International Games Week October 29 – November 4

International Games Week

Associazione Italiana Biblioteche and IGD

Posted on November 3, 2015

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.

Quick update – Global Gossip Game 2015

Posted on October 23, 2015

Hi everyone! Phil Minchin here again, to update you about everyone's favourite highly-organised string of communication failures, the Global Gossip Game.

I'm about to close off the registration for this year's GGG and start organising it. If you want to play, but haven't yet filled out this year's IGD@yl registration form, please do so pronto!

I should remind everyone that, depending on your timezone, not everyone who wants to participate will get to - logistics are tough like that. But we always do our best to get as many libraries in as possible. By early November you should have heard from us if you're going to be playing - please respond to any emails as quickly as possible! The nature of the event is such that other libraries are dependent on your answer.

If you want to get ahead of the game (so to speak) and have a preview of how it will work, last year's rules will be pretty much identical this year - I'll post updated ones soon, but if you want a sense of how it will work, you can read those right now. The big thing to remember is that you need to be ready to receive a call at a fixed time, have a staff member who is the contact person for the game during your turn (usually half an hour), and then be able to contact the next library through whatever means are agreed between you.

That's it! Thanks again for your interest and expect to hear from me soon!

Games making change in the library

Posted on September 1, 2015

Hannah Tracy is the Library Director of a small rural Vermont library.

Thursday afternoons in our library are loud. Our after school gaming group meets on Thursdays to play Dungeons and Dragons, board games, and Minecraft on the Xbox One. With 13 or more teenagers excitedly playing games it is bound to get loud and in a library with no real rooms there is no where to get away from the noise. This wasn't a problem before we started offering games in the library. There were maybe 5 or so teens who would come in to check out books and leave as soon as they were done. There was no real space for them.

Middle Grade and Teen (Before)

Middle Grade and Teen (Before)

Main Area (Before)

Main Area (Before)

We started offering game nights in the evenings and in a rural area with not much else to do on a Friday night we had a handful of teenagers show up. After a few months one of them expressed interest in more gaming events and suggested the after school gaming group. With just a few participants at first they were able to find a corner to hangout and play board games in, but as the group grew it was obvious there would need to be more space. Through rearranging we have been able to carve out a teen gaming area where there wasn’t even a teen space before. Now instead of hanging out in the corner they they have a space that is there own. Of course it is still pretty loud. So we have plans for building a new community room which will allow us to offer more programs to everyone in the community but the main catalyst for the idea was the gamers needing a space they could spread out and be loud in.

New Teen Gaming Area Mid-Move

New Teen Gaming Area Mid-Move

Gaming has allowed us to create a more welcoming environment for the teens in our library and through that the teens themselves have given us the excuse to expand and offer more programs and services both for them and for others, gaming and non-gaming included. This kind of result may have happened through other programming but because gaming requires other people to play with inevitably the group will grow and as it grows it is easier to make the case that the library needs to change and grow along with it.  

Morality and games, and the morality of games

Posted on August 17, 2015

Written by guest contributor JC Lau

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

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

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

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A scene from the torture sidequest in Grand Theft Auto V

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

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Some of the cards from Cards Against Humanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IGD Collaboration is a Win-Win!

Posted on August 10, 2015

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

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

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

Explaining the rules of the board game Ticket to Ride.

Explaining the rules of the board game Ticket to Ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can game experts do for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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