More and more libraries are questioning whether they should integrate video game programs. To help answer this question, we took the opportunity to identify five reasons for and five reasons against this investment.
1) Video games are popular
That video games are extremely popular, and even more so than cinema , is a well-known fact. But, does this popularity translate into libraries that have decided to invest in these collections?
In Montréal-Nord, nearly 60% of the borough’s teenagers are subscribers to one or other of the four libraries. During the video game nights, the young people line up outside to await the opening of the Cultural and Community House library.
In Quebec City, the approximately 800 video games in the network collection are borrow approximately 2,100 times a month.
At the Émile-Nelligan library (Laval), the purchase of video games at the Parenthèse (a space for teenagers aged 12 to 17 with several consoles and computers for games) has exploded the number of registrations from 50 to 1372 in 3 years.
2) Video games are local cultural products
The dynamism, competence and creativity of Quebecers have made the province one of the six largest industrial centers in the world and the third region with the most employees working in the games. per capita video . It is a leading cultural industry directly hiring more than 7,000 employees and allowing Quebec’s metropolis to shine internationally.
However, it is in other parts of the world that libraries have been the most innovative with video games, particularly in the United States , Scandinavia and France .
In addition, the Montreal video game industry, determined to become better known locally, has shown great interest in supporting library efforts in this area. In addition to having already provided speakers for library activities on many occasions, the industry has been open to new partnerships, both in promoting library play and to the development of specific projects.
3) Video games are complementary to other collections
According to a survey conducted by the American Library Association in 2007, 64% of users participating in library play activities returned to the library for activities other than play. In addition, 61% of participants used other services. from the library before or after the games activity!
What to conclude? That books, movies, CDs and video games are not mutually exclusive. Users will choose what best suits their cultural needs: a video game for the youngest, a film for the youngest and books for parents.
Let us add that games fit very well among the more “traditional” collections of libraries, with regard to the educational benefits that can result from their use. According to Isabelle Pauzé (Rain Science, n.40, Winter 2010):
“[Video games] lead young people to think and concentrate and to learn in various subjects. In addition, players discover the many services we offer [in the library], in a safe space that promotes socialization ”
In the literature, James Paul Gee is interested in the 36 beneficial effects of video games on learning and reading (What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, 2007). In Quebec, the program Découverte (Radio-Canada) recently demonstrated the advantages of competition games in decision-making.
4) Video games enhance the image of libraries
According to the ALA survey, 65% of libraries with a gaming program recognized that the library’s reputation was improved with participants.
In fact, the addition of a collection of video games in a library strikes the imagination and frees it from certain widespread prejudices, especially among teenagers (“the library is flat”, “the library is for school, “” there is nothing for me at the library, “etc.)
It is not for nothing that in different televised topos on the libraries, several emphasize the dynamic side while putting forward the programs of video games.
Topo of Radio-Canada and Topo de Vrak.TV
5) Video game collections are versatile
Depending on your needs, your space and your costs, the addition of video games in the library can be done in several ways.
There are two main categories of video game attendance in the library:
The activities of entertainment that can be broken down into evenings of free games (Montreal-Nord), tournament-off games (Gabrielle-Roy), on-site consultation (The Interlude) or even a hybrid activity between reading and video games (Montreal-Nord).
The loan of video games (Library Network of Québec City, Montréal and Pierrefonds / Roxboro).
1) Video games have a bad press
For some, video games rhyme with addiction, isolation, sedentary lifestyle, school failure, sexism, racism and violence. In fact, the video game industry still has a lot of work to do to improve their social image. Some concerned users (and some elected officials as well) might ask questions about these investments and ask the librarians for justifications.
For your information, studies are very controversial about addiction . For other social issues, the majority of studies are usually inconclusive and have difficulty correlating phenomena. In addition, we must not forget that, as Scott Nicholson (Everyone Plays at the Libray, 2010) points out, violence, sexism, racism and dependency are phenomena that also exist in other cultural products such as book, movies, mangas, etc.
