The role of libraries in the video game chain
What should be the role of libraries in the video game chain?
A simple question, certainly. A response a tad long, I agree.
” We must think about the place of the libraries among the video clubs, the houses of the culture and the houses of young people ”
To understand video games in the library, one has to think about one’s place among the video clubs (in decline) , the houses of culture and the youth centers. This is to question the accessibility of libraries in a distribution chain still under development.
A quest for meaning
In a conference on video games in libraries , I positioned myself for the development of a collection of video games by analyzing: its popularity, its artistic quality, its proximity, its contribution to the image, its educational and social sides as well that its complementarity with other collections. These reasons, all valid, explain why it seems relevant to develop a collection of video games in a library.
However, this argument does not explain:
The role of the library in the video game chain;
The singularity of video games in libraries;
The direction we can give to these collections.
In the book chain, libraries serve as an economic catalyst, a place of accessibility, initiation and encouragement for reading, the influence of writers, and so on.
As for video games, why should libraries invest 1%, 2%, 3% or 5% of their acquisition budget? It is obvious that libraries would be more popular with video games, but would it be at the expense of their mission?
The three roles of video games in libraries
There are 3 roles that libraries, and especially librarians, can play within vacant spaces in the video game distribution chain.
Role associated with the cultural mission of libraries.
Much more than a repository of documents, the current libraries are operated by mediators to make the collections live. Librarians add value by promoting a reading experience for each reader.
Video games in libraries could also benefit from the mediation of librarians. By sharing the same physical space as other types of documents, video games can better integrate into a multi-media cultural experience. The same theme can therefore be approached under different media: reading, audiovisual, interactivity, etc.
The neighboring library and library activities therefore become a vector of development for video game collections. Movement games to socialize between generations, strategy games for school perseverance, learning games to conclude a story hour, cognitive development games for seniors’ residences, etc.
Our role: to create interrelationships with the rest of the library’s documents. In the gambling chain, it is a question of bringing cultural products closer and bringing them out of their confinement. Introducing player literature and video games to readers is a motto that librarians should take.
Role associated with the educational and informative mission of libraries.
Like comics, movies or television, video games will take some time to be accepted socially. Violent, sexist, addictive and sedentary, the artistic and playful nature of the product is often put in the face of these negative social effects (and often false) .
Just as librarians have decided to support manga or comic books, they can also help the acceptance of video games by better informing users. It is through recommendation, classification and contextualization that libraries will become part of the video game chain.
In particular, librarians may also play a role in recognizing the ESRB classification ( which gives a rating of games by age according to the type of content) . Indeed, for the majority of parents, this classification remains a mystery. In the current distribution chain of video games, few are motivated to make it known. It’s not all young people who should play Grand Theft Auto , while this game series is for 17 years old and up.
Librarians therefore have an educational and informative role to play in setting the context of a video game collection.
Role associated with the community mission of libraries .
” For the poorest in society, the inability to access video games because of their cost leads to significant social marginalization ”
At first glance, library video games may seem like a luxury. But, let’s look at the situation differently. Culturally, video games are playing an increasingly important role in society: 97% of young people aged 12 to 17 are playing video games ( statistics: 2008, USA ).
For the poorest in society, the inability to access video games because of their cost leads to significant social marginalization.
In addition, for young people, video games are an educational tool. Whether for the development of computer skills, cognitive or academic skills, more and more schools are using playful learning environments for teaching. Libraries can make video games accessible and frame their educational potential, thus contributing to school perseverance.
Moreover, just like books, music and cinema, video games have a cultural identity value. Whether with large companies or small independent studios, libraries can encourage local production. In the video game chain, the promotion of small businesses is difficult and testing spaces are scarce. Libraries can offer an audience and equipment to promote their creation.
Libraries can enter the game distribution chain by showcasing local productions, thereby promoting diversity and cultural identity.
From collection to gamification
As I explained above, the process of integrating video games into a library is much more complex than just setting up collections. The goal, much broader, is to transpose this collection into a playful space in the library and to position itself as an actor in the video game chain.
” The specificities of libraries in video games: coaching and gamification ”
Like the book that is the support to get in touch with literature , the video game is used to discover gamification . This is the experience of pleasure that the library has been playing for years with its interventions on the “pleasure of reading” where we transform the activity of reading in play. Gamification processes that we already use in our clubs reading and in many of our animations.
This is a historical reality: libraries have always had an educational / fun relationship halfway between continuing education and leisure time.
In other words, my design of the library resides around a public space of serious games . A space of leisure where everything is implemented to supervise the formation, the knowledge and the information. It is this treatment that will make the specificity of the library in its treatment of video games: coaching.
Framed play, in a broad sense, is an offer embodying multisupport, recommendation, mediation and learning activities. Accessible to all but providing guidance so that each player stands out with the full potential of video games.
The New York Public Library understood this earlier this year, when she organized a huge game in her library and turned her space into a gigantic serious game.