International Games Week October 29 – November 4

International Games Week

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.


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.


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 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

All best wishes from Australia,
- Philip Minchin

IGD14 final report

Posted on December 10, 2014

Hi folks! Here are some initial stats based on the survey responses to 10 December. It's not too late to still have your say though! More information is always helpful, so if you haven't already done so, fill out the survey at

A note on estimates

We have received 421 replies to our survey (just over a one-third response rate from 1257 registrations). When reporting the numbers, I'll give the confirmed number from just those libraries, and then give an estimate based on multiplying their average out across the total number of registrations. However, on the grounds that self-selection may result in libraries with high numbers being more likely to respond to the survey (though there's no problem from our end with a small IGD event as long as everyone had fun!), I'll report 2 estimates - a flat average and then a weighted average.

The flat average will simply be "the average at our responding libraries was X; multiply that average by the number of registrations". This is likely to be a little higher than the reality on the day.

The weighted average will assume that non-responding libraries had, on average, only half the numbers of responding libraries. So if our 421 responding libraries average 10 each, the remaining libraries will be assumed to have 5 each. This is likely to be a little lower than the reality on the day, but for the sake of being conservative in our estimates this is the number I'll use.

Participating libraries

We had 1257 libraries register, but as I indicated in the final pre-IGD update, many of those registrations covered multiple IGD celebrations.

Of our 421 survey responses, enough libraries indicated that they had done this that (even taking into account last-minute cancellations) the average registration counted for 1.152 libraries! In other words, for every 15 registrations we had just over 17 actual participating libraries. From 1257 registrations we get:

  • Flat average - 1,448 libraries
  • Weighted average - 1,385 libraries

(Neither of these numbers includes the 90 Scandinavian libraries that registered for Nordic Game Day but not IGD. Adding them to our weighted average means that we had 1475 libraries around the world playing on IGD!)

Public participation

From our 421 responses thus far, 400 gave us attendance figures (the record was 600 at Biblioteket i Ekerö centrum, in Ekerö, Stockholm, Sweden! Congrats folks!). At those 400 libraries, the total confirmed participation was 18261 people - an average of 45.65 per registration.

Expanding that to 1257 registrations, we get:

  • Flat average - 57,385 participants
  • Weighted average - 37,823 participants

Expanding that further to include the 90 confirmed Nordics that didn't register with IGD, we get:

  • Flat average - 61,494 participants
  • Weighted average - 39,877 participants

Library registrations by region and country

Africa (2)

  • Nigeria (1)
  • South Africa (1)

Americas (1183)

  • Central America & Caribbean (2)
    • Cuba (1)
    • Honduras (1)
  • North America (1177)
    • Canada (26)
    • USA (1151)
  • South America (5)
    • Argentina (3)
    • Paraguay (2)

Asia, Oceania & the Pacific (88)

  • Asia (11)
    • Bangladesh (1)
    • China (2)
    • India (1)
    • Indonesia (1)
    • Japan (3)
    • Philippines (3)
  • Australasia (75)
    • Australia (75)
  • Middle East (1)
    • Iran (1)
  • Pacific (1)
    • Northern Mariana Islands (1)

Europe (68, or 158 with Nordic Game Day libraries)

  • Far Eastern Europe (2)

    • Belarus (1)
    • Russia (1)
  • Eastern Europe (4, or 35 with NGD libraries)

    • Romania (1)
    • Finland (3, or 34 NGD)
  • Central Europe (41, or 100 with NGD libraries)

    • Bosnia and Herzegovina (1)
    • Croatia (1)
    • Germany (7)
    • Denmark (9, or 29 NGD)
    • Italy (10)
    • Kosovo (1)
    • Norway (5, or 35 NGD)
    • Serbia (1)
    • Sweden (5, or 12 NGD)
  • Western Europe/GMT (19, or 21 with NGD libraries)
    • UK (16)
    • Ireland (1)
    • Iceland (2, or 4 NGD)
    • Portugal (2)
  • North Atlantic (1)
    • Greenland [Denmark] (1)


