International Games Week October 29 – November 4

International Games Week

Hi from Nordic Game Day
!

Posted on November 10, 2014

Hi everyone! We just realised that we haven't done our annual blog post swap with Nordic Game Day - so we're going to sneak it in before the big day. Here's NGD co-ordinator Lone Hejlskov Munkeberg with a bit of information about this partner event!

Hi from Nordic Game Day!

Phil from International Games Day has invited me to tell you a bit about how we work.

As we are closing in on the date November 15th, the Nordic libraries are doing the final preparations for the Nordic Game Day and International Games Day.

This year we have representatives from all the Nordic countries, since for the very first time we can welcome four Icelandic libraries to the community. All in all there will be 115 attending libraries in Denmark (30) - including the first attending library from Greenland! - Finland (34), Iceland (4), Norway (35) and Sweden (12). 
In Finland they just can’t get enough - since they are having a game WEEK. Way to go!

The Nordic event is supported by the Nordic Game Institute and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Even though it is supported by them, it is very much a community-driven event. The attending libraries all set up local initiatives and events. More about that later on.

As a coordinator I have different tasks. I make sure that the event has a new poster every year, created by a local graphic Artist (Pernille Sihm). I ensure there is established contact between the developers, publishers, game critics and the libraries. I post news on the blog, Twitter and Facebook etc. This year we have been able to send out free merchandise and boardgames for the libraries. This underlines that both the videogames industry and the boardgame publishers also support the event - they too want games to be as visible and accessible as possible in libraries!

Another coordinating task is the annual browser game tournament. 
And this year we have chosen a semi bald naked guy on a mini bike to run the competition, since we will be competing in the very cool browser game Icycle, by the British indie developer Damp Gnat! At stake are cool prizes like Samsung Galaxy TAB 4 10.1” WIFI and gift certificates to the online service OnePlay - who has a digital library lending service.

Locally all kinds of stuff is going on. 
There are talks from game critics, workshops, cosplay, manga, retrogames, FIFA tournaments, Minecraft LAN, ping pong, chess, card games and much more.

Some of the Nordic libraries are also participating in IGD initiatives, so we are exited that you once again will host great stuff like the Global Gossip Game and the International Minecraft Hunger Games tournament.

We wish you all a very cool Game Day!

Thanks Lone! And I'd just like to point out a mildly awesome fact: that Nordic Game Day is using a British game for their tournament, while IGD is using a Nordic (Swedish, to be precise) game for ours! We're international without even trying 🙂

Book folks on games: Hail to the Chiefs! It’s the ALA and ALIA Presidents!

Posted on October 30, 2014

After finishing the "Game folks on libraries" series with the extraordinary Brenda Romero, I didn't want to drop the bar - so we're winding up this year's "Book folks on games" with a bang too! It's a double-header with the Presidents of both the American Library Association (ALA) and its new partner in IGD this year, the Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA). We're very honoured (and also honored) to have them both contributing their thoughts!

Courtney Young (ALA)

Normally I let people's bios provide most of the introductions, but in this case I feel it's a little understated. As the website she set up for her election campaign makes clear, Courtney is a woman of many accomplishments - indeed, it's remarkable to scroll down her list of "Selected Professional Activities" and realise that all this has been compressed into a mere decade-and-a-bit. (At the risk of making her blush - though there's no reason she should - the Endorsements page also makes for some impressive reading.)

Courtney L. Young is the 2014-2015 American Library Association (ALA) President. She is currently the Head Librarian and Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State Greater Allegheny, and previously held positions at Penn State Beaver and Penn State University Park, Ohio State University, and Michigan State University. Within ALA, she has served on the Executive Board and the Council, and as President of the New Members Round Table. In 2011, Courtney was named a Library Journal "Mover & Shaker". Courtney graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio with a B.A. in English and minors in Black Studies and Women's Studies. She received her M.S. in Library Science from Simmons College. Courtney frequently presents and publishes on issues related to academic librarianship, diversity, virtual reference, leadership, and professional development.

Courtney, welcome and thank you! We know you're busy, so we are both honoured and appreciative. Let's kick off with our first question: what is your past experience of play and games?

I have an extensive history with games and play. My older brothers played all types of electronic games, including handheld sports games and early console games.

We also play board games in my house. For example, I loved playing Monopoly... but the rest of the family was not as much of a fan because the game play took so long. Card games featured too. I used to watch my mother play solitaire, and Go Fish was one of my early favorites.

I also had a love for tabletop electronic games. One year for Christmas I received a Pac-Man system (see http://www.geekvintage.com/images/coleco-tabletop-pac-man-system.jpg). I spent a lot of time working on my high score and getting an extra life!

My first foray into computer gaming was Math Blaster!, designed to help me improve my math skills. My first gaming at the public library was as a pre-teen where I played Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? When my older brother went to graduate school he gave me his Nintendo. I owned some games, but would rent others from video stores as this was before libraries started lending games. I've owned a variety of gaming consoles (Sega Genesis, SNES, PS1, PS2, PS3, Game Boy, Nintendo GameCube, Wii). I still do a lot of gaming.

