International Games Day @ your library Game on November 18, 2017!

Bring Overwatch to your library!

Posted on August 23, 2016

Overwatch is the newest game released by Blizzard Entertainment, developer of World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Hearthstone. Overwatch is a team first-person shooter in which heroes band together to restore peace in the midst of rising conflict in the world.

This overwhelmingly popular game just reached over 15 million players worldwide. Overwatch is available to play on XBOX One, PlayStation 4, and on PC. If your library offers console games, it is simple enough to purchase a copy or two for XBOX One or PlayStation 4, but why not support gaming in your library? Does your library have computers? Do they meet the minimum system requirements to play Overwatch?

Overwatch System Requirements

Users who purchase the digital rights to playing Overwatch can play anywhere they can access the internet on a computer as long as it meets the minimum specification requirements. If your library's computers can run this popular game, Overwatch is a great talking point that will bring people in to play!

Hosting a Hearthstone Tournament

Posted on July 18, 2016


Hearthstone is a free-to-play digital collectible card game based on the popular game “World of Warcraft”. The game itself is fairly simple to play but has a lot of strategic depth which has made it quite popular as a competitive game. Running a tournament for Hearthstone may at first seem like a daunting challenge but is actually rather accessible for even the least experienced of tournament organizers and can be done for little to no cost at all.

Hearthstone - Pull up a chair

The Hearthstone Innkeeper

Preparing the Space

When planning any tournament you will first want to dedicate a space for holding the event. Ideally, a library should be able to provide computers for the players to use, but it is not strictly required. If the library is planning on allowing players to use library-owned computers, be sure to download the Hearthstone game client well in advance of the tournament. The game can be downloaded for free here. Hearthstone can be played cross-platform on either PC, iOS, or Android devices. Keep in mind that all players should be using their own private accounts in order to play their matches. As long as every entrant has access to at least one of these devices, play should run smoothly. Of particular importance, make sure the provided space offers Wi-Fi internet access and plenty of power outlets so that players may charge their personal devices.


Promoting the Event

A great way to start promoting your Hearthstone tournament or get together is through the official Hearthstone Fireside Gathering website. The company responsible for Hearthstone has set up a great online calendar that allows organizers to promote and even support their events with free in-game digital goodies. Many local schools and universities also have student-run eSports organizations that you can reach out to for both support and potential participants. Finally posting flyers, creating Facebook event pages, and sending out email blasts are also great ways to spread the word about your upcoming event!

Establish the Rules

The next step in planning is to establish a basic rule set. Having a well-written rule set posted in advance will eliminate a lot of headaches on tournament day. First and foremost you will want to decide which style of bracket you would like to run. A single elimination bracket will allow for a maximum number of entrants to participate as it takes the least amount of time to complete. The one major drawback to a single elimination bracket, however, is that nearly half of all entrants will only be allowed a chance to play in one game before being eliminated. A double elimination bracket is a far superior choice to a single elimination bracket in that it guarantees that all participants are allowed to play at least two complete matches before being eliminated. However, the increase in the number of games played can significantly increase the time needed to complete the event. Most rounds of the tournament will take about 45 minutes to complete so be sure to allow the players ample time to complete the entire event whether you choose a single or double elimination bracket. No matter what style you choose, is a valuable free resource for both generating a bracket and keeping track of tournament results. You can use this link to help you begin generating your free tournament bracket.


Setting Guidelines

When laying out a basic rule set you will also need guidelines for how individual matches themselves should be played. The most common format for match play is the official Hearthstone “conquest” format played in either a best of five or best of three setting. In a best of five format, each player brings five decks and must win three out of five games to be awarded a match victory. For a more abbreviated and faster play format, players can be required to bring three different decks and win two out of the three games to be declared the victor. In either case, once a player has won a game with a particular deck they are no longer allowed to use that deck in that match. A losing player may continue using the same deck or attempt to switch to a different deck of his/her choice. In order to ensure that players are not changing their decks between games, or rounds, each player should be required to submit an official deck registration sheet prior to the start of the tournament. It is highly advisable to allow players the chance to complete their deck sheet prior to coming to the event. If a player is caught playing any modified deck at any point during the tournament they should be subject to either a game or match forfeiture, up to the tournament organizer’s discretion. Hearthstone

For a more in-depth and comprehensive guide, check out the official Hearthstone Innkeepers Guide for a complete breakdown of all things related to hosting your own event!