IGD outcomes

One of the questions we ask is about the actual results of the day. Here's what folks said were the outcomes for them of running IGD (again, this is out of 421 respondents):

General comments

Here's a (small, believe it or not) sampling of comments on and stories from the day (which come from all over - I recognise comments from places including Australia, Canada, Honduras, Italy, Serbia and the USA):

  • "'Playing games at the library? Who knew?' -- from one of our newer patrons!"
  • "This was our first International Games Day. We had a great day and pulled in over 100 patrons. We were not able to participate in all of the activities offered due to staffing and time, but because we had such a success this year I hope to be able to participate in many more next year. Thanks for all of your hard work and great ideas."
  • "I love how big this is growing - I am grateful for all of the donations from the game companies.  It is a great time to have a games day - many patrons state that this gives them ideas for Christmas gifts. "
  • "The students (our event was for our middle school and high school students only) loved telling me all about their favorite games (online and video).  A lot of it was Greek to me, but I loved having those conversations and seeing their enthusiasm and passion for the games.  I was also glad that they got to see that we are interested in them and what they find interesting."
  • "La partecipazione del Multiplo all’IGD è stata caratterizzata dalla “invasione” degli spazi dedicati ai libri e alla lettura da parte dei giochi da tavolo: una scelta fatta sia per differenziare la giornata in una struttura che ha già il gioco tra i suoi servizi con spazi dedicati, che per far incontrare il gioco a chi ne ha perso l’abitudine o non lo vede come un’attività culturale al pari di qualsiasi altra. La concomitanza di più proposte differenziate ha richiamato l’attenzione di fasce di pubblico diverse per età e interessi: adulti, giovani e ragazzi che si sono lasciati incuriosire dall’una o dall’altra riuscendo anche a partecipare a più di una iniziativa. Si è creata una bella sinergia tra le associazioni di gioco, che hanno partecipato con esperti dimostratori e proposte tematiche, e la sfida gaming che non ha mancato di interessare alcuni di loro; i ragazzini venuti per il gaming a loro volta hanno poi partecipato anche al gioco da tavolo scoprendo giochi nuovi, intelligenti e divertenti."
    [Ci scusiamo per la traduzione goffo!/Apologies for the clumsy translation!]
    ("Multiplo Cultural Centre's participation in IGD was characterized by the 'invasion' of the spaces dedicated to books and reading by tabletop games: we made a choice to differentiate the day in a facility that already has the game among its services with dedicated spaces, in order to reintroduce the game to those who lost the habit or do not see it as a cultural activity like any other. The combination of several different offerings drew the attention of audiences of different ages and interests: adults, young people and children who are left intrigued by either managing to participate in more than one initiative... the kids came for videogaming, then in turn also participated in board games, discovering new, intelligent and entertaining games.)
  • "To promote IGD we had guest speakers on the video game industry and game theory/economics. The students and staff both found these very interesting."
  • "One child stated on his way out of our program room 'I just love coming to the library!'"
  • "People began to show up on the days following the event asking to use meeting rooms to play games in our collection."
  • "One parent did not want her son to register because 'games were a waste of time.' I had posted some information on the web site that I have collected from ALA's promotional materials over the years and directed her to it. They came to our game day!"
  • "If there were people (including the teens & children) who knew how to play a particular game they shared their knowledge with others who didn't know."
  • "A few students stopped by to take a break from studying. After playing a game they felt revived... ready to study again."
  • "Our first attendees were an elderly couple who got straight in to the arcade machines, it was AWESOME!"
  • "For those who attended, it was a wonderful day of seeing friends, gaming, visiting and just relaxing in an environment that wasn't demanding their attention or money.  It felt like a community use area to have the option to game w/o being at a store, someone's home, or a restaurant."
  • "My favorite interaction was with a parent who came in - 40s heavy metal dude - with donations from local comic and card shop of Magic: the Gathering starter decks. He invited other gaming dads to bring their kids that day to get their kids excited about card and roleplaying games so they could have a place to game each week. We'd been running a club for 3 years but the same few kids, and his complaint with the card shops was their events were all adults so he wanted to revive a club for kids and made a commitment to be there each week to get it going. "
  • "'Will this be every week?'
    'What time does it start next week?'
    'I used to play this game all the time with my dad!'"
  • "We had two donations of Fluxx Oz, and we played a single elimination rock/paper/scissors tournament to decide who got the extra copy.  Kids to adults, all were laughing by the end."
