Beyond a Fad: Why Video Games Should Be Part of 21st Century Libraries.
We believe video games have a place in libraries. We start by describing two provocative video games. Next, we offer a framework for the general mission of libraries, including access, motivation, and guidance. As a medium, video games have some distinguishing traits: they are visual, interactive, and based on simulations. We explain how these traits require and reward some traditional and new literacies. Furthermore, people play video games for at least three reasons: immersion, challenge, and connection. Finally, we offer guidelines and examples for how librarians can integrate video games into library collections and programming. Introduction Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional. -Glenda Cloud We live and work with change. New and evolving media and technology affect our jobs, politics, recreations, relationships, children, and more. We face an endless flood of gadgets and wizardry: iPads, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, e-books, Wikipedia, video games, etc. This flood can be confusing and intimidating. Libraries and librarians can play vital roles in helping patrons live and work with change. In this article, we'll explore one area of evolving media and tech: video games. We believe video games have a place in libraries, and thus librarians should try to understand the nature of video games, especially why people play video games. Games illustrate powerful phenomena in media and tech, including interactivity and immersion. Now is a good time for librarians to explore video games. Recently, the United States Supreme Court considered arguments about the nature and possible effects of video games. The Court applied First Amendment protection to video games: "Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium" (Brown v. EMA, 2011). The Court prevented California from restricting the sale of video games to minors. Their decision effectively halted similar efforts in other states. However, Justices writing both in the majority and minority acknowledged that the nature and possible effects of a new medium like video games can be poorly understood. For example, Justice Scalia recounted our nation's past confusion and alarm about the possible harm to minors caused by penny dreadfuls (lurid novels), movies, and comic books (Brown v. EMA, 2011). As a society, we live and work with phenomena like interactivity and immersion, so we should explore and discuss the possible advantages and risks, especially the possible harms to minors. Libraries and librarians can and should be part of this exploration and discussion. Fortunately, librarians don't need to be avid "gamers" to learn about video games and to appreciate the place video games could have in libraries. However, librarians may need to learn more about the appeal of video games. There is an endless variety of new games and kinds of games, and this flood isn't likely to ebb. In this article we won't try to catalog the flood. Rather, we hope to equip librarians with a better understanding of the nature and appeal of video games. What are the distinctive features of the medium? How do games communicate ideas? First, we'll describe two examples of provocative video games. Second, we'll describe the possible roles of libraries during changing times. Third, we'll explore why people play video games. Fourth, we'll explore how video games can be part of libraries, with specific suggestions.
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