Friday, September 14, 2012

Transformers, Wizards, and Literacy - Oh My!

My brother and I were recently chatting about public libraries offering video games. My dear sibling, who works in the business of selling video games, is not too happy.  He promptly informed me that the Transformers: Fall of Cybertron game ranks in at a whopping $59.99 (buy new). Yikes.  With a public library possibly offering this game as a checkout where will his business go?  Well, that’s another can of worms for another day. What I do find cool is the idea of a patron walking into the library for a game that will challenge their reading AND problem solving skills.

Video games have an interesting reputation.  On the one hand, they can have an addictive quality and can be distracting for users. On the other hand, they can be powerful and underestimated tools for boosting various capacities of literacy.  This could include text, visual, digital, and information literacy.

The amount of text in video games can be substantial and often pieces of information and knowledge are rewards for completing certain tasks (what happened to the days of receiving a gracious “Thank You” from Princess Peach?).  Moreover, the information provided in the game, whether small amounts of text or glimpses inside a game encyclopedia, often must be used in strategy.  This is an interesting consideration.  Video games can provide ample reading opportunities – just maybe not the leisurely kind.  The information being provided must be read, digested, and then used for decisions in a real-time environment of changing circumstances (see this 3 part article). 

Here at Chinook Arch, we've recently started signing out Gaming Kits to our libraries.  This will help facilitate programming that involves video games.  So far, they've been quite popular.

An article from Online Education Database brings you 100 tips and resources for incorporating video games at the library.  Here are a few tips that I like:

1. Recruiting volunteers: Some community members might be well versed in video games and can possibly help gaming newcomers navigate the rules and hardware. They might also be willing to lend games and promote the program outside of the library.

2. Promote other library events:  While you have some keen patrons in your space, use a gaming program as an excellent opportunity to promote other library events and information.

3. Be visible: If gamers recognize your friendly face from previous events they may be more inclined to ask you and your staff for assistance in the library.

4.  Ask for input:  When trying to build a video game collection or create more video game programs ask this specific group of users for suggestions and ideas.

5. Creating a great gaming environment: You can (oh so smartly) place popular titles of books, movies, and magazines in the surrounding area.  On a quick break, players might browse the materials nearest to them and find something they like but would not have necessarily searched for (kind of like hiding vegetables in a casserole, no?).

In any case, a library checkout or not, the learning value of video games has won over many a librarian’s heart.  

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