  • "Since working on the plan and execution of our IGD14 event, I've become interested in tying gaming and brain exercises to library programming for older adults. Even more so after last night's 7.30 Report:"
  • "This is my 5th year participating, and it is by far my favorite event of the year.  Thank you so much to everyone involved in IGD for all of the hard work you put into this event - it truly shows."
  • "I noticed kids playing the game and using school based skills like adding and counting, calculating. All stuff they hate, but suddenly were using in 'real life'."
  • "Some of the older staff members were very surprised at how beneficial and productive this event was. They were surprised at the level of interaction with one another that the children and teens were displaying. Also, they were surprised at how understanding the library patrons were towards the slightly-noisier-than-usual teens and children; staff received no complaints about the event."
  • "We have a small group of teens whose participation in library gaming is one of their few social activities.  They look forward to it and it has given them a way to connect with other young people who share their interests.  It has been huge for them!"
  • "Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make it happen. We found that with a little food, people stayed longer than they otherwise would have! It was a really fun day!"
  • "We had lots of great feedback. We pulled out a few vintage gaming consoles and had some parents that really enjoyed showing their kids that games that they grew up playing. We also launched our Minecraft servers, and watching the kids work together and show those less skilled how to play or do things was really great."
  • "One Mom told me we should do this more often and asked if our game collection was available for checkout."
  • "As someone who firmly believes in 'learning through play,' I have always loved IGD. I want to bring more and more games into my library and offer sit-downs with parents about what their children (or them, if they want to play!) are learning with each game, but it's been a slow process. The work IGD does to bring attention to gaming and its benefits is invaluable. Thank you so much!"
  • "I feel that this is a great way to showcase our libraries and invite a different group of people into our libraries. It creates fun and excitement and helps others to see that libraries are fun, relevant, and important."
  • "A great way for our library to be a vital and fun destination.  Two parents asked what games had to do with the library.  After discussion they realized that we are not just about the books. Very positive."
  • "We partnered with the regional Manager Dan Blodgett of It's Your Move game store who came and showed staff about 20 games of appeal to kids and teens, and adults. It was a HUGE hit with staff... We unexpectedly got Yu-Gi-Oh! cards that turned out to inspire a group to come play regularly at the library, addressing one of our goals in increase teen participation in library programs."
  • Little brother bugging his older sibling to let him join a game of Munchkin:
    'We're in the middle of the game!'
    'But I want to play too!'
    'You're too Young to understand the rules!'
    'Am not! Please let me join!'
    'Can I join the next game?'
    'Are you done yet?'
    Of course, by the time the munchkins were actually done backstabbing one another, the younger kid had found the Air Hockey table..."
  • "We had a local middle school robotics team come in for this event. They are working on designing a board game to help high school students learn the periodic table. They loved learning about new games and game design theory from our guest speaker."
  • "One teenager, who is always a handful, started out playing Scrabble trying to cheat the entire time. I was no nonsense and told him there will be no cheating if we are going to take the time to play and he actually agreed. I showed him how to get a word in worth 39 points and he lost only by 2 points!"
  • "One of my favorite things about IGD was there were no 'rules' for participating libraries - we didn't have to do this or have to do that.  Each library could plan as little or as much as they wanted.  That made it do-able for me!"
  • "I also put on a Game Jam session during IGD, getting a couple teens to create their own board game in 20 minutes with a simple board and random game pieces.  It went over very well, and it's something I would do again.  I got the idea from a Game Jam session at the ALA 2014 conference in Las Vegas."
  • "We have had a great time, and will try to do this again in near future. Libraries are definitely the best spaces for playing games. We all need to put some more effort to make people see them like spaces where you can read, study, relax, play and have a great time."
  • "A few parents (and members of the press)  became aware of the educational value that is held in game play.  In a reverse fashion, parents also became aware of the value of reading books about video games (yes, it still counts as reading!)."
  • "Our middle school principal dropped by and played a game of chess with one of his students."
  • "I talked with a number of adults (not parents, just patrons passing through the library) who were overjoyed to see kids and families have such visible fun in the library. There is something infectious in the library environment when people are having fun playing games--it spreads to others."
  • "Yay!"


