Gaming in Libraries 2005 – Keynote – Les Gasser
“New Landscapes for Libraries”
Interesting point: Games are a form of Children’s Literature.
What’s a Library?
-Model 1: Information Repository (A Box of Books)
This model is financed by spreading the cost out over a very large base. It promotes knowledge in society. The critical question is: how do we keep libraries going?
Digital transformations are affecting this question – ebooks for example. These have some capabilites of traditional books, but miss a certain something. Real paper trumps in areas like flipping through pages. But, it’s a start. Despite the weaknesses, ebooks have been repurposed for games – displaying a chess board! Perhaps the next step towards real-life integration is flexible digital paper. It may fill niche applications first, areas more suited to a single page – signage or restaurant menus.
Information transaction costs – copy, transport, translate, collocate, index, arrange, transcode, search/find, etc. As a general trend, these are decreasing. Now you make money through these processes. As a result, you get things like Napster, other P2P, Flickr, Blogs, Open Source, etc.
These near-zero transaction costs drive consumers away from libraries. Gasser points out that he himself never goes to the stacks as an academic. He uses ILL to deliver books to his mailbox, and gets journal articles online.
Near-zero transaction costs also means that organizations want to use them to profit from every customer touch.
Video clips of a venus fly trap flash up on the screen. “We put game candy in the trap, and when the patron walks in we close the book around them.” This maintains the symbolic status quo of the Box of Books model, but does not advance at all.
Historically, libraries have dealt with high/low culture conflicts. Fiction vs Non Fiction, paperbacks vs. hardbacks in preservation, picturebooks for kids, AV/media, Toys, Internet access, Console Games? Online Games? There’s tremendous uncertainty in each of these new developments. That’s why we need conferences like this one to make sense of the new.
Model 2: Knowledge Model – Critical role of innovation for society.
Migrate new knowledge and experience into practice. How is society going to get to the new? Libraries are venues of community and cultural innovation. We’re in a shift from a consumption orientation to a production orientation, but a very small percent of the population are going to jump into this shift. Shouldn’t the library help filter the bleeding edge for the general population? View games as a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon. It is a reflection of an emerging culture, and a foundation of cultural mythology and transmission. “It’s a mix of culture. It’s not just the games themselves.”
Learning is viewed as gaining membership in a community. Moving from an outsider’s perspective to an active participant. Libraries should become a member of the community of gamers.
Issues with the Knowledge Model for libraries:
Games are an open system, and constantly evolving.
Interactions are unplanned and can be shocking/surprising.
Cultural Conflict – Grand Theft Auto, anybody?
Involving outside worlds – being mobile, outside and playing games in the world.
This flexibility fundamentally clashes with a library’s desire for stability and assured quality.
Model 3: I Model. What could a library be?
Library as ‘extended placeness’ (virtual spaces)
(“Web 2.0” was mentioned and I could hear sighs of approval from behind me)
Screenshot of Guild Wars Information Environment – first reaction: “It’s too much!” On a deeper look, it organizes and clarifies many different classes of information necessary to play the game.
Some faculty at the University of Illinois are holding meetings in-game of Second Life! They bought an island and are working on transforming it into their own information repository.
A video clip is being shown of an environment called “Cave”, where the user uses a joystick to literally walk through a book! I wish I could convey in words how cool this is – it really has to be seen, I’ll try to find the clip online. A virtual avatar is leading the user around a virtual city, teaching him how to information-seek. It is all very abstract, but I can see some potential for a refined version of this. Such a simulation can so complex that a structured guidance is necessary to make any sense of it.
Fundamental to the I Model is hooking libraries into “worlds of immersion, global interactive environments, to exploit the changes in transaction costs”. The Civilization series even has its own library in the in-game society. In this case it teaches players how to better play the game. Provide service in venues where we don’t usually go.
One of the questions from an attendee brought up an interesting comparison: Services like gametap, bringing out the ‘out of circulation’ older games, are like the classic movie stations on TV.
Another question resulted in a discussion of libraries as a center for cultural assimilation and bringing in those who are not early adopters, from all walks of life, together in a conversation. Gaming programs can facilitate this.
Yet another question resulted in a discussion of new resources in library collections. Why can’t a library give an opportunity to try new software before buying it?