Gaming in Libraries 2005 – The Gaming Generation & Libraries: Intersections – Constance A. Steinkuehler

When: Monday, December 05 2005 01:00 PM
Where: American Dental Association, Chicago
More Information:
My Role: Attendee
‘games’ tends to conjure up pac-man or first person shooters. She’s going to talk about another genre which is getting more and more popular press: Massisvely Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs).

What are they?
-Highly graphical 2 or 3-D games
-Online social interaction
-Persistent virtual worlds
-Real-time, perpetually accessible
-Loosely structured by open-ended (fantasy) narratives, but…
-Players free to do as they please
-“Escapist fantasy” yet emergent “social realism” (Kolbert, 2001)

Lineage II is set in a medieval time period. “In three years of playing this game I have learned more about military strategy than I have ever wanted to” and “you wouldn’t beleive how much time you spend in meetings online”.

Why bother with these?
Socially Significant – Literally many millions of players are taking part. One year ago there were six million (the size of Chicago and LA combined), and that number has risen astronomically since.
Economically Significant – Full in-game economies have developed, complete with things like inflation. Players often sell in-game items on Ebay for real money. As a result, exchange rates can be developed. The world of the game Everquest II is actually the 77th largest national economy in the world. When this data was gathered a year ago, Its currency was trading higher than the Yen and Lira.
Intellectually significant – Collaborative problem solving, social networks, etc. Like in real life, cross-functional teams develop. The fantasy space looks more and more like ‘Fast Capitalism’.

The literacy scare – “The collapse of literacy and the rise of violence in the electronic age”
The media loves to write scare headlines like this. In fact, these games are literacy-intensive.
-In-game talk: The abbreviations of netspeak are frightening at first. In these games it is a functional requirement of needing to communicate as much information as possible in a few key presses.
-‘Orally’ delivered narratives of in-game events are told between players
-In-game letters are sent between characters
-Success in the game requires use of outside technologies (web browser, research, voice communication, etc.)
-If you ask players in the game about their info-seeking behaviors, they point out that the fan-generated resources and compendiums online are the most useful.
-Fan-run wikis, discussion boards, personal game blogs, and massive clan sites emerge
-Fan fiction: Players write (often at very high levels) stories taking place in the game world. The best develop followings.
-High school players say they like to create multi-month writing projects(!)
-“Whatever you want to call it – just keep doing it!”

Games are not replacing literacy activities. They are literacy activities.

What about quality?
Some (admittedly not all) literacy practices meet and exceed national standards.

Society has both a fear of new technology and a fear of youth culture. It is a fear of what kids are doing, not whether or how well they’re doing it.

How do players gain the skills to run high-level game activities?
Apprenticeship and learning from more experienced players. Many classic educational theories are reflected in these interactions, even when the ‘teachers’ have no formal training. Not just skills, but values are passed on.

A true meritocracy – Most of the time, personal appearance in real life plays no role whatsoever. One powerful leader in Lineage II was in real life an illegal immigrant who was waiting to apply for American citizenship. Imagine the power of letting kids play out what they can’t be in real life.

Awareness of different ‘games’
-Multitasking across multiple ‘attentional spaces’ (school, work, online, etc)

Primacy of the subjective
-McLuhan: “searching not for goals but for roles, a striving for an identity that eludes.”
-As employees, give gamers a role they can powerfully inhabit.

Why should libraries care about videogames? (I missed some of these, she went fast)
-Intellectually rich environments
-Collaborative problem solving
-Literacy practices (compare to libraries)
-Enculturation into practices & perspectives

Science & Art
-Some players spend all their time coding modifications to game code, for free, that thousands use.
-Others spend hours creating movies using the in-game visuals. Some are viewed by hundreds of thousands of players.

These games are developing into the “third places” where social networks form. Libraries also fill this role.

She had to skip over a lot of slides at the end due to lack of time. I can tell Constance is really into this topic area and knows her stuff.

Games, Learning & Society Conference – June 15-16 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Gaming in Libraries 2005 -The Gaming Landscape – Steve Jones

When: Monday, December 05 2005 10:00 AM
Where: American Dental Association, Chicago
More Information:
My Role: Attendee
Steve Jones works for the University of Illinois and the Pew Internet & American Life Project

Games were big as far back as his experience with Plato IV. Space War, Empire, Airfight, Freecell.