 Global Gossip Game

The final report for this year's GGG is still waiting to hear back from some satellite games, but should go up soon. Meanwhile I can report that we had 996 players, playing the game in 11 languages (Cantonese, Croatian, Danish, English, French, German, Mandarin, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish), taking the Secret through 375 variations, over 26.5 hours, at 76 libraries (plus 3 more that tried to join in), in 17 countries! (Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Greenland (an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark), India, Italy, Kosovo, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, the UK, and the USA (including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)

The game started as “Games are… an intrinsic and natural feature of human nature”, a quote from pioneering education theorist Lev Vygotsky’s 1926 book Educational Psychology. The game branched three times, turning into:

  • 10 miles of 10 (Dallas Public Library, Dallas, TX, USA)
  • Allen (Mark Twain Neighborhood Library, Long Beach, CA, USA) - possibly a reference to a certain BBC marmot?
  • My skinny knees (Placer County Library, Auburn, CA, USA)
  • It's snowing (Clinton Public Library, Clinton, WI, USA)

Some comments:

  • "It was a a terrific way to kick-start the day. We were the first players; it got several members quickly engaged and happy to pass on the secret message to other folks in the library."
  • "It is very funny, great idea!"
  • "Everything is in English... All the publicity, the explication, etc. Would be interesting to have it in other language, like French." (This is a great point and something I would love to see happen! Are there any volunteers who can help with translations? But meanwhile, for future reference, we actually strongly encourage people to at least play in whatever language they like 😀 )
  • "The Global Gossip worked well. I actually created a Google Map of all the library locations to show participants where the "secret" was travelling, which they thought was cool."
  • "At the end of GGG, the last player who was supposed to send the phrase to receiving library, was blushing and asked is there any rule about bad words. Game organizer told him of course. He was relieved and said 'Oh, good! Then it's a horse.'"
  • "Our participants loved the Global Gossip Game!  They were so interested to hear that this game was played all over the world today.  Our youngest participant was 3 and our eldest was in her 60s. We found that the inter-generational aspect really changed the game dramatically. Our adult participants were the sources of each of our phrase deviations (which is not to say that everyone over the age of 18 has hearing problems!). Including a more diverse age group really made the GGG event more exciting."
  • "I heard college students discussing the Global Gossip Game, and how it was sort of silly to play, but would be interesting to see how the phrase morphs across the world, and how different cultures might play the game differently."
  • Awesome game! Great fun and easy to connect patrons who would normally not talk to one another. Great community builder!"
  • "We had a lot of fun. People were more likely to participate when they learned how far it had travelled. Several families found it entertaining when their youngest would shout the first part of the secret and then whisper the last portion when they remembered that 'it is a secret and you have to whisper'."


