International Games Day is here and libraries from around the world are participating! Use the tag #ALAIGD when posting your event to social media.
Ghosts, psychics, and skulls, oh my!
This week, October 26th-31st, Niantic has released its first Pokémon Go event in the spirit of Halloween and all the spooky fun the holiday inspires.
While exploring the world, there are three major changes that are in effect for this event. Instead of the typical Pidgeys and Rattatas found everywhere, Halloween-themed Pokémon are in abundance! This includes, Gastly, Drowzee, Meowth, Cubone, Zubat, and all of their evolutions.
In addition, as a sweet treat, all Pokémon caught, traded, or evolved provide twice the candies during this Halloween event.
Lastly, and probably most excitedly, walking around with your buddy Pokémon produces candy four times as fast! This means walking a Magikarp provides a candy every .25km, much like everyone’s favorite little yellow buddy, Pikachu.
Get out and catch them all this weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for the Pokémon Go library gym map!
The International Games Day Committee is pleased to have the Associazione Italiana Biblioteche join in this yearly event.
The AIB (Associazione Italiana Biblioteche) has officially joined IGD after several Italian libraries, such as Cavriago and Arcade (both northern Italy libraries), participated individually in the past few years.
Gaming at the library is not a new phenomenon in Italy - many libraries have set up spaces, programmes and collections dedicated to games, though until a few years ago the attention was focused exclusively on board games. It is only recently that a few libraries have started thinking about adding video games to their collections and events.
By officially joining this event, the AIB demonstrates its desire to provide greater awareness to organized events and to create a network of information professionals to discuss the value of gaming in libraries, which goes beyond the realm of education and socialization. Furthermore, this group can analyze its marketing potential for an institution that, in the latest years of crisis, has lost both economic resources and political support.
Moreover, the creation of this network will give the AIB the opportunity to compare games and adopted solutions, to evaluate the success of the events in terms of public response, and to experiment with alternatives that would otherwise be difficult to find individually. It provides the chance to meet (both in person and online) and discuss solutions and games that suit the library’s needs.
Interest in International Games Day @ Your Library encouraged AIB to create a blog - https://internationalgamesdayitalia.wordpress.com - as an easy and inclusive way to access information and discussions and a page on Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/igd_italy/international-games-day-2015/ - as a place to share promotional material and event photos. In addition, Asterion, a board game publisher based in Reggio Emilia, donated a great amount of its games to Italian IGD 2015 participants.. Some of these board games, such as DIXIT, will be also used in several libraries abroad during IGD2015. With the exception of Arcade and Cavriago, where video games will be played, all of the other participating Italian libraries will use board games during IGD2015 this year.
Hey everyone! Apologies all round for missing this update last month - there was a lot on and I was a little too stretched to cover it all properly. That's still the case, alas, so here are the major headlines from the last couple of months!
Gen Con 2014
Gen Con bills itself as "The Best 4 Days in Gaming", and speaking from personal experience I can attest that it's not a far-fetched claim. Of particular interest to us in library land is that we actually get the best five days in gaming: for the last few years, Gen Con has featured a trade day on the Wednesday before it starts (it normally runs Thursday to Sunday), with streams for retailers, teachers - and librarians. Having attended in 2011 with my partner (a primary teacher) we can vouch for two out of the three! It is an excellent professional development and networking opportunity. Plus you get early entry into the dealers' hall on the following day... and given that Gen Con is the biggest tabletop gaming convention in the US (not the world - that honour goes to Essen Spiel - but with over 55,000 unique attendees, it's pretty big), that's kinda like getting early entry into BookExpo America... if it were twice the size.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Of particular interest at this year's Gen Con was the official release of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Honed in a massive public playtest over the last couple of years, the new edition is - to my eye, and based on a preliminary skim rather than a deep engagement with the rules - a solid distillation of the core elements of the game as it's manifested over the past 40 years and 4 editions (though fans of each previous edition will not find the more outlying features from that edition; it's very much about finding the unifying thread rather than the best individual elements), with a few nice modern design touches thrown in. It's still basically a swords-and-sorcery adventure generator, of course!
