International Games Week October 29 – November 4

International Games Week

Special Guest Post: Postcard from Nordic Game Day 2013 – Thomas Vigild

Posted on October 22, 2013

You may know that in Northern Europe games are massively popular - despite the abundance of huge games conventions in the States (who me, jealous?), the world's single largest annual games convention is actually Spiel, in Essen, Germany. The existence of a regional Nordic Game Day is just further proof that games are going strong over there. To tell us more, here's the organiser of Nordic Game Day, Thomas Vigild! Thanks Thomas!

Aarhus Library in Denmark

Hi IGD!

Huge high fives from the Nordics, where the preparations for Nordic Game Day 2013 are going really well. Right now over 60 libraries all over the region have enlisted their official support for Nordic Game Day - and Norway is leading the charge - but many more will follow, as we gear up with more events, talks, competitions and tournaments on November 16th.

Games have become a natural and essential part of the Nordic libraries, and especially in Denmark this has been the case for many years. Many libraries in Denmark have dedicated game-librarians, who are skilled in how to communicate about games and cook up events for the patrons.

But libraries in Norway and Sweden are really quickly catching up these years, because many librarians have discovered the social power of games - both physical board games and digital games on both consoles, browsers and tablets.

One example is Drammen library in Norway, where they are hosting an annual “Spilnatt” (“Games Night”), which have hundred of kids standing in line to get into the library. During the night the library hosts all sorts of competitions, showcases of new both international and Nordic games and sometimes also board games, card games like Magic or roleplaying games.

At Nordic Game Day 2013 the big Nordic competition will go down in the beautiful and wonderful crazy mini-golf game ‘Wonderputt’ made for browsers. We wanted to find a non-violent game with awesome graphics and strong gameplay which was easy to get into, so here ‘Wonderputt’ seemed like a good match. The main prize is the new upcoming Sony PlayStation 4, so we´re expecting heavy resistance on the virtual golf-courses all across the region 🙂

Furthermore the Nordic libraries hosts a lot of regional tournaments in games like FIFA, Mario Kart, Magic: the Gathering, Singstar, Trackmania, Kinect games and also the physical quiz-board game Bezzerwizzer - and yes: quizzing is really big in the Nordics. The main library in Malmø (Sweden) will also feature an exhibition of old classic board games from the 70s, so there will be something for everybody during this Nordic Game Day.

We hope IGD is also doing well, and see ya later 🙂

- Thomas Vigild, coordinator for Nordic Game Day (supported by Nordic Game Institute)

More pictures from Nordic Game Day 2012 here!

Talking points: Games, systems, and systems literacy

Posted on October 14, 2013

Welcome to the fifth and final entry in that series of more detailed talking points we mentioned! I hope you've found them interesting and informative - or at least useful in making the case for games as having a place among the many modes of culture the library supports. I would be very interested to hear feedback in the comments! Anyway, here's the summary of this final Talking Point from the original post:

Games are systems, and fostering intelligent literacy about systems is an important educational goal on par with fostering intelligent literacy about words.

As we've discussed, games are culture that creates connections between people; they force us to exercise our capacity for mindfulness; and they are as capable of seriousness and at least as capable of fun as any other medium. But we have not yet talked about perhaps the single most important aspect of games: their existence as systems of rules. (And in some cases nothing more - no physical components at all!)

The world we live in is full of systems. Many of these are natural systems, such as the immensely complex system of air and water circulation that moves heat around the planet and (for instance) allows the west coast of Ireland to be far warmer than it has any right to be out there in the Atlantic with nothing between it and the Arctic. Or the migration patterns of birds and insects, or the dance of subatomic particles within every atom of matter, or the myriad physiological systems (nervous, digestive, circulatory, immune, endocrine...) whose interactions enable the individual existences of every complex living organism on the planet - including us.

Then there are the hybrid natural-human systems on which we depend, such as agriculture, water storage and distribution, various forms of power generation and resource gathering, shipping, fermentation, various medical interventions, and many more.

And lastly, of course, there are the entirely anthropogenic systems - languages (and for that matter language as a whole); the high technology of the internet and its billions of electronic components (including the computer on which I write this and the device on which you read it) which of course are themselves systems; government, the military, cities and towns; economies, corporations, production systems, workplaces; architecture, narratives, music, culture... We have always been surrounded and pervaded by systems of tremendous complexity, but increasingly and for an increasing number of us, the systems with which we interact are either heavily influenced by human intervention, or human-created.

(And we ignore to our peril the inescapable reality that all these systems which can so easily engross and consume our attention are themselves embedded in and emergent from the larger natural systems which surround us, supplying their raw materials, enabling and/or constraining their processes, and being affected by their outputs.)

One of the many extraordinary things about humanity is its capacity to perceive not just the moment-to-moment flow of phenomena, but - indirectly - the systems which underlie the endless tumble of events. It's like trying to work out the inner workings of a tremendous factory by peering through the windows - only the factory is the size of the universe, some of its machines are smaller than atoms, and each of us only gets one window a few centimetres across.