International Minecraft Hunger Games

See the victory report for the stats from this event! Some comments:

  • "The kids had an absolute blast! We connected with another local library and are organising future games between us. There were a few tech glitches but it all worked out in the end. Really glad there was a week to test it all out. Thanks!"
  • "The library got great engagement from our target demographic for this event (upper primary and lower secondary aged students). We held three Reapings in the lead up to the Regional Semi Finals on IGD, and despite some technical difficulties, the kids who attended seemed to have a great time. We've had quite a few requests for a regular Minecraft club/activity at the library, and are following up on this. Even better, library staff were able to build rapport with some of our 'problem' teens by being able to connect on something fun where we deferred to them as experts. I would highly recommend this type of event to public libraries, and commend AADL for their efforts in coordinating this project."
  • "It was our first time running a Minecraft event and even though we started late with advertising it (and this only on a small scale) we immediately got registrations for the event and quite a number of people showing up. It definitely got us hooked for more - even trying to run our own server."
  • "One of our teens didn't really want to participate but did because everyone else was; he ended up winning at our library. He then came in second at our semi-final. It was awesome to see his excitement mount through out the day and especially during the semi-final. The map was a great way for those not playing to see what was happening as well as participating in my feeding information to the players. It was also cool to run into players from other libraries we knew in other states during the semi-finals."
  • "We run a weekly Game Club program and host a library server already. Our patron was the winner [Congrats again! - Ed.] and we sent out a follow up press release with photo and signed release form. School Library Journal contacted us based on what AADL wrote on the ALA IGD blog".
  • "The kids had a blast playing with people from other libraries! I would love to host another similar program in the near future."

There were also comments - expressed with varying degrees of humour - about the mailing lists blowing up and keeping people's inboxes rather busy. Rest assured that the lesson has been learned and we will work on this for next year!


Comments about Donations

As always, the generosity of our donors was a hugely important part of the day's success. Here's a sampling of what libraries had to say about the donations this year:

GameTable Online

  • "Thank you so much for providing our and other schools with the opportunity and the resources."
  • "Thank you for your generous contribution to IGD.  It is so fun to be able to offer GameTable Online to our patrons for free!"
  • "Thanks for allowing us to preview your site for Game Day!"

Good Games

  • "Thanks for the donations! We have made them available to the public at all times and we really appreciate your involvement!"
  • "These games were such a hit with the kids I cannot thank the company enough."
  • "We'd like to thank Good Games for their kind donations of the board games. We appreciate their support and effort!"
  • "Very well received and the families that took them home to start their gaming collection were very happy."
  • "All the games purchased for the event, and for loaning after the event, were from our local Good Games store."


  • "Many of our Yu-Gi-Oh! players come from an underprivileged background. The decks provided by Konami allowed our kids to play each other on equal footing. Thank You!"
  • "Thank you for sending Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and instructions!  During the game day we had local Yu-Gi-Oh! players come to the event and we are now going to start having weekly Yu-Gi-Oh! meetings alongside our Pokemon League."
  • "Yu-Gi-Oh! was our biggest hit at IGD this year. Thank you so much for supplying our library with trading cards, mats, and instructions. We all had a lot of fun learning how to play."

Looney Labs

  • "Thank you so much for donating Oz Fluxx and Pink Hijinx to the Ephrata Public Library. Both of the games were pretty popular. A lot of people commented that they really enjoyed the combination of simplicity and strategy employed in Pink Hijinx. Thank you again!"
  • "Thank you so much! Fluxx is awesome and I've loved learning Pink Hijinx."
  • "We appreciate your games and your support of libraries."
  • "Thanks for Oz Fluxx and Pink Hijinks.  They were an important part of our game day and Pink Hijinks was a favorite.  Thanks for making such innovative games and supporting libraries by sharing them with us."


  • "This kit is a great start to our role-playing collection. Thanks for the kind donation!"
  • "Pathfinder is such a great game for libraries - the fact that there is a line of published fiction that is set in the same world YOU get to adventure in really excited people because they felt like they were stepping into a larger, "living" world. (And that's before we even mention the Pathfinder Society!) Plus of course the graphics are better than any videogame could ever manage, and the freedom to improvise outside a pre-programmed set of possible actions and really play a character rather than a set of statistics, makes it all so much more compelling!"
  • "Our college kids love playing role playing games. Thanks! This will continue to get great use on our game nights."
  • "My gamer friends have been vaguely encouraging about International Games Day, but not super excited, because they assumed that it would only be "non-gamer" games for a general audience. But when I told them Paizo had come on board, they really sat up and took notice! Thanks for helping get roleplaying games - and roleplaying gamers - into the library! (Where we belong, I might add!)"