Readers with keen memories may recall the discussion of the licensing shifts around previous editions of D&D in the Paizo sponsor profile. It's not yet entirely clear how the third-party licensing will work for this edition, though the fact that this license isn't yet available is already a departure of sorts from both 3rd and 4th editions (as is the fact that only the Player's Handbook has been released - the other two "Core Rulebooks", the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual, come out later this year). However, they have already taken a novel step with the release of a freely reproducible "Basic Rules" document which contains enough rules material to start playing with typical builds of the four best-known classes in the game - fighter, rogue, cleric and wizard. While the material in this PDF is more generic and has fewer customisation options than experienced tabletop roleplayers would like, as an introduction to the basics of the game it works perfectly well. And its price point makes it viable for any library looking for an interesting activity... or, given the potentially endless stories the game enables, an ongoing series of activities.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this edition of the game (and the license for others to contribute to the ruleset) develops!
The ENnie Awards
ENworld.org is... hard to describe, actually. It's the kind of sprawling undertaking - part community forum, part semi-official news site and gossip mill, part collective archive - that seems to spring up disproportionately often among gamer circles; the combination of tech-headedness and a proclivity towards user-creation seems to provide particularly fertile terrain for their growth. Since originally starting back in 1999 as an unofficial clearinghouse for news about 3rd edition D&D, it's gone on to become all the above and more: most noticeably a publisher in its own right (with several substantial publications, both in print and electronic, under its belt now), and - from quite early on, starting online in 2001 and hosting at Gen Con since 2002 - the host of the premier awards in the English-speaking tabletop roleplaying game world, the ENnies.
In the table of nominees below (which was lifted from enworld.org's announcement of nominees), the Silver Award recipient is bolded and the Gold Award recipient is bolded in red - yellow being too hard to read!
PAX Prime and (vs.?) DragonCon
The other biggest gaming convention in the USA - this time focused on videogaming, though in reality both conventions feature plenty of overlap with each other's focus - PAX Prime took over from E3 when that convention made the fatal decision to shift from being open to a general audience towards a more industry-insider event. This year it also expanded to four days, Friday 29 August - Monday 1 September, making it one of the major contestants for Gen Con's "Best 4 days" title - and also placing it 100% in competition with (fellow contestant for best 4 days) general-geek-culture convention DragonCon, which ran on the exact same dates.
(Crowdfunded MMO-in-beta Shroud of the Avatar - Ultima creator Richard Garriott's latest project - cunningly played up this rivalry by running a PvP test pitting players from the two conventions against each other. Despite being the smaller and nominally less game-focused convention, DragonCon won convincingly, 34 to 14.)
More news to cover, and all three conventions have received plenty of other coverage, so we'll move on.
Microsoft buys Mojang (makers of Minecraft) for $2.5 billion. Yes, with a "b".
You presumably know that Minecraft is kind of a big deal. It's sold upwards of 33 million copies, and occupies a healthy chunk of the planet's attention at any given time.
Even so, $2.5 billion seems like a lot. As a point of reference, Oculus, the folks who are likely to be bringing the world a whole new mode of interacting with technology and imagined worlds (they rekindled the push towards head-mounted virtual reality displays with their Kickstarted Rift device), were bought by Facebook not long ago for $2 billion - i.e. less than Mojang.
It seems a little excessive, especially since it can only be a matter of time before the next craze starts, right...? But, as many commentators before me have pointed out, what Microsoft has bought is not just the game, nor the company that made it (indeed, the founders of Mojang are all leaving), but the userbase. An audience - or, to a corporation, a market - of that size is a significant commodity. (An interesting word to apply to a collection of actual humans...)
Minecraft Hunger Games
Before anyone asks - we have no indication that this will have any effect on our plans for the Minecraft Hunger Games. Naturally, if there is any sign of anything changing, we will let you know! But barring the unforeseen, those of you who expressed a desire to participate should be hearing from the good folks at Ann Arbor District Library shortly - and those who have not yet registered should do so pronto - it's not too late until we tell you it is!
Hey folks! Another semi-random sampling of news from the games world, this time with extra bonus feature - profiles of games news sites!
- Huge news from the world of eSports - the International DotA2 Championships are on now. As in, the finals are tonight, Pacific Time.
(If you have no idea what DotA2 is, get started here. The TL;DR: it's a fast-paced team-based game that plays like a cross between team sports, superhero comic faceoffs, and mythic battle.)
This is big because not only is it one of the largest videogame tournaments ever (with a prize pool reported at $10 million), it's actually being broadcast on ESPN - making the eSports folks' ambition of parity with physical sports (pSports?) one step closer. It's not the first time a geek game has been on ESPN; Magic: the Gathering did that back in 1997, and they've covered poker and even spelling bees as well. More and more, spectatorship of non-pSports competition is becoming part of the mainstream.
- FPS space horror franchise Doom - the game that took the momentum built by Wolfenstein 3D and used it (rocket-jump style?) to propel the first-person shooter into its current status as probably the iconic videogame genre - has had a new entry announced. It seems a lot like a reboot - down to the door sound that triggers adrenalin flashbacks in just about any action-gamer active in the 90s - but it looks nothing like one.
- In addition to the price drop (and removal of mandatory Kinect) from the XBox One we covered a couple of months back, Microsoft spokesperson Major Nelson has just announced an update that addresses a bunch of other criticisms, mostly UI-based.
- The Zeldathon has just passed $100,000 raised for St Jude Children's Research Hospital. Gamers are so antisocial.
- A couple of interesting game-related reads at The Atlantic: Are Multiplayer Games the Future of Education? and How Family Game Night Makes Kids Into Better Students.
Site profiles: YouTubers
YouTube can be a great way to keep up to date of gamer news, find out how to play games, and generally up your gaming knowledge. There are literally thousands of channels dedicated to gaming topics, so keep your eyes out for the channels that call to you. YouTube is a wonderful place tofind Let's Play videos, which show people playing through games with commentary. Sometimes Let's Plays have a particular goal, such as speed runs, where you complete the level/game as fast as possible, but the majority are people just showing how they enjoy a game.
There has also been a good deal of coverage of this shift in games journalism - and accompanying ethical questions - at more-traditional game-developer-focused news site (think of all the newspaperfolks spinning in their graves at the idea of a "traditional" news "site"... and there are plenty still alive who'd feel similar!) Gamasutra.
Here are a few channels that IGD folks love:
Geek & Sundry: https://www.youtube.com/user/geekandsundry/featured
We're hoping to talk more about (and... with?) the good folks at G&S later in the year, but we couldn't pass them up in this roundup. G&S has a ton of gaming related content. You can see Felicia and Ryan Day experience vintage games (often of dubious quality and hilarious results) on their show Co-Optitude, learn more and see celebrities play Magic: the Gathering in Spellslingers, and let's not forget Wil Wheaton's amazing show Tabletop, which features Wil and 3 guests playing an amazing variety of board, card, and dice games.
Polaris: https://www.youtube.com/user/Polaris [Some content may be confronting or NSFW.]
Polaris is a consortium of various game-related YouTube channels that have come together to make one amazing station. The Daily Byte is your one stop shop for nerd culture news in 5 minutes or less. Polaris has a ton of different Let's Play and game Tournaments that they put online, so you can check out or experience different games. They also have a lot of long format (over 2 hours) vodcast shows that include game play and/or game discussion pretty heavily. Besides the channel itself, you can check out all of it's partner channels for more specialized and deeper content such as HuskyStarcraft's Starcraft 2 videos or Yogscast's Minecraft videos.