Preliminary online survey results from this year on The Gaming Landscape. The objective of this survey was to analyze the everyday use and integration of gaming into the public’s lives.

Three categories of games which are not mutually exclusive (admittedly crude, used in following statistics):
-Video games (require consoles and TV sets)
-Computer games (require a PC only)
-Online games (require an internet connection)

What we know-
70% of students surveyed play any category “at least once in a while”
65% reported being “regular” or “occasional” game players
All respondants reported to have played a video, computer or online game at one time or another. “This virtually never happens” in other Pew surveys.
27% of college students do not occasionally or regularly play.
-20% cited “lack of interest”
-13% cited “waste of time”
.5% cited unfamiliarity with games (margin of error is +-3%)

More research is needed on how gamers are self-defining their activities.

More women than men reported playing computer and online games (60/40).
The women/men split was just about equal in video games.

Gaming is uniform across racial groups – no one more plays significantly more or less than others.

Computer games hold a slight edge in popularity (71% play). 59% play video games, 56% play online games. Computer games also have an edge over video games and online games in time used.

Daily twice as many college students play an online or computer game as play a video game. Nearly half reported going online on at least one occasion just to play or download games.

No correlation was found between gaming and addictive behavior such as gambling online.

69% started playing video games in elementary school. Computer games were widely picked up in junior high/high school, and online games in college.

How do gamers decide what type of game they are going to play? This positioning of different games for different occasions is going to be relevant to libraries.

41% of college student gamers play mainly after 9 p.m. 31% play games the most at their parent’s home. This was the largest category compared to friend’s home (27%), dorm room (23%), and library (2%). (theory: parents don’t want to let go of the Xbox?)

66% said gaming had no influence on their academic performance. However, 48% agreed that gaming keeps them from studying “some” or “a lot”. “Maybe gamers are smarter? I don’t know.” Hours per week spent studying are about equivalent from gamers to non gamers.

69% have never used video, computer or internet gaming in the classroom for educational purposes. 32% have played games that were not part of the instructional activities during classes.

Graphics are the biggest thing wanted in a game. Racing, RPG, arcade games are the top 3 categories for video gamers.


Most important trend spotted: integration of gaming into other activities.
-While visiting with friends
-Brief distraction/break from work
-Almost everyone plays games “when bored” regardless of setting
-Even when gaming is the focus of a gathering, other things are still going on in the background

-Younger = more likely to play
-The same trend applied to faculty and teachers
-Are we at a ‘verge’? As faculty becomes more familiar, there will be more opportunities for gaming in the classroom. But, students will have more experience with more up to the minute games. Emulation and the open source community ensures that older games will not die.

Is there a ‘gaming divide’?
-Higher family incomes correlate to a higher likelihood of regular gaming
-Again, race is not a factor, nor is gender

The cost of fancy immersive environments like The Cave is coming down, but applications for them are still sort of nebulous.
Future issues to play a role in the gaming landscape:
-Global high-speed networks (I think he means social networks)
-Culture and language – potential for cross-cultural game trainers?
-Public support of moving into this space

Older gamers drive the collaborative aspects more than younger.

Gaming in Libraries 2005 – Keynote – Les Gasser

When: Monday, December 05 2005 09:00 AM
Where: American Dental Association, Chicago
More Information:
My Role: Attendee
Key Word: Immersion

“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?

Gaming in Libraries 2005 – Opening

When: Monday, December 05 2005 09:00 AM
Where: American Dental Association, Chicago
My Role: Attendee
I’m sitting near the back, surrounded by other bloggers. We’re huddled around 1 power strip. Kathryn Deiss is opening the symposium, calling it “ahead of the wave”. The back of the room is lined with video game systems, and just about every seat is full! Poster sessions on topics like video game piracy line the entrance hallway.

This is my first experiment with live blogging. Here we go!

AIM Tip of the Day

I learned today that AOL Instant Messenger can send text messages to US phones.

Just send an IM to the phone number, including area code, with a +1 in front of it. So for example: +1(123)456-7890.

When the recipient replies, that shows up right in the IM window.

Neat! Might save me a bit of money, