International Games Day @ your library Game on November 21, 2015!

Get your Game On! During the Eighth ALA International Games Day Celebration

Posted on August 3, 2015

This year marks the eighth year for the International Games Day celebration, and registration is off to a great start with over 800 registrations for the 2015 event! Our goal is to have over 1500 libraries register this year, so keep spreading the word.

Each year we have sponsors who provide games to help you start or build your collection. This year Good Games, Konami, Looney Labs, Steve Jackson Games, and USAopoly have all returned to offer you games. We also have two new sponsors: Yummy Yummy Tummy and Asmodee. These donations have been the impetus for starting game collections in libraries both large and small across the library world.

The Global Gossip Game and the Minecraft Hunger Games tournament will also be returning this year. In the Global Gossip Game (GGG), libraries pass a phrase from library to library around the globe. At the end of the day, the beginning and ending phrase are matched and a report is released with all of the changes it went through on its journey.

The Ann Arbor District Library is once again leading the week-long Minecraft Hunger Games tournament. Each library becomes a “district” whose players may be chosen at the reaping as representatives in a series of PvP survival matches inside a Minecraft World. Districts with the highest points will go on to an international tournament.

If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so at http://igd.ala.org/register/  This event has only one requirement - you have to have some sort of game-related activity in or around your library, on or around the official date, Saturday November 21, 2015. The games can be videogames on a library console, tabletop games, social games, party games - whatever you think will work for your individual library and community.

The International Games Day Committee makes participating easy by providing a press kit with poster and materials to help you promote the day in your library at http://igd.ala.org/library-press-kit/.

The American Library Association’s Games and Gaming Round Table would like to thank our collaborators, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Nordic Game Day, for helping make this event truly international. A special thanks goes out to ALIA for the wonderful poster design. This event is not only a collaboration of associations, but also relies heavily on the hard work of individual librarians from around the world. This event is run by volunteers and we couldn’t do it without them!

Get your Game On @ the library!

IGD Poster 2015

Promote tabletop gaming and gamers can help you grow a library group

Posted on July 27, 2015

Travis Perry is the founder of the Franklin County Gamers group in Northern Vermont.  When not serving on the local school board, hanging out with his family, or turning time into dollars, you can find him pushing his table top games on people. You can contact him at taperryvt at gmail.com.

Gamers are everywhere, but surprisingly the biggest complaint we have is "I can't find someone to game with me".  My poor wife has heard that too many times to count, and has given in to my demands to play tabletop games with me, but I know her heart isn't in it.  She usually starts to get a "trapped animal" look in her eye and looks for a way to politely end the game early if it goes past 40 minutes.

I live in a rural part of Vermont and getting people together to play games usually means someone is driving an hour to go play.  I was making a 50 minute trek across the state one day a month to play games and it pushed me to create my own group.

I needed a place to play games that met a few criteria:

  • Family friendly
  • A space with enough chairs and tables
  • A location that was central to an area and community
  • A place that was inviting and nonthreatening

This lead me to contact our public library.  It met all of the criteria, as libraries are usually a hub in the geography of a community.   We started our monthly event at the Georgia Public library in Georgia Vermont and on the very first day I was told that if we got 6 people to attend that would be very good for a program.  We got 17 people the first day.

Gamers will travel to play games!

The Library did not know it had this need to fill and was excited to be getting people from many towns away to attend this event.  We have averaged 12-15 people at every event, with new people checking us out almost every month.

The library kindly advertises in the local papers and online as well.   As word of our group spread other gamer communities started to list our event at the library on their sites and online pages and we have quite a large reach.

Mind you I thought I would be the only one playing games or teaching 1 or 2 people to play each month, I never imagined this kind of participation in only 7 months of existence.

Symbiotic Relationship

The library helped get this game group going, and I decided the game group could help the library and others in our area.  We knew libraries needed games for people to play if they wanted to host their own events but they didn't know what to buy or were intimidated by the cost.  Tabletop Games can run $20-$80 and come in big intimidating boxes.

I focused on contacting board game publishers to see if they wanted to donate to libraries to help them build their collection, since the gaming community is a "community" after all.