The American Go Foundation and Libraries

Posted on July 5, 2016


This year International Games Day is focusing on ways that libraries can play with little to no materials budget. The American Go Foundation offers libraries several ways to introduce the game Go to their library. Go is an ancient two-person strategic board game invented in China millennia ago and is still wildly popular today. This foundation’s Library Programs page offers two ways to get the game Go into your library.

For a donation of $25 for shipping, libraries can introduce patrons to Hikaru No Go. This manga is a coming of age saga about Hikaru Shindo, a sixth-grader in Japan who finds a Go board with an ancient Go master trapped inside. The Hikaru manga set also includes two cardboard playing boards as well as two copies of an instructional game booklet, The Way to Go.

Libraries ready to start a Go program can fill out an application to receive a free Go set that includes 3 reversible vinyl boards, 3 small sets of plastic stones in stackable bowls, 10 copies of The Way to Go booklets, and 4 cardboard 9x9 sets with cardboard stones.

What?! You don’t know anything about Go? The American Go Foundation has you covered there as well. This amazing group offers a free book for organizers, Go As Communication by Yasuda Yasutoshi. This book will guide you in learning about Go, its benefits for all users, and your Go program.

Go visit the American Go Foundation site and see how you can bring this game into your library!


Games at ALA Annual 2016

Posted on June 9, 2016

Not only does the American Library Association’s Games and Gaming Roundtable (GameRT) manage International Games Day, but they are also active in transforming libraries. GameRT will be bringing its magic to Orlando, but not in the form of wizards. All of this magic is done by librarians from various libraries around the United States.

GameRT will be once again starting off the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference and Exhibit with a bang by hosting  ALAPlay. This year's event will feature open gaming, publisher demos from Paizo, Mayfair, HABA, Asmodee, Konami, and more. The Unpub area will return again this year as well, with 15 tables of game designers, most local to the Orlando area, showing off their designs. Come try out some handheld games in the digital petting zoo. Not only will this zoo house smaller creatures, such as a PSVita and Nintendo 3DS, but it will also include an Oculus Rift. After exploring the zoo, experience an escape room that blends the best of both the digital and real worlds!

The games don’t end after ALAPlay. GameRT hosts a Gaming Lounge on the exhibit floor in booth 527 with open gaming, scheduled demo games from game publishers attending annual, and a sharing session on Sunday afternoon from librarians exploring and using games in their library spaces. Come see A Winning Game Plan: Using Genre Terms to Enhance Discovery of Tabletop Games; Hybrid Educational Escape Room Experiences; Battling Gamer Grime: Preservation for a Circulating Tabletop Game Collection; Game Making, Playing and Streaming at Your Library on a Budget, Reading and Playing; and NYPLarcade presents Duskers.

The magic doesn’t stop there! Come to the GameRT presentation Saturday afternoon and learn about how Design Thinking is helping the library better understand the needs of gamers. This presentation, led by Mariella Colon and Kristen Edson from the Chicago Public Library, discusses programming that is customized to be popular with different users, specifically millennials. Thomas Knowlton, outreach librarian at the New York Public Library, will present on the NYPLarcade. Created in 2012, the NYPLarcade started as a forum for adult patrons to play and discuss independent, experimental, and thought-provoking games. It has since expanded to include game discussions for tweens and teens and also Twine coding workshops.

On Sunday, GameRT is co-sponsoring Don’t Just Roll the Dice: Simple Solutions for Circulating Game Collections Effectively with the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS). This program will show you some tips and tricks for preserving and processing a tabletop game collection for efficient circulation. Come see the results of a year-long research project that evaluated several preservation and processing techniques for extending the life of a game collection.

