International Games Week October 29 – November 4

IGD Reflections

Posted on December 16, 2014

Hi folks! Here are some musings on my time in the IGD team the last couple of years. While I'll still be around, I will have to step back somewhat this coming year, so I hope you'll indulge me before I go!

The first thing I wanted to remark on was how IGD reflects the medium we celebrate, games, as a way of building connections. In the course of this work, I've corresponded and even chatted through various voice channels with lovely folks from all over the world. I've experienced this before, mind you, in my volunteer work for Amnesty International - but that was in defense of universal human rights and basic freedoms, so you'd expect that you'd tap into a worldwide community of goodhearted souls. That I would be lucky enough to have a similar experience focused on games was not something I'd ever expected, but I've met and/or corresponded with not only quiet folks who make awesome things happen (predictable, seeing as we are blessed with so many in libraryland), but notable leaders and activists, and amazing creators of games, literature, and mischievous mixtures of both.

(If this appeals to you, maybe you should consider helping out with the IGD committee?)

Next, looking back at the two series of interviews that occasioned a good deal of the aforementioned correspondence, it's truly remarkable to me how strong the connection between games folks and libraries is. Every one of the game designers interviewed for this series has spoken about the strength of their personal connection to libraries, and over half - 4 of the 7 - either have immediate family (all mothers, in fact) who have spent significant time working in libraries or have done so themselves. I didn't set out to achieve this at all - I simply haven't had time to curate this to any extent! Now, there may be some selection bias at work here - certainly an interview on libraries will most strongly appeal to library-lovers - but I should add that among the game designers I approached, there were very few people who didn't say yes... which would tend to confirm my general point: gamers love libraries.

Similarly, while not all of them would necessarily identify as such, there are no non-gamers among the authors and library folks we interviewed for the companion series. Not one. And once again, I didn't seek people out on the basis of their enjoyment of games - I had no idea, except in Ryan North's case. I selected them because I thought they were interesting (and I had a shot at getting a response from them): they are all intelligent, hardworking, deep-thinking people who all clearly have a deep and abiding love of and commitment to libraries and books... and it turns out they all play games. That's obviously not to say that everyone does - but it is to say that clearly many of "our kinds of people" (not that most libraries exist to serve only one kind of person!) find something in games that is worth the investment of their time. To my mind, this adds weight to a long-held pet theory: that games and play are to brain workers and creators what dancing is to athletes - exercising (and incidentally further developing) a highly developed capacity for the sake of the sheer pleasure of it. It also tends to validate, yet again, the idea that not only do games belong in libraries just as much as other creative works, but that they have a special place in libraries - the home of self-directed intelligence and shared culture, especially in forms that require the active engagement of the audience, as both reading and playing do.

We still have a way to go in helping this be more widely understood: cultural inertia is a powerful force, as are the metrics and systems it shapes and which are some of its most potent embodiments. (Game designers know better than anyone the power of systems and measurement to direct attention and shape behaviour!) Thankfully, 1400 libraries all over the planet coming together to bring that intelligent, community-focused, cultured library experience to the playing (and sharing) of games for somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people worldwide is a pretty powerful invalidation of those faulty assumptions.

Overcoming those misconceptions is worth the effort. (It helps that the effort produces something as fun as IGD!) It's clear that the good things to be cultivated by proper inclusion of games in libraries - including increased systems literacy, greater implementation bias, and more cohesive and inclusive communities - are a potent complement to the existing virtues we cultivate so well: traditional informational literacy, reflective analysis, and independent thought (plus of course more cohesive and inclusive communities; let's not forget this is something we already promote!). And extrinsic benefits aside, in and of itself, fun is as much worth sharing as beauty - if indeed they are not fundamentally just active and passive modes of the same thing.

 

As this is likely to be my final post in my current role here at IGD, I'd personally like once again to thank the IGD volunteer team for their hard work in making it all happen: Diane Robson (Diane in particular for the tremendous support she's offered over the last couple of years), Teresa Slobuski, Kristin Boyett, Rebecca Richardson, Hannah Tracy, Simon Lee, international reps Ben Manolas from ALIA and Lone Hejlskov Munkeberg from Nordic Game Day (and Lone's predecessor Thomas Vigild), and all the others who chipped in along the way (along with anyone else I've forgotten - life is more hectic than usual at this end!); Jenny Levine, for her support behind the scenes and throughout the past years of IGD; the folks on the Games & Gaming Round Table for their kind words and encouragement; David Folmar for his help with the Global Gossip Game; the interviewees and other contributors to the blog; plus of course our generous donors, who have been thanked more eloquently than I possibly could by our participating libraries in the final report; and all three auspicing organisations (ALA, ALIA and NGD) for their support and vision in helping make IGD happen.

But most of all, I'd like to thank the libraries and individuals who take the idea of IGD and make it a reality that everyday folks all over the planet can actually experience and enjoy, both among themselves and as part of a consciously shared worldwide community of culture and learning. To me, among the best qualities of humanity is that empathetic capacity to heighten our pleasure and enjoyment with the knowledge that it is being shared with others; it simultaneously motivates concern for each other and gives us the energy to act on that sense of community. Events like IGD give us the opportunity to do that sharing (and reward it) on an explicitly global scale - as libraries always do, of course, but again, usually not in such a conscious and overt way.

To my mind that makes IGD not just a fun thing, but a beautiful one too.

And you make that happen. So thank you for your interest and support, and here's to many more International Games Days @ our libraries! (Starting with Saturday November 21, 2015.)

And if you're interested to hear more about my other work for games and libraries, have been interested in reading more along the lines of the articles/series I've composed for this blog, have a brilliant idea or awesome library for the Global Gossip Game, or just want to ask me something, look me up at philipminchin.com.

All best wishes from Australia,
- Philip Minchin

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