Tasty Minstrel games donated 12 games within a week, and so did Asmadi Games (4 games).  Alderac Entertainment (or AEG) donated 7 games, and 7 more came from Rio Grande games.  Steve Jackson games and Gamewright games donated and many others.  I was moved by the kind donations to spread the community of gaming.

So far to date, we have helped libraries secure donations for over 100 games.  Spread between 7 libraries that's almost 15 games per library.

You can get free games!   Get on that Libraries :)  Just remember to send them a thank you or a picture of the people playing their games.

International TableTop Day at the library is great, but tapping into the local gamer community can help you keep the momentum all year long.  My advice is to have a game day, and then tap into that group of gamers and maybe you too can find your gamer champion who will help you carry that torch and spread the love of gaming in your community.

IGD at Pope County Library

Posted on July 23, 2015

Lori Latimer is the Assistant Genealogist at the Pope County Library in Russellville, Arkansas

2015 will be our 3rd year participating on International Games Day. This event is for all ages, and all types of games and gamers. Monopoly, Steve Jackson, and other game makers have donated games to our library in the past. This has given our library outreach resources that we could not have gotten under our current budget constraints. Also, we have adults and teens who can use the games in-house during regular business hours. This is passive programming and patrons love it.

Pope County Library Boardgames

In 2014, our second year to participate, many of our patrons begged for more than once per year game days/nights. This evolved into a once per month game night, and we put board game money into our programming budget to buy a new game or add-ons once per month.

Pope County Library

2013 was our first year to participate, and it opened up our programming to include all ages. In the past children’s, teen's and adult programming were all separated. International Games Day changed the way we looked at programming.

Pope County Library

This has spread throughout our community, and we never have less than 10 participants show up. We moved away from video, to board games, and it is a lot of fun. We get good feedback. Thank you IGD!

Pope County Library Poster

 

International Games Day: Libraries are for Gamers (and Everyone Else)

Posted on July 15, 2015

Our guest post this week is from Stephanie Freas.

Stephanie Freas is an Adult Services Assistant at Licking County Library and focuses her work on programming for adults in their 20’s to 30’s and helping people find their next favorite read. When she isn’t at the Information Desk, she is hiking in central Ohio or starting a new book. Her favorite video game is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and she enjoys playing 7 Wonders with her friends and family.

For libraries, International Games Day is the perfect time to reel in gamers of all ages and highlight our resources for these underserved patrons. Whether it is board, card, or video gaming, there is often something for everyone to enjoy. In November 2014, I was able to participate in my first ever International Games Day event. As a lover of all things gaming, I was thrilled to share my passion with the community.

Licking County Library offers a variety of unique resources to lend to the community, two of which are board games and video games. We have a wide collection of video games for modern consoles, and we have twenty different board and card games available for all ages.

Our Event Goals:

  1. Highlight our gaming collections
  2. Collaborate with businesses in the community
  3. Invite patrons who may not utilize our services regularly.

Overall, the program was a success. Comic Shop Plus, a small local comic and board game store that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, joined us for the event, and they played some of the board games with attendees. We have grown a strong relationship with the owners and continue to plan future events, including a Board Game Night and RPG Meet-up. 1UP, a more recently erected video game store, lent us retro game systems and games for our retro game tournament and supplied us with the grand prizes of gift cards. Finally, we had 38 people attend the program who represented all age groups.

Licking County Library - IGD
Event Slide for our Library Promotional Screens

Star of the Show: Retro Game Tournament

One of the most rewarding and unique aspects of International Games Day was our “Retro Game Tournament.”

We had two tournaments: Mario Kart 64 and Super Smash Bros. To my surprise, the tournament slots filled up quickly, and people loved playing the games. One of the most interesting takeaways from families was that parents were excited to see their children play with the consoles they themselves used to love. The younger kids had a blast with the weird N64 controllers, and they enjoyed playing the older games. Since the tournaments lasted for so long (three hours!), we hosted the games simultaneously. We also put board games on tables around the event room and set out another television loaded with games to play while people waited for their turn.