  • "Thank you so much for sponsoring International Games Day 2014! Enchanted Forest was an important game to me as a child, and it was a wonderful experience to share it with the younger generation. They were just as captivated with it as I was as a kid. Thanks again for supporting such an important event in our libraries!"
  • "Kids at our library loved Bugs in the Kitchen, and I think their parents had just as much fun playing as they did."
  • "Thank you for your support of libraries and teens!  Your donation means the world to us! Bugs in the Kitchen was the big hit! Kids still come in and ask for that game to play during their lunch break!"

Simply Fun

  • "LOVED!!! LOVED Walk the Dog. We are still playing it and the kids cry "don't take my babies" when the dog catcher card is drawn.  Thank you so much for this game!"
  • "Walk the Dog was the only game anyone played on IGD. It was played by a preteen Spanish-speaker and a middle-aged disabled woman (and a staff member). Two people who would not have otherwise engaged with each other played three rounds of this game and had a great time!"
  • "Thanks! My younger kids loved Walk the Dog."


  • "Thanks for the download of Golden Sky Stories. We have never had anything like that at our library before."
  • "My teens are really looking forward to playing this!"
  • "We are so thankful to [Starline] for the download. We are looking to build a small collection of RPGs for youth and families, so this is a perfect complement to our program. We have parents who have specifically requested RPGs to play with their kids, so we will be referring them to Golden Sky."
  • "The game was beautiful and so engaging! Visitors absolutely loved playing it and immediately ran out to buy their own copies. Thank you so much!"

Steve Jackson Games

  • "Castellan was very educational.  Please continue creating these awesome games for our patrons."
  • "Wow! Thank you for your generous gift! We'll be using the games a lot in teen programs in the future."
  • "I have loved your games since the 70s and I really love getting them into the hands of first time gamers, so they can enjoy them as well."
  • "My teens LOVE Munchkin!"


  • "Tapple was a big hit with our patrons!"
  • "This was a big hit with parents and kids. It is good for all ages."
  • "Some of our teens had a great time playing Crossways. Thanks for the donation!"
  • "I didn't request the donation this year, but I requested it last year, and I'm happy to report that it's made plenty of folks happy ever since - including at this year's IGD! Thanks again!"

Thank you to all our donors for sharing the day with us!


And that's about it for this year! I'm going to follow up with some reflections and thankyous shortly, but the most important thanks once again to all the libraries (and library staff) who joined us for another fabulous event. Keep November 21 free next year!

(And before I sign out - happy mostly-belated International Human Rights Day to everyone! Sorry, couldn't resist the chance to get my two favourite International Days in a single post 🙂 )

UK IGD@yl report

Posted on November 24, 2014

Here's the report from the University of Kentucky's IGD event - ironically, despite happening after everyone else's IGD, it's coming out before the official report on the day! We're still busily collating the information that's coming in via the survey - which you should fill in at if you haven't already - and as usual will have a final report for you in the next week or two. But meanwhile, here's part 2 of UK's coverage of their entirely apropos use of IGD as a way to welcome international travellers to their community.

Approximately 60 students from different countries participated in International Games Day at the University of Kentucky. The day had a different twist as it was designed to bring students from different parts of the world together to play games. The goal was to provide a place where students from different countries could interact in a social environment and have fun.

The event was held in the Hub of the William T. Young Library in the multipurpose room. The room was set up into 5 areas: food (popcorn and soft drinks); video games; card and board games; bean bag toss; Mexican Bingo and Jeopardy. A quartet playing music from different parts of the world on traditional instruments provided live music (all from the Center for English as a Second Language).

