of blogging and playing certain games can be seen as learning through gaining membership in a community of practice. Participation is the key. Constance Steinkuehler told the crowd just how much effort is spent by participating in a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) community. Weeks, months even, are spent in meetings, collecting data, analyzing data and determining a plan of action. To me, this really sounds like writing a research paper. Players are learning how to learn even if they aren’t aware.
And if libraries participate in the social networks of their users, “going to the library” will be less like it has been (often times a last resort), and more like consulting a friend. This similarity was encouraging because it indicates that Libraries are working on the same issues, for similar reasons, though different tactics. When we’re all getting our heads in the same place, joining together to accomplish similar goals…well folks, I dare say we’re part of a movement.
One idea that will likely come through in everyone’s reports is the notion of video games in libraries for their own sake, not as a loss leader for books. In our gaming grant, we stressed that for many people, getting involved with a game is like other people getting involved with a book. Les Gasser went so far as to say that games are now part of kids’ cultural mythology. The idea that games’ storylines have such an impact resonated with me. Just the other day I was talking with a colleague’s daughter and she told me the cut scenes (elaborate animated portions used to forward a game’s plot) in her favorite game are so moving that they made her cry. Games really are a form of storytelling. Try out some games if you need proof.
Another thing I hope everyone took away from the Symposium is a historical perspective on new media in libraries. Many of the speakers stressed that resistance to video games as part of library service is the same force that resisted DVDs, VHS tapes, Magazines, and even Fiction in libraries. The high/low culture debate in libraries is bound to continue.
The Symposium ended with some really great and super practical tips for librarians’ interactions with young people. Beth Galway did a great job illustrating how librarians can take prompts from games to pitch and tailor their services. Her points included:
- Be a strategy guide don’t be a level boss. In other words, don’t mimic the powerful and intimidating creatures that players defeat at the end of a level. Instead, be a collaborator in their journey.
- Show, don’t tell. Many kids like learning experientially.
- Get them started. Let them do. Then see if they need some guidance after a bit.
- Ask for a demo of expertise. Not only do thing kids like “doing,” they love to shine when they do well.
- Change the space often. Even if it is simple rearrangement, alter the space that teenagers use every week. This will keep their interest.