Licking County Library - IGD

Technical Fail

Of course, you can’t have an event without some technical failures. And with retro games, it is bound to happen. Our original plan was to have two televisions for the tournament and one for recreational use. The Atari coaxial cord was on the fritz, so we couldn’t play games on that. Instead, we had an extra Nintendo; people took turns playing various games all afternoon. It was unfortunate, because the Atari has such a good reputation as one of the original game systems for mass play. But, there was still plenty to do for everyone.

Licking County Library - IGD
One of our tournament players, waiting for his opponent.    

Licking County Library - IGD
The Winners Circle of the Tournaments

Licking County Library - IGD
Aiden, our raffle winner of the Comic Shop Plus Gift Certificate

Gaming is For Everyone

While the Retro Game Tournament was the central event of the day, attendees were able to battle out on some of our board games. We played Carcassonne, Munchkin, Enchanted Forest, and Bugs in the Kitchen, among others that I’m sure I missed. The board games were less about battling, though, and more about cooperation and meeting people. Quite a few games were played by many generations and by people who had never met!

Licking County Library - IGD
Gamers setting up Bugs in the Kitchen.

Licking County Library - IGD
A world is created in Carcassonne. 

Licking County Library - IGD
A Final Shot of the Afternoon

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, our version of International Games Day was a success, and with hope, the start of an annual tradition in the library. Even months later, we still have people asking when our next retro game event will be, and we have garnered more interest in our collections. And, people shared their ideas for what they want to see at the library: Call of Duty tournaments, more retro gaming, RPG opportunities, board game nights, and more. I am excited at the prospect of hosting another event and look forward to working more with the gaming community in our county. Who knows what we’ll see at the November 21st event in Licking County this year!

 

Games as Art

Posted on July 6, 2015

Previously disguised as a college professor and family lawyer, JC Lau is an Australian video game journalist and writer living in Seattle. She’s been a gamer since she started playing Pac-Man on her Apple IIe at the age of 3, but her very first love is for words and storytelling. She writes about geekery and gender at her website, Mouse Smash, and probably also tweets too much. She also dabbles in board games and RPGs, but all her characters mysteriously turn out to be like Batman or Wolverine in combat. Her non-gaming interests include political philosophy, food science, roller derby, and being a foster parent for her ferrets. If she had a superpower, she’d want hydrokinesis, although—or because—she can see how easily that could turn her into a super villain.

Games as Art
Can games also be considered art? There are games that, to be sure, are described as art, and games that are visually appealing, but can games as a whole be considered an art form?

In this article, I’ll consider the artistic value of games. This can be a heated and controversial topic, so I don’t expect this to solve any age-old debates. However, I hope that I can generate some thoughts on the relationship between games and art, and how games could fit in to the world of art.

To be clear, I’m not talking about game art—that is, the illustrations on the cover of one’s Dungeon Master Guide or the pictures on the game board. Game art is often considered functional, where it is there to help the players by providing some context. However, I’m more interested in the idea that a game itself—or its components—can be a work of art. So, if a game requires the use of art in it (such as Dixit, Monument Valley or even Pictionary), my query is whether they count as art because of that feature.

What is art? What is a game? Avoiding some preliminary pitfalls
In order to consider whether games are art, we’d first have to establish what counts as a game, and what counts as art. We often have an idea of each, based on our social and cultural practices. But as centuries of philosophers, critics, designers and linguists have discovered, the endeavor to categorically define what art is, and what games are, could be extensive and fruitless. After all, there are whole areas of study devoted to these topics, with little resolution in them.

For example, if we look at the Mona Lisa, most of us may be inclined to say that it’s a work of art. But can the same be said for Duchamp’s Fountain? Or what about cases where everyday objects are assumed to be art because they are in an art gallery? It seems that there are some things which count as art (for example, the Mona Lisa), and some things that do not count as art (such as a discarded napkin from yesterday’s dinner, in a dumpster), but there is a whole gamut of objects that fall into the grey area where they could be art.

Likewise, for games, there are some games which are commonly praised for its artistic value. The video game Grim Fandango, for example, was described as triumph for its strong artistic direction, including its film noir elements. Dixit is known for its surrealist art and creative storytelling. At the other end of the scale, though, are games such as checkers, or Pong, which have little to no narrative and are visually simplistic. Do they count as art?