Thank you for sharing that! What do you see as the current state of games in libraries?

Games are being recognized more widely as important in our society. As a reference librarian I've noticed over the past ten years an increased interdisciplinary interest in game theory and gaming for course-related assignments. It is common on campus to see students gaming together between campuses, be it X-Box or Magic: the Gathering. Libraries hosting open houses increasingly include a gaming component for attendees. My public library colleagues host Wii for Seniors events. More academic libraries are developing game collections. As a natural gathering place in the community, the library is a great place for legal gaming to take place, such as chess tournaments.

And of course, the 2014 ALA Annual Conference's Opening General Session featured Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. She designs alternative reality games "that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems."

I still wish I could have been there... where do you see this going, and where could it go?

I believe gaming will continue to be important and a part of everyday life. We know it can play an important role in learning - from my early experience with math skills software, to flight simulators for pilots. Games allow us to be creative and learn new things. They are also fun!

Gaming is a great way to come together as a family, friends, or a community. Libraries of all types play an integral role in fostering opportunities to come together, so through gaming programming (tournaments or even festivals) and collections that is possible. Games have the potential to bridge generations, cultures, and make the world a better place.

 

Damian Lodge (ALIA)

ALIA’s President, Damian Lodge, is similarly a man of many talents – including, I’ve just discovered, being both a rock musician and a guitar-maker! I had the pleasure of meeting Damian at the recent ALIA National Conference and discovered that on top of that and the professional achievements below, he is also a very affable chap.

Damian Lodge, is a Lecturer in Information Studies teaching in the areas of technology and management at the Wagga Campus of Charles Sturt University, an Australian university with a strong focus on rural and regional Australia with campuses around the country and over 2000 students studying Library and Information Management courses via distance education. Damian has been teaching in the School of Information Studies since 2003 and came to teaching from working in University Libraries for ten years and public libraries before that. He has a Masters in Library and Info Management and a Masters in Business Administration. He has served on the ALIA Board for a two year period (2006-2008) and is currently the President of ALIA. Damian's research interests are in library management and technology and he co-ordinates the Leadership specialisation in the School. He has written articles on staff development, organisational culture, teamwork and technology in libraries.

Thanks for your time Damian! We know it’s scarce, and we’re privileged to have you joining us too. So: what is your past experience of play and games?

I remember growing up as a kid and loading games onto my family’s Commodore 64 with the tape drive. The tape drive was a little faulty, and would chew up the tapes so the games wouldn’t play properly; even when they did work, the graphics were square blocks and the music that played was monophonic… but it was an experience! I was a fan of Space Invaders at the local sports club but I was a very ordinary gamer. Most of my friends in high school played computer games and played Dungeons & Dragons, a game my school tried to ban in the early days (which I think only made it more appealing). I didn’t play computer games in high school but did play with a few music software packages to write music, which in retrospect was still a form of electronic play. My family played board games regularly with Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit the favourites. My parents banned me from playing Monopoly against my sister due to my 'buy everything I land on and become the evil landlord' policy. My sister still won’t play Monopoly with me.

I have spent the last 25 years working in universities and the student spaces have always been full of games, with my favourite being Daytona USA. Why this game I have never understood, as I own two pushbikes and do not own a car – but the game just appealed to me! These days it’s apps, so Words with Friends is very popular and I did get caught up in Flappy Birds.

What do you see as the current state of games in libraries?

Gaming in libraries started slowly, but has really come in to its own with some great new purpose-built spaces in libraries for gaming and play. A brand new library in Melbourne – The Library at the Dock – has some brilliant spaces designed for gaming and play. It has a makerspace, gameplay zone, recording studio and a host of other spaces that really show what you can do with play and gaming in a library environment. As a musician and a guitar builder these spaces in libraries are just fantastic as I can go into the library and lay down some tracks in the recording studio using quality microphones and the latest music creation software then head to the next space and print off some guitar parts with the 3D printer. I may have to try and get a job at this library…

I also recently visited the chess collection and play space at the State Library of Victoria. Every table was in use with a great mix of people playing against each other.

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

Gaming and play brings people together. My teenage children play games with people halfway across the world. We are all connected and gaming and play allows us to become increasingly connected with people we know – and interestingly, people we don’t. I get Candy Crush invites on a weekly basis and my family can easily spend hours in the evening together playing games on the 4 laptops, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones and an android device which are all loaded to the hilt with games.

In the future we are going to see further development of these devices that enhance the user experience, with far better graphics and sound and an amazing level of interaction and immersion. I am fascinated with smart glasses and how this and other wearable technology will be developed over the coming years. Libraries and the spaces we build are adapting well and are really quite innovative. Librarians understand change and the management of change well, as this is part of our everyday work life due to the nature of our business! We are building great spaces and partnerships, and utilising new technologies to provide services that are bring new people into our libraries every day.

 

Thanks again to both Courtney and Damian for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions!

