During the press conference held today at the Saint-Michel Library, we learned that 27 libraries in the City of Montreal will now offer more than 5000 video games to their users . The massive investment in this new type of document is not opportunistic, it is a thoughtful decision to better respond to the mission of public libraries. By cons, as the arrival of all new media, several questions are asked.
Developing an argument for understanding the mission of video games in the library can be important when it comes to discussing with members of the team, with users or with elected officials. This series of arguments is based in part on the book ” Everyone Plays at the Library” written by University Librarian and Professor Scott Nicholson and can help combat some of the prejudices and clarify the link between libraries and video games.
1. What is the link between video games and the library, a place for books?
From now on, libraries are more than just a book store! They already offer many other forms of cultural products such as music and movies. To ask this question is not to understand the holistic nature of modern libraries and not to understand the value of video games as cultural products.
Historically, libraries have had games for decades either in the form of board games or game books. By 1850 American libraries had chess clubs and bridge clubs. Over the years, they have integrated Scrabble parties, games in summer clubs, fun activities and, more recently, games on public computers.
2. Why fund video games, products that are not useful to society and that are not art, to the detriment of reading?
The debate over whether video games are art is complex and requires an interesting analysis of the definition of Art. Here are four cases that could change the minds of some detractors.
The video games have been integrated in several museums and international exhibitions: the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington devotes the exhibition ” The Art of Video Games ” as the Grand Palais of Paris for ” Game Story: A story of the game video “and the Computerspiele Museum in Berlin.
In June 2011, the United States Supreme Court recognized video games as an art form . A California clause to ban the sale of violent video games in the United States was invalidated because video games deserve to be covered by the 1 st amendment and thus join the book, music, movies, etc. In the judgment, the judges mentioned that violence in art was nothing new if one relied on Grimms Brothers’ children’s stories.
In May 2011, The National Endowment for the Arts Institute added video games as a product that can apply for funding . This US cultural agency (the Canadian equivalent of the Canada Council for the Arts) helps artists and cultural institutions across the country.
When announcing the partnership between Warner Bros. Games and Libraries and National Archives of Quebec, President and CEO Guy Berthiaume called the video game “10th art” .
3. Why should the Montreal community invest in video games?
In addition to being an artistic product, three other reasons explain the reasoning behind such funding: its popularity, local creativity and the backwardness of the Bibliothèques de Montréal.
Indeed, each copy of video games is borrowed on average more than twice a month which makes them more popular than lesbian sellers. And all of the library’s collections are revitalized by video games: an American Library Association (ALA) survey showed that more than 75% of those who took advantage of video games used other services or other collections of the library.
The Libraries of Montreal’s interest also underscores the City’s dynamism for the video game industry. Host of the largest international video game studio in the West and recognized as a hub worldwide, the industry creates 7,000 direct jobs in Montreal only.
Nevertheless, the 43 Libraries of Montreal lag behind other major Canadian cities including Quebec (2500 games in 25 libraries) and Ottawa (4000 games in 34 libraries). In Canada, seven of the ten largest cities have video game collections throughout their territory.
4. What can the game bring to the needs of literacy, education and learning to read?
Many games require a significant amount of reading, which ties in with the initial conception of literacy (ie, reading and writing). In addition to the player’s manuals, a majority of games use text to convey information to players (history, menu, rules, etc.).
In addition, the game also helps with more complex learning developments. In his book ” What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy ,” James Paul Gee presents 36 principles that are taught to players. These include risk taking, problem solving and development through practice. According to the author, those who play a wide variety of games are more resilient to changes in life because of their greater ability to adapt.
Because of their complexity, many games also require a search for diligent information to find solutions to their problems. Players create gigantic databases, guides and communities to document the different aspects of the game. It’s not for nothing that at times, the second Wiki (after Wikipédia ) the most massive WikiWoW , which deals of the online game World of Warcraft.
There are more and more connections between players and readers. Many games have important historical or cultural contexts. If this context interests the players, they can learn more about them by reading. A game about music can inspire the player to consult a book on music as a historical game may interest the player in documentaries about the story. Libraries have a role to play in satisfying the interests of players with traditional services.
5. What about violence in video games?
Because of the sometimes violent nature of video games, some people are worried that libraries will value them. Yet, in a US Supreme Court ruling, psychological arguments about the impact of violence on gamblers were considered inconclusive.
On the other hand, if libraries lend games, the same collection development policies should be used for movies and violent books. If the game is played within the walls of the library, make sure that the selection meets a particular need. If there is a specific goal for the animation that requires a violent video game, then you have the answer to your question. Since libraries do not have to buy all the books produced, they do not have to buy all the video games produced.
In addition, the Libraries of Montreal comply with the Entertainment Entertainment Rating Board ( ESRB ) rating to ensure that users have access only to documents intended for their age group. For example, a young person 16 years old and under will not be able to borrow documents classified as M (Mature in English or Young Adult). In addition to complying with the classification, librarians make it a point to inform users of this system, which is still very little known to the general public.
6. What to do with video game addiction?
The concept of dependence is not just applicable to games – other forms of media such as books, music and movies can also be addictive. In fact, libraries try to “make addicted” their reading users for decades. All recreational activities can be addictive: ask someone who has been awake to finish a novel he or she liked or to watch the latest shows on a TV show. The game is no different from other forms of recreational activities.
7. So, what is the link between video games and the mission of libraries?
It is especially important that video games support the mission of the library. As video games take resources from other library activities, these gaming services must be developed in connection with these other services. Even if the games are fun, it is not sufficient justification for elected officials and some users irritated by the presence and noise of video games.
According to an ALA survey, the three main roles of video games in the library are: to attract a new library clientele, to offer a new service for users and to help library users interact with each other. Video games can help turn the library into a center of community life for all. For many users, chat and interact around video games to replace what was once created by books, music, or movies. This is just a new type of document that responds to a real need of the customer.
In short, video games are nothing less than a new type of document that will meet the needs of a new clientele.
For librarians, this is an excellent opportunity to join the video game channel by informing the public about video games: ESRB classification, violence, addiction, etc.