Game @ your library Saturday

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Libraries around the country will host special gaming programs November 13.

This Saturday is National Gaming Day @ your library, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of the educational, recreational, and social value of video and board games. Libraries around the country will host special gaming programs.

Perhaps the centerpieces of National Gaming Day are its national gaming tournaments, hosted by Ann Arbor (Mich.) District Library. In one, players at participating libraries will play Super Smash Bros. Brawl live against libraries around the country. AADL will also host a national Rock Band High Score Tournament, where bands will compete for the highest score on any version of the game, and any song and any difficulty level.

National Gaming Day doesn’t just cover video games, though. Thanks to sponsor North Star Games, 1,500 libraries around the country received copies of Wits & Wagers: Family to use in their programs. And libraries are, of course, free to host whatever gaming programs are popular in their communities as well. (Check with your local library, or this map, to see if your library has gaming programs planned)

Games are more than just fun: They also provide valuable learning experiences to players, requiring their players to develop strategies, predict possible outcomes, manage multiple resources, read and decipher maps, and track statistics.

Plus, games in libraries are social events; players meet and interact with diverse peers and share their expertise with others. At a 2008 conference on gaming in libraries, Eli Neiburger of Ann Arbor District Library told how a library Pokemon tournament helped a shy young patron grow. “That day changed his life,” the boy’s mother told Neiburger. “He’s coming out from behind his shell because he hadn’t really ever been able to experience competitive success in front of his peers before.”

Games in libraries aren’t just for one day of the year. Many libraries offer regular gaming programs or games available for check-out or for playing in the library. And some even develop their own games. Cranbury (N.J.) Public Library recently created “What Happened to Wellington,” an alternate reality game to promote One Book New Jersey.

An alternate reality game is a game that takes place in the real world but incorporates story elements to create an alternate reality. In this instance, the story of the game was a mystery: The library’s shipment of books for One Book New Jersey got stolen, and the library asked its patrons’ help in recovering them. Periodic updates from “The Mystery Thief” gave clues about the books’ whereabouts—directing some 30 players to Cranbury’s annual street festival, where six books were hidden as prizes and the library’s table offered hourly clues to their locations.

The game was popular enough that the library hid four more books around town after the festival to keep the game going. “It was amazing to see that because of the buzz and interest generated by the game and the story, that every copy of the book we owned were all checked out within days of the [One Book New Jersey] display being put up,” said Douglas Baldwin, Cranbury Public Library systems administrator.

Games are even gaining respect as an academic discipline. The University of Calgary Library recently announced its plans to build an extensive video game collection—ranging from Atari and PC games to the newest consoles—for student and class use. The library expects the games to be studied from a number of perspectives, from history and rhetoric to feminist studies and even medicine (given that a digital virus afflicted characters in World of Warcraft in 2005). “Video games are a fairly sophisticated media form, so people will be treating them the same as books or film documentaries,” said librarian Jerremie Clyde in the September 22 Calgary Herald.

Library Games

Check out some of these games available @ your library:

Settlers of Catan

Backseat Drawing: The Hysterical Game of Sketchy Directions



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