It is my firm belief - and I am far from alone in this; Plato, Einstein, and many other great minds agree - that this capacity is intimately linked to our capacity for play. Play is about consequence and experimentation, about if-this-then-that and what-if-this-happens? It is hard to imagine a behaviour better adapted to learning and responding to the parameters of a system.

Games, as codified play, are themselves systems. Some are incredibly simple systems - Tic-Tac-Toe or Snap - while some are tremendously complex systems which attempt to approximate reality (or some imaginary version thereof) - particularly the "crunchier" or more rules-heavy end of the tabletop roleplaying genre and the wargames from which it evolved, which have their roots in genuine military attempts to simulate various actual battle - and economic and ecological - conditions, and which typically by their nature need to be able to respond to player actions outside a rigorously predefined set of possibilities.

I am not an especially good Chess player, and barely know Go, but in both cases I know enough to see that one of the keys to successful play is the ability to successfully visualise the myriad interactions of a single move both on the board at the time and in the branching possibilities that arise from the new game state - the way it shifts the interfering patterns of support and protection. If I move my rook here, it protects my king, but leaves my bishop vulnerable, and if that goes my queen has nothing to protect it either. Of course, this is just one aspect of play; the ability to use the shift of pieces to manipulate your opponent into making key mistakes is another (and according to some, though I personally disagree, even more important) dimension - playing on your opponent through your play on the board.

Clearly these are skills which are worth cultivating - as our ancestors have known for millennia, as evidenced by the prestige rightly accorded excellence at Go, Chess, and similar games by cultures all around the world. This same ability to visualise and anticipate multiple interlocking influences and consequences is vital to biology, medicine, climate science, economics, physics, engineering, advanced manufacturing and informational workflows - pretty much any advanced discipline, and especially cross-disciplinary work and even advanced generalisation. (If you're interested in further reading, the pioneering work in systems thinking - the art of understanding system dynamics - done by Donella Meadows and others is an excellent place to start developing the general skill of analysing systems.)

So that's one aspect of this topic: the inherent merits of games as practice for life in the same way that fiction is - as a playful practice of necessary analytical skills with very real applications. But as we discussed last month, games aren't just systems, they're poetic systems - systems which are designed to express and/or induce particular emotions, ideas, or other responses.

And this is for me perhaps the most valuable aspect of games as culture: they teach us that systems are not neutral, that they can and do embody particular values and weight themselves towards particular outcomes, and that these outcomes are expressive of the way the system is designed at least as much as they are of the qualities of particular participants in or elements of the system. Given that many of the systems which are most negatively impacting most of us at this point in time are human-created, and many of the natural systems affecting us negatively are human-influenced, this is an essential lesson for us to learn - and apply.

 

This concludes our Talking Points series! I hope it has helped to persuade those who need persuading that there is substantial value to be found in games, and that they have the capacity to be the active, dynamic complement to the pensive, contemplative cultural mode that books foster. We need both reflection and decision in our lives; I would argue that we need both games and books as ways to keep those parts of our psyches in good health without being overloaded in reality.

There is a great deal more to say about games - the lessons they teach us (through game theory) about mutual support, competition, community, and more; the mental health benefits; the extraordinary range of social and technological innovations they have driven; the fact that gaming culture, although (somewhat deservedly) having a reputation for being riddled with nasty online behaviour, is in many ways ahead of the mainstream in identifying and constructively attempting to address bigotry and discrimination - but we're on the volunteer dime here, and these are all readily available if you start looking. Plus, we've got to save something for next year!

What I would like to do at this point is to encourage our readers to start talking about their own learnings from engaging with games, either here in the comments, or in your own libraries and communities. One other thing games teach you is the endless variety of human experience, the value of being open to each other, and the exponential possibilities enabled  by sharing. (OK, three things which are sort of one thing.)

In any case, thanks for reading the series and best wishes as our preparations ramp up for International Games Day @ your library!

[UPDATE: In 2014 we published a series on the powers of play that follows on from this one about games. Click here to start reading!]

Want to post the IGD map on your webpage?

Posted on October 13, 2013

Hi folks! Regular scheduled Talking Points post is coming soon, but in the meantime it occurred to me that in addition to all the other awesome promotional resources in the Press Kit, you might want to embed the map showing who else is joining us on the day in your online promotions. So I added the code for that to the Press Kit page - duplicated here for your convenience:

Map

The shortcut to the stand-alone webpage of the map is http://bit.ly/2013igdmap. If you want to link to the map. use that shortcut.

If you'd like to embed the map into an online promotion of the day, you can copy and paste the following code into the HTML of your webpage:

<iframe src="http://bit.ly/163mw18" height="300" width="500" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe>

Here's how it should look:

NB - this map is automatically updated roughly once a week with new registrations (we had 53 additions last week alone! Keep 'em coming folks!). That means more libraries may appear after you post the map. So either avoid talking about exact numbers or be sure to note that the map may be updated after you write.

October update – getting close!

Posted on October 10, 2013

Hi everyone! Wow, time flies - the 10th and I haven't done an update! Technically I'm still in the right week (the first Monday was this week). But at a third of the way into the month, it doesn't feel like it - apologies!