[Editor's note: as noted above, some Polaris content is very much not for kids and possibly NSFW - not for sexual content but for profanity and violence. The video that was featured when I checked the link was "Sniper Elite III Headshot Highlights", which as you might expect contained a selection of most spectacular (i.e. gory) kills, accompanied by some decidedly salty language. The bulk of the content isn't anything that extreme and there is more substantial fare than that - but it's made by, and pitched at, that sort of adult gamer demographic.]
Press Heart to Continue: https://www.youtube.com/user/PressHeartToContinue
After checking out Polaris, Dodger, the creator of Press Heart, might look a bit familiar - from Daily Byte, from Friendzone, from the Podcasts... but her channel includes a great roundup of weekly gaming-centric news - from AAA to indie kickstarter. There are also great nerd crafts and casual Let's Play videos.
Feminist Frequency: http://www.feministfrequency.com/ [Some content may be confronting or NSFW.]
[Ed's note: For the record, this one was added by me: a blokey Aussie bloke of the male bloke persuasion. I couldn't not mention a site of this prominence! The following comments are my responsibility entirely.]
If we're talking serious analysis of games, we can't go past Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency, which has even had mainstream coverage over the last couple of years for reasons outlined below. (Given her Wikipedia page has been sabotaged in the past, I'm not going to link off to it now; excuse the potted summary.)
Sarkeesian's channel had previously hosted videos subjecting pop culture in general to feminist scrutiny, but when she decided to turn her attention specifically to videogames - and ran a Kickstarter asking for $6000 to fund the research and writing time needed for the series - a disturbingly large number of bigots from some of the toxic backwaters of the internet decided to prove that she was wrong, feminism had gone too far, and misogyny didn't really exist by bullying her into shutting up and getting them a sandwich through a voluminous and in parts highly co-ordinated campaign of sexualised (and racialised) hate speech, intimidation and harassment. (Clearly logic was not their strong point... but then, we already knew that.)
To her credit, it backfired: she responded by not only refusing to fold but allowing the abuse onto the record - or some of it, anyway - and letting it speak for itself. (Though she does talk about it in this TEDxWomen talk.) As a result, she became something of a lightning rod for the growing awareness of how poorly women are treated online and in the culture in general, and got far more attention - including from the mainstream media - and far more Kickstarter funding than she otherwise might have, as it became inescapably clear that this was a real issue and needed to be confronted. (Though mind you, you'd have to call it well-earned hazard pay.)
The only major caveat I'd give to Sarkeesian's excellent series on representations of women in videogames as an entree into the topic is that - as she herself has explored previously - this is symptomatic of wider social problems rather than being peculiar to this medium. (In other words, don't blame games.) And in fact I've been known to argue that, thanks to the work of numerous folks including but also predating Sarkeesian, the gamer community is much further advanced in the process of lancing this particular festering boil, getting the poison out into the open, refusing to let it out of the spotlight, and actually dealing with it than the general community. Regardless, she has stood her ground for the greater good in the face of pretty awful intimidation; she's already been honoured far more substantially, including an Ambassador Award at this year's Game Developer's Choice Awards, but I too salute and thank her for all she's done to improve videogames - and the culture at large.
And now, to end on an equally interesting and slightly less grim-tinged note:
Extra Credits: https://www.youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz
Their tagline is "Because Games Matter", so it was inevitable that we would include them!
We mentioned James Portnow, one of the people behind this channel, in the news post a couple of months back as well, in connection with his Games for Good work. This channel was where it all started: they talk seriously (well, at an underlying level) about a range of aspects of games from... you know what, just go and check their back catalogue. (There are only 234 episodes... so just skim the titles and click on a few that sound interesting.)
Among the most visible of folks talking about videogames from a more reflective perspective, they have done wonders both to improve external perceptions of the medium's maturity and to help the more foot-dragging wilfully-immature elements within gamer culture come to terms with the fact that "fun" doesn't require you turning off your brain. (Quite the contrary, in fact!)