The music and the smell of the fresh-popped popcorn drew the students in and several of them texted their friends to join them. There was a nice mix of students playing in all areas. The finale of the event was “International Jeopardy” where the participants divided up into two teams and tried to supply the answers to the questions.  All seemed to have a good time trying to provide the questions to answers supplied by other students.

All in all, the day was a success, as we had students from a number of countries interacting with one another.  The event generated interest on campus and the student newspaper wrote two articles on the event.  The cost to put on the event was minimal (less than $200) and all the units involved agreed that it was something to consider building on for next year.

Games folks on libraries: Richard Garfield

Posted on November 18, 2014

Sorry to post again so soon after the last one - which you should read if you haven't, as it contains a reminder to fill out the survey for this year's event! (Plus other interesting tidbits.)

In fact, strictly speaking I should probably hold this next interview off until next year. But this is too good to sit on, so consider it a post-IGD present!

We are joined for a surprise final "Games folks on libraries" interview by Richard Garfield. (Yes, feel free to use the definite article!) Dr Garfield is among the handful of folks in recent decades - or in history, really - to have successfully kicked off an entirely new cultural form, the trading card game; certainly he is one of the very few whose status as foundational innovator is so clear. Even more impressive, his original creation, Magic: the Gathering, is still growing in both audience and new content after 21 years! Since then he has also published a number of other games (including RoboRally, profiled on this blog in September) and a book that shares some small measure of his encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of games. (The book is linked in his bio below, and highly recommended to anyone interested in the form - and to all libraries, as it's both a definitive work on the topic of games and one of the best textbooks I've read on any subject, with not only abundant and well-organised reference material, but well-designed exercises to encourage readers to apply and integrate what they've learned.) As a student and aficionado of games, not to mention a Magic player since it first reached Oz in 1994, it's been an honour and a pleasure to have corresponded with Dr Garfield to bring you this interview - I hope my fellow gamers gain a similar buzz from reading it!

Richard Garfield designed the first trading card game, Magic: the Gathering, in 1993. At the time he was a math professor, but the success of Magic led to him leaving academics and going into game design full time. Since then he has published half a dozen other trading card game designs, as well as a number of board and card games. Since 2001 he has been consulting on game design with companies including Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and the Pokemon Company. His recent games include King of Tokyo and King of New York (board games) and Spectromancer (PC & iOS). He coauthored a book, Characteristics of Games, which was published by MIT press in 2012.

Richard, thanks so much for joining us! Please tell us about your history with/past experience of libraries.

Libraries were an important part of my youth - I believe in ways more significant than the simple access to books. The books were amazing, and important - but I think what really affected me was the sense that the world of ideas was eternal, and open to all. Not only that, a library was a concrete piece of evidence that the culture I was a part of  valued this intellectual world. I believe this is part of the reason I went into academics.

What is your sense of where libraries are now, both in relation to games and in general?

My mother is a librarian, so I am not totally out of touch, but at the same time really don't think I know what is going on in the world of libraries. A lot seems to have changed. And really - how could libraries not be different? The electronic world puts so much of what a library was at everyone's fingertips. Libraries seem to have many more community programs than when I was growing up, probably at least in part in an attempt to refocus in recognition of this changing informational landscape. I am also not sure of where games are in libraries - but they are certainly long overdue if they aren't there!

Where do you see this going, and where could it go?

Despite this wide access to knowledge - that could be perceived as undermining a library's purpose - libraries have an important role in making sure the world of ideas is available to all, and making sure that people know this is important to human culture.  I am sure all these things are being done already, but some natural direction for the future would include:

  • Making sure that this electronic world of knowledge is open to all. Just like no one in the 60s should have been deprived of an encyclopedia, no one today should be deprived of the internet.
  • Acting as an organizer for the world of ideas. The more content is available at your fingertips the harder it is to organize it, and unorganized content is just noise.
  • Expanding what is part of this world of ideas. Games would be an example of something that is important to our culture - more now than ever - which wasn't really a part of the library when I was growing up.

Thanks once again to Dr Garfield, and to all our respondents for the "Games folks" and "Book folks" series!

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