Nevertheless, this situation allows librarians to play a leading role in making an enlightened selection. They must ensure that rigorous lending procedures are in place to comply with the ESRB classifications (age group and descriptor classification). Finally, librarians have the important task of helping to enlighten users (and especially parents) about this new cultural product.
2) Develop a new collection leads to new costs
A new video game usually costs $ 49.99 on the Wii and $ 59.99 for the Playstation 3 or the XBOX 360. So, to have a collection of about 100 documents, it will cost between $ 5,000 and $ 6,000. If you also want to animate with this collection of 100 documents, it will cost between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000 (including three consoles, additional controllers, peripherals, etc.), not counting TVs, animators and other fees if the library opens outside regular hours.
Nevertheless, let’s mention that the value of many games decreases very quickly a few months after their launch (except for some very popular titles, including star games developed by Nintendo). Games of one year or more or used games are frequently between $ 19.99 and $ 29.99. By counting on safe and recognized values, it is possible to buy a collection of the most interesting by reducing the cost of documents in half. In addition, many libraries already have televisions and / or projectors. What better way to attract young people than to offer them the opportunity to play on a giant screen?
3) Developing a new collection entails training costs
In addition to the purchase costs of the collection, we must add the training of employees who are rarely familiar with this area. We need to help librarians in the development of collections, in development, in technology, and even, in some cases, basic notions in the field.
That said, there is a panoply of websites that can help not only in the development of collections (for example, Metacritic , an aggregator of game reviews or Vgchartz , a sales estimator), but also in the continuing education of responsible librarians (by example, the Librarian’s Guide to Gaming or the LibGaming Group on Google)
4) Video game animation requires space and noise
As for video game collections used in animation, ” Motion Gaming ” is becoming more and more popular on Wii, Move and Kinect . So you have to have more and more space inside the library to be able to play games with these new technologies.
To address this problem as well as the noise, in Montreal-North, the video game nights take place outside of the library’s opening hours. This has the double advantage of not inconveniencing regular users and of giving young people the feeling that the library belongs to them, that they can really take ownership of it.
However, it may be worth mentioning that for video game collections as a loan, video games are so borrowed that they require very little space on the shelves. In fact, circulation of video game loan collections is almost exclusively through the library reservation system that provides this service.
5) Developing a new collection can lead to IT and technical complexities
Online console games are becoming more and more popular with gamers. To access this mode of play, it is often necessary to subscribe to the networks of large companies ( Xbox live , Microsoft, is by far the most popular), which can mean additional costs of about $ 10 per month per console , not to mention the complexities of connecting to the Web and managing firewall systems (and by the same token, the relationship between the library and the IT department). That said, registration for this type of service allows you to download very popular little games at very attractive prices.
Moreover, we must consider in the equation the maintenance of gaming equipment. Some consoles may be subject to frequent breakage (especially previous generations of the Xbox 360) and it is not easy to find a place to get them fixed. Similarly, there must be some hardware replacement rate, especially joysticks when used on a regular basis. As for game discs (DVD format for Wii and Xbox 360 and Blu-Ray for Playstation 3), their maintenance is no different from a regular DVD or CD and policies similar to those that frame Loans of films or music discs may well be applied to them.
By integrating more and more into our daily lives, it is interesting to wonder about the integration of video games, a product of learning and entertainment, in public spaces such as libraries. We believe that developing a video game collection is one of the great challenges of 21st century public libraries.
Video games today represent a non-negligible facet of our world and our way of apprehending it. In addition to being original and stimulating media for learning and entertainment, they must now be seen as a cultural product in their own right, the importance of which can not be denied in our societies. Integrating a video game collection into its library is today resonating with its era and the needs of its customers.
Our experience and research has led us to conclude that implementing a video game program in a public library generates far more benefits than costs or inconvenience. Libraries of the twenty-first century have a great opportunity to mold their image and their socio-cultural role in an original and energetic way.