Anyway, down to business. The first thing to note is the extent to which our international participation has already grown this year - if you have a look at our map we're growing noticeably in four continents. Pretty good for a volunteer-run event!


[Note - this map is updated weekly and may contain more registrations than the remarks below reflect.]

In Africa, we've roughly doubled last year's participation, and likewise here in Oz - in fact, I know of several libraries around Australia which are planning events but apparently not yet registered, so we might even triple last year's numbers here.

In Europe, we also have Nordic Game Day invisibly adding another hundred or two libraries to the day's celebrations (most Nordic libraries register only with that event). Thomas Vigild, the organiser of Nordic Game Day, does a fantastic job of organising the event and posts some great articles on their blog (for instance, this awesome guide to interesting free browser games for the day). Highly recommended! However, since Nordic Game Day has been going for a few years now, we're only doubling the non-Scandinavian participation. I'm still happy with that!

And in Antarctica, I'm proud to say, we're up by over one trillion percent, an increase we're unlikely to match ever again! (What? One trillion percent of zero is zero, and we're one over that number.) (All right, it's a bit cheeky, but even one in Antarctica is pretty exciting in my book. As you may have noticed.)

North American registrations, while still plentiful, are down on where they were this time last year - so get the word out to your library friends. It's not too late to register and participate, and while you miss out on most of the sponsorship, you still get the chance to play in the tournaments and the Global Gossip Game, plus the sponsored free multiplayer access on GameTable Online. (Thanks again guys!) That said, given the year libraries are having in the US of A (especially after the last few years like it), I think you all get a round of applause just for hanging in there.

South America currently looks like it's empty, but I have had verbal confirmation from a couple of GGG participants and indications that there might be others joining them, so technically we've at least doubled our numbers there too.

The continent of Asia is at 4 libraries, thanks to the Middle East - welcome to our participants in Tripoli (Lebanon) and Thuwal (Saudi Arabia)! Southeast Asia, however, is the only region other than North America which is down - to only 2 locations (India and Kazakhstan), which is about half last year. So that invitation to your library friends to join us for IGD goes double for anyone in that part of the world!

So that's how we're travelling at this point. From my vantage point here in Oz, it's pretty impressive. Libraries are always up against demand that's overwhelmingly greater than we can meet, our work is both constant and constantly changing, and lately we're contending with a beancounting mindset that not only can't see the inherent value in what we do, but can't see the massive economic value either, and so will almost inevitably underestimate the value we provide. That we can still manage to offer these kinds of unique experiences is both pretty darn impressive, and business as usual - which takes that impressive and doubles down on it. So thanks, everyone, for making the world smarter, more varied, better connected and more interesting - and not coincidentally, more fun as well.

Global Gossip Game

For those of you wondering when the Global Gossip Game will get rolling, the answer is - very soon! I'm going to start putting together a tentative roster next weekend, and I'm aiming to make sure all participants have their instructions and the contact details they'll need by the 2nd of November.

The rules this year will be about the same as last year's, but I'm going to revise all the instructions and signage and maybe add an alternative suggestion for how to run it (based on how some of the participants did it last year - thanks folks!). If I get time, I'll also put together a template for a press release you can use to promote the event to the local media, talking about the Global Gossip Game as both a metaphor for how libraries connect people all around the world and a lesson in the importance of accurate information.

If anyone has any suggestions for things that could go into the Global Gossip Game kits, please feel free to be in touch!

Special Guest Post: Yu-Gi-Oh in the library – Lisa Brien, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library

Posted on September 30, 2013

Another special guest post, this time from Lisa Brien of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, talking about the value her community gets from the regular Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments the library runs. One point I neglected to mention in the general post on rules-play games was the way in which CCGs excel at fostering metagame discussion as cards are compared for their merits, strategies discussed, and trades made (as Lisa shows us below, trading is a key part of collectible card games, and in fact an alternative acronym for "CCG" is "TCG", Trading Card Game). In my defense I can only say that there are so many interesting aspects of games to mention that I am bound to miss some... anyway, thanks for the post, Lisa, and over to you!

playhall

There is no game in Topeka that is more intensely played than the bi-monthly Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments held at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Teens from all over the county gather to pit their decks and skills against each other.  As they wait for the doors to open to our teen room, The Edge, they pace the halls outside as they check and double check their decks in preparation.

couch

Our library has hosted Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments continuously since the card game was first released nearly 11 years ago.  Many of our young patrons come to the library after school to meet up with fellow players and practice their dueling skills, but the tournament marks the highlight of the month.

table

Throughout the years we have tested many forms of game play, from multiplayer casual play, to traditional one-on-one dueling.  However, for our official tournaments we use advanced play, which involves banning certain cards that are deemed to be too advantageous.  Thankfully, we have a volunteer Yu-Gi-Oh! expert who has competed at a national level to help run these tournaments.

ygoplay

After the brackets have been played, and the winners have exercised their bragging rights, the top players are given an unopened pack of cards.  These are highly prized as they always have the potential to reveal a rare, powerful card. Then the trading begins! This negotiation for cards is nearly as intensely anticipated as the game itself.

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