Game profiles: Hanabi, or, Theory Of Mind In A Box

Posted on July 28, 2014

Hi folks! Thanks to life not running according to those famous Other Plans, we've been caught a little on the hop by this month's Game Profile piece. So rather than another survey of a genre, like the superb effort Ben gave us last month, we're going to concentrate on a single game.

But whooo-ee, what a game.

Hanabi, which Australian donors Good Games are donating to Aussie participants, is like a haiku - or perhaps something a little less sparse, like a sonnet. It has a tiny number of components and systems, but they are arranged so artfully that they are more even than the product of their parts, let alone the sum.

Hanabi is Japanese for fireworks, or literally "flower fire". The story of the game - and it's largely decorative, with little connection to the mechanics of the game - is that it's New Year in a Japanese village, and the players are the fireworks crew who are about to put on the annual show. Some klutz has knocked over the carefully sorted fireworks and muddled them all up, and you're all frantically working together to reorganise them before the show starts - but if you make too many mistakes, the fireworks will blow up and take you all with them.

I'm going to skip over a detailed rules recap at this point - like many games, it's hard to grok from a description and I would just bore you. The key point is that this is a co-operative game of hidden information: you hold the cards facing away from you!

Yep. When you're playing Hanabi, everyone can see the cards in your hand but you. And there are strict rules that govern what players can tell each other.

This means that you are constantly thinking about what's going on in your teammates' minds. What do they need to know? Why did they think you needed to know that these cards were blue? Should I play them, discard them, or hang onto them and wait for more information?

And, as you get more advanced, you start thinking about how to convey information indirectly: if I discard this red 3, even though we still need one, will my friend work out I only feel safe to do that because I can see that her "unknown-colour" 3 is the other red?

You'll also start using negative information ("if these cards in my hand ARE blue, then all the other cards are NOT blue"), card-counting-style probability juggling, and more.

Just this surprisingly sophisticated level of puzzle-like logic, theory-of-mind, attempting to read other players, etc. is enough to make the game a keeper. But the real value of the game comes one layer deeper. In addition to those other skills, you're also receiving a lesson in the fundamental unknowability of other people. And you're doing it in a framework of co-operation.

Emotionally, it is far easier to engage with the "other people" problem in a competitive or even hostile mode. Our more basic natures reflexively resent the things that make us exert ourselves, and that meshes well with a goal that involves somehow triumphing over them. (One could argue that this is at the root of many modern socio-politico-economic ills - for starters, the rabid anti-intellectualism of large pockets of mass culture.) This is part of the pleasure of competitive play: expressing that basic egoistic subjective sense of the self’s defiance against the world, but doing so in a consensual context where that hostility is licensed, constrained into forms that contain the possible harm, and channeled in ways that mean that even the journey to defeat can still be a pleasurable and educational experience.

But real life – especially a good life – is much more about getting inside other people’s heads in order to help them, whether because doing so helps us too, or simply because we love them. And that’s what Hanabi is all about.

The puzzle that you are collaborating to solve – sort cards drawn randomly into sequences of 1-5 in 5 different colours – is childishly simple. But the fact that you know nothing of the cards you hold except what your partners tell you – and vice versa – plus what you can see of cards in other players' hands and on the table, and what you can deduce from all that information, makes other people not only a crucial part of the puzzle but utterly indispensible to the solution. Failing to trust your fellow players to tell you what you need to know can completely paralyse you. Failing to consider how even the slightest action will be seen by your partners in the game may well lead to you sending false signals. And most importantly, feeling antagonistic towards other players only distracts you – and probably them; most humans are incredibly sensitive to even slight inflections of blame – from the problem at hand.

This forces the higher functions of the brain not only to engage with the intellectual problem at hand, but to examine and control those resentful lizard-brain “how dare you make me work” impulses. In other words, you are not only practicing being smart but being good; blaming other people for not automatically conforming to internal expectations is at the root of evils ranging all the way from petty to genocidal.

It's a lot to read into a simple game, I'll admit. But play it - with someone you're close to, and with someone you're not - before you dismiss it. If a handful of words, well-chosen and perfectly arranged, can detonate in the mind and force a re-evaluation of an entire life, why can't a tiny bundle of choices and rules, actions and consequences, take us deeper into human nature than we even know how to recognise in "just a game"?

And if that's possible, isn't it our responsibility as libraryfolk to try and make sure it happens? It is our duty, I would contend, both to seek out the playful works that offer these kinds of possibilities, and - even more importantly - to provide the context and the vocabulary that enables our communities to realise them.

That this vocabulary is still in development, that our culture as a whole is only starting to wake up to the power of play - surely that only makes it more exciting, not less... and more important that community-minded, culture-minded, people-minded voices like ours be woven into the conversation right from the start.

Get Your Game On, At The Library

Posted on October 6, 2011

Check out this video by the Cape May County Library in Cape May Court House, NJ about how gaming at the library can change lives.

Are you reaching out to these patrons?

   
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