Instead, perhaps a less infuriating way to open the discussion on this issue would be to look at parallels between games and art, and use that to draw some conclusions.

There’s a well-known and controversial debate about whether video games can be art, sparked by Roger Ebert’s declaration that “video games can never be art”. Ebert argued that “art should be defined as the imitation of nature” (his emphasis), and that art is “usually the creation of one artist”. Since games—especially video games—often do not imitate nature, and are commonly the products of collaboration, on Ebert’s logic they cannot be art.

Thresholds for art and games: creativity, social structures and user experience
Perhaps Ebert is not being sufficiently charitable in understanding games, or art. Sure, art can be hard to define, but at a very general level, perhaps it can be considered to be the product of expression of the creative process. If it’s an expression of one’s creation to paint a picture of a lady with a bemused and mysterious smile, that’s fine as art. If it’s an expression of one’s creation to put a urinal in an art gallery, then that also seems to satisfy the (very low) threshold for art.

Games, by definition, are products of the creative process: many of them (such as Dungeons and Dragons or Galaxy Trucker) are based on imaginary worlds. Even when they are based in reality, they still empower the player to make decisions that affect its outcomes, such as games like Diplomacy, Pandemic, or any war-based first person shooter.

Even games without a narrative can be creative: Minecraft takes place in a fictitious world where the player can determine her own story, and even games without conventional narratives such as Pac Man and Battleship have been given stories of their own with movies based on the games. So, games seem to also meet this requirement for creativity.

However, what also makes something art isn’t that there’s some essential feature of it that is art. As Eric Zimmerman observed, “You can’t split the atom of a Picasso and find an essential art particle inside.” Art is (or rather, becomes) art under certain conditions. If da Vinci had scribbled the Mona Lisa in the dirt with a stick where it was never seen by anyone, then it’s tenuous to think that it would be as revered as the actual painting in the Louvre is today. If Jackson Pollock wasn’t Jackson Pollock, but some random guy on the street throwing paint around, his products probably wouldn’t count as art in the same way (or, at least, we’d be much less inclined to put it in a gallery and sell it for millions of dollars). What matters, then, isn’t the object itself, but rather, the temporal and social conditions that lend themselves to determining whether an object is art.

When considering games as an art form, similar issues arise. There’s nothing intrinsically artsy (or non-artsy) about games; social practices will help determine the game’s artistic value. If H.P. Lovecraft never existed, games like Arkham Horror might come across as confusing and awkwardly pretentious, for example. If we didn’t know about scientific research and what horrible things real-world diseases can do, games like Pandemic might not have as much meaning.

One final parallel is that both art and games, whether intentionally or not, evoke an experience in the perceiver. The ability to evoke emotions is commonly seen to be one of the main features of art. In his book, What is Art?, Leo Tolstoy observes,

Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.

When you play a game, you’re experiencing something—being thrust into another world, transforming into another character, or even having different goals than what you would have outside of the game. Isn’t this a case of experience and feeling being evoked because of the game?

A final qualification: good art and bad art
It may also be misguided to dismiss games as art simply because they’re not pretty things in a museum. Even given the conditions above for what counts as art, we can see that not all art is created equal. The crayon drawings that a child makes in kindergarten, for example, aren’t on par with the Mona Lisa (even though parents might praise it as such). Art can be good or bad.

If that’s the case, why should we think the same of games? Games can qualify as art to a degree—it’s not an absolute one way or another. Perhaps a game like Monument Valley, which was made by graphics designers, is an instance of good art in a game. Every shot in the game was intended to look like you could just print it out and frame it. We can contrast this with a game such as Pong which, while iconic, probably didn’t have much going for it visually. Maybe this is one of the problems in the age-old debates: when people think of art, they are thinking of high-end, fine art. But if we drop the threshold for what counts as art, we can be a lot more inclusive. And of course, we don’t have to like it all.

So perhaps the upshot of this is, if we have to answer a question such as the one posed at the beginning of this piece, then maybe the answer is “yes”, but with the qualification that not everything that is art is good art, games included.

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