Still don’t have your fill of games? There is a Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage in the exhibit hall! On Saturday morning, at 10:30am, Pierce Watters will moderate a panel of experts as they discuss how gaming programs fit in your library. On hand will be game publishers, distributors, and librarians to discuss Playing Tabletop Games at Your Library.

So come learn about the ways that games can enhance your library collections and programs at the American Library Association's Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando.


Cataloguing games – some thoughts and some resources

Posted on October 5, 2015

Philip Minchin, the 2013-4 IGD blog editor, is popping back in with a guest post on... well, the title already spoiled it. The article explores why cataloguing games can actually do a great deal to unlock their capacity to cultivate learning, and concludes with some resources and references that will help you make a start.

In my Talking Points series from previous years, I've talked a lot about why I believe games and play should matter to libraries. I hope that I've already made the point in those series that games are important and underestimated forms of culture (and play is an essential element of ALL culture), and that it is no coincidence that their escalating prominence and ballooning share of our collective time, attention, and resources comes at a historical moment when creativity, imagination, systems literacy and social skills have never been more crucial.

But to date I've only alluded to the reasons why I believe libraries matter to games and play, over and above the ways we matter to every part of culture.

This could become another Talking Points series, but for now I want to focus on one of the core elements of libraries' sharing work: cataloguing.

The role of cataloguing in establishing and popularising analytical vocabulary

If games and play are a fraction as important as I believe they are, they deserve intelligent, considered, literate discussion comparable to what we afford literature, cinema, and other arts. (And of course, playful artforms can incorporate other media, along with narrative, composition, and all the other technical dimensions that come with them - there is no medium so open as play!)

However, as a medium that consists fundamentally of elements not central to other media - of systems at the published level, and of decisions and actions taken by players within the context of those systems at the experiential level - and which is not required to incorporate any other media, games need their own critical vocabulary.

Some of this vocabulary already exists in other fields - psychology, education, mathematics, logic, philosophy, economics, systems analysis, and so on. But it is largely isolated to those disciplines, which is a pity given its direct relevance to everyone who makes decisions within systems where others are also making decisions, and who might benefit from tools that render them better able to describe and analyse their experience. Which is to say, the entire sapient population.

And of course, while those academic disciplines have much to offer discussion of games and play, play and games are their own things with their own unique qualities - there will necessarily be some terminology that arises from studying them in their own right (which may well then inform those other disciplines).

To be fair, considerable work has been and is being undertaken in advancing critical discussion of games and play. Game dev site Gamasutra, criticism site Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and new BoingBoing subsite Offworld are great places to start for meaty discussion of games and play in a more holistic cultural context, and games academia is doing its bit to develop the terminology that lets us better describe experiences that have hitherto been nameable only in the broadest of strokes. I would not wish to downplay the value of any of these.

But just as the ruleset of a game is near-impossible to grok without actual play, we learn and understand taxonomies and critical distinctions best by reference to actual experience - by exploring the patterns within a collection of real objects where the similarities and differences are made manifest. Artistic movements and genres move from being academic jargon to mainstream parlance in no small part by being made visible in collections - and in catalogues. The simple fact of highlighting opportunities for learning prime people to do so, and equip them with the tools for analysis and even metacognition about what they are learning - not to mention simply marking such learning as valuable enough to note.

And it is this which libraries could offer, by not only including games and other playful media in their collections, but by cataloguing them properly, with reference not only to narrative or thematic elements and publication metadata, but to the actual details of how they are played, or played with.

This includes describing the physical media (something we need to do anyway for collection maintenance) and the rules and procedures of play, at the very least in the sense of including gameplay genres. A first-person shooter is radically different to a tower defense game, but under current cataloguing conventions at most libraries, you would be hard-pressed to tell Plants vs. Zombies from Left 4 Dead.

