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

Get your library on the map

Posted on August 26, 2015

There is plenty of room left for your library on the International Games Day map. You must register before September 10th, 2015 to be eligible for the game donations!

 

Morality and games, and the morality of games

Posted on August 17, 2015

Written by guest contributor JC Lau

One aspect of playing games is that we can do things in games that we cannot—for a variety of reasons—do in real life. We become fighters, adventurers, characters with distinct motivations and abilities to our actual selves. For example, even if we can’t fly in real life, we might be able to in a game. Or maybe we develop ninja-like fighting skills, while in real life we are horribly uncoordinated.

Notice that the examples I give about are cases where we’re limited by physical boundaries. But what about moral considerations? Just because there are games where we can kill, backstab, steal, and rape, does this mean that we should do those things? What do our moral decisions in games tell us about what kinds of people we are?

You might think “But of course you can do those things. It’s a game!”, but this response might be too narrow. Consider the video game Grand Theft Auto V, a game over which much ink has been spilled for this very reason. At its heart, GTAV is a game about as many morally repugnant actions (from a real-world perspective) as you can imagine. You guide Trevor, a literal psychopath through a series of violent rampages, from drug deals to assassinations and even torture minigames. Even when you’re not on a mission, you’re free to run down pedestrians, steal cars, and beat people to death.

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A scene from the torture sidequest in Grand Theft Auto V

Some games are even designed so that you do morally questionable actions. GTAV is one such game. But even Dungeons and Dragons (especially if your character is chaotic, or evil, or both) requires players to lie, steal and kill in order to advance. And the gameplay in games such as Diplomacy or The Resistance relies on players threatening others or being underhanded in order to succeed. Presumably, such traits are not desirable in real life. And Cards Against Humanity literally bills itself as “a game for terrible people”, with topics such as rape, transmisogyny, disability, racism and sexism on the table as the subjects of jokes.

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Some of the cards from Cards Against Humanity

Of course, part of the appeal of games like these is that you can do these things in the first place without consequence. Part of the fun of the games in the GTA series is precisely because you can commit morally reprehensible acts in an environment where nobody gets hurt. You are, after all, not imposing actual harm, and it’s on a series of pixels anyway. Likewise, in D&D, you’re not really harming kobolds (or orcs, or peasants, or whatever) because they’re existing in a fictional universe. It’s not like real kobolds are taking damage from your real weapons!

A player’s moral system does not always follow them into their game. Nor should it—after all, games are supposed to be fun! But at the same time, how one plays a game can be instructive in the type of person they are. Insofar as our actions and decisions can reveal our motivations, personalities, and moral compass, picking the amoral course of action in a game might have consequences after all. Now, this is not to say that all games have these consequences, but for the handful that do, this can be a tricky issue.

The German moral philosopher Immanuel Kant is known for his work on action-based moral theories, and has a quote which might shed some light on this issue: “If a man shoots his dog because the animal is no longer capable of service, he does not fail in his duty to the dog... but his act is inhuman and damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show towards mankind.”

Although this quote is in the context of what moral duties (if any) Kant thought we had towards animals, it fits into the broader structure of his moral theories by focusing the determinant of morality on how we act. Kant’s best-known moral principle, the Categorical Imperative, is also an instance of this: the best action is the one that we can universalize to everyone doing. So for example, if we are trying to decide whether lying is a morally acceptable action, we would imagine a world where everyone lied. If such a world would be untenable—and it probably is, due to the lack of social trust—then “you ought to lie” is not a principle that can be universalizable, and therefore lying is not a moral course of action.

In our case, if we are wantonly killing, torturing and stealing in a game, it could be argued that we too are damaging our humanity which we have a duty to show. Even if no actual harm is being done, we are making it known that we are (at least potentially) terrible people.

Some players are becoming more attuned to these issues. For example, Cards Against Humanity has been criticized recently for how much it punches down it does on minorities and on sensitive social issues from a position of white, male privilege, which has led to the removal of certain cards from the CAH deck. Of course, playing CAH is usually a fun experience where you try to be more lewd and offensive than your friends, but the fact that you sometimes has to take a moment to check whether the card you’re about to play could actually be hurtful to other people (for example, if you don’t know if someone you’re playing with is a cancer or rape survivor), then that seems to indicate that there’s a tension in the game’s goals and our own sensibilities. And, at that point, is winning a round of CAH really worth it?

Now, I’m not advocating that we should boycott these games or preach about their evils. After all, they are games, and they are supposed to be lighthearted and fun. But when some of the decisions we make in games go beyond the scope of the game and reveal something about our own morality and nature, then maybe we ought to think more carefully about their consequences.

IGD Collaboration is a Win-Win!

Posted on August 10, 2015

Maria Hertel is aging up in her library career! She has served everyone from babies to adults as a children’s librarian, teen librarian, and at the college level at libraries across Wisconsin and Illinois. She is beginning her third year as a Reference Librarian at the La Crosse (WI) Public Library.

I think librarians can all agree that consulting an expert on a subject is a good way to gather information about an unfamiliar topic. Keeping that in mind, I went to my experts—the gaming community in the La Crosse area—for help planning the second International Games Day at the La Crosse (WI) Public Library.

The great thing about gaming is the wide variety of choices available including video games, card games, board games, and roleplaying games. Giving patrons opportunities to try out games is what IGD is all about! The difficult thing is that it can be very overwhelming to plan if you are not a regular gamer. Don’t get me wrong, I love games, and have played lots of them from standards such as Connect Four to more complicated Euro Games, but it takes a special type of person to be able to teach others the ins and outs of these games.

Explaining the rules of the board game Ticket to Ride.

Explaining the rules of the board game Ticket to Ride.

Learning the finer details of the card game Magic the Gathering.

Learning the finer details of the card game Magic the Gathering.

Difficult to plan you say? Challenge accepted! Time to pull in the local gaming community! To plan our IGD, I pulled in experts from four local game stores who specialize in board games, card games, and video games. I also got help from two local gaming clubs. These volunteers know what games are hot, and better yet, they can bring a collection of awesome games along. During our IGD they helped teach popular games like Ticket to Ride, Magic the Gathering, Street Fighter, Suspend, and Word on the Street. Best of all, they were able to let the patrons know what an active gaming community we have in the region.

How can you find these sorts of groups in your area?

  • Word of mouth—gamers usually know where to find other gamers.
  • Check to see where people buy games in your community.
  • Search websites like Facebook or Meetup for local gaming groups.
  • Not a big gamer scene in your town?  See if you can find some library staff members or volunteers who can help lead some of their favorite games.

The key is having people who are passionate about a game and willing to teach it to someone else.

Having multiple volunteers ensures there is a variety of games. Here a volunteer demonstrates Suspend and Word on the Street.

Having multiple volunteers ensures there is a variety of games. Here a volunteer demonstrates Suspend and Word on the Street.

What can game experts do for you?

  • Help patrons learn an assortment of new games.
  • Set up tech for video games, which is time consuming and confusing if you aren't up to speed on the newest game systems.
  • Provide "gamer’s advisory" (just like reader’s advisory) for those who want to learn new games.
  • Talk to patrons about other gaming venues and events in the community.
  • Help build relationships between patrons and community members who have a common interest.
  • Encourage patrons to support local businesses and get involved in local clubs.

It was great to have help at the event and to have people who share excitement and expertise about all types of games.

Having a volunteer teach a game like Pandemic sure beats breaking out the rule book!

Having a volunteer teach a game like Pandemic sure beats breaking out the rule book!

Volunteers can help set up tech ensuring that several people can play at the same time, including group games on the big screen.

Volunteers can help set up tech ensuring that several people can play at the same time, including group games on the big screen.

The collaborations that began as part of IGD have also spurred other events in our community. For example, the library has collaborated on Free Comic Book Day and is now holding gaming nights during the summer. Likewise, the atmosphere of collaboration has helped to create two big community events—a Comic Con at the La Crosse Public Library and a gaming convention at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse called Coulee Con.

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.

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