Other key aspects of gameplay include questions of chance vs. strategy, how much customisation of play elements is possible and expected, how much information is open and how much hidden (and from whom), and so on.

Another key element to describe is the required audience for play, including:

  • Who will be able to play? - this is often shorthanded by age, but being more specific about which specific capacities and developmental milestones are necessary would both popularise awareness of these aspects of intelligence and maturity, and allow more accurate assessment of suitability of games. For some games, specific life experiences may even be necessary - or, more likely, a player's experience of the same game may vary depending on their specific life experiences.
  • How many can play? The larger the required group, the harder the logistics of assembling a group to play. What effect do changing numbers of players have on the play experience?
  • How long does a typical game last? (This will feed into the first question of who can play - new parents and the overemployed rarely have time!) What are the factors that affect the duration of play - number of players, experience level of players, inclusion of optional gameplay elements, or other?
  • What is the social contract of the game - how does it shape the relationship of players to one another? Is it competitive, team-based, or co-operative? Does it promote openness and collaboration or secretive shenanigans? Which way does its tone tend? (Though of course the individual instance of play can vary wildly from the default!)

These are just a few basic qualities of games that clearly have an impact on their suitability for any given person, but would largely be ignored by traditional cataloguing (which, to be fair, was developed for media that are far more uniform in their physical composition and in the qualities of the required audience - or, at least, better suited to self-selection by their audience). If we are going to take cataloguing games seriously, as I hope it is apparent we must, we need to expand our understanding of the many ways a creative work is defined.

Games studies and popular culture have both contributed a great deal in this area, but cataloguers interested in getting up to speed on some basic attributes of games could do a lot worse than starting with Elias, Garfield & Gutschera's Characteristics of Games (MIT Press, 2012).

However, I believe some of the most interesting work lies around making explicit the skills, attributes, and/or insights required, developed, and/or rewarded by the game. This is something that could also be considered for other media, especially books - but given that playful media inherently depend on their audiences' abilities and efforts in ways no other medium does, it makes particular sense to consider cataloguing these dimensions of such works.

That this might result in games and play leading the way in making media generally more useful for educators and learning... well, that sounds about right to me, actually.

Examples and other resources

Much of this discussion was covered in a paper I wrote in 2011 for Australian library tech conference VALA, which also includes tables of fields of particular relevance to various specific forms of game - you can download it here. Some of this was derived from (and informed) work I did on cataloguing videogames and tabletop RPGs while working at Port Phillip Library Service, but since I left some years ago I am not sure how much of this was kept up (especially since I believe they have moved to outsourcing more of their cataloguing).

In writing that paper, somehow I missed this 2008 presentation by Bradley Shipps of Outagamie Waupaca Library System on cataloguing board games in MARC, which goes into more technical detail - particularly about the physical description of the work. One thing I thought particularly commendable was their use of the Related Resources field (856) to store a URL of the publisher's free PDF download of the rules, but the whole presentation is a must-read if you're interested in the topic.

(If you are, there's a blog post whose comments would be interested to hear from you at the LITA blog - go say hi!)

I already mentioned the tremendous Characteristics of Games in the body of the text - that's because it's that good.

A great deal of metadata, as well as lively and informative discussion, is of course available at Board Game Geek. Wikipedia gives an outline of some of the key terms for the less-familiar.

TV Tropes has an excellent page on videogame genres, and Wikipedia's is also useful in that it provides multiple axes for classifying games.

This University of Tennessee (Knoxville) page offers useful information on cataloguing web games specifically - aside from the general notes above about the broader topics we could be cataloguing, I have nothing to add.

Play Play Learn are among the first in the world (that I've come across, at least) to include the notion of cataloguing games (especially those that are not explicitly "educational") for skills, let alone mechanisms of play. They blur these together slightly in their categorisation of games - understandably enough, as there is considerable overlap in the implications of the two when undertaking "player's advisory" work, especially for the instructional kinds of purposes they aim to support - but their work is inspiring and another must-see. (As is the earlier work of some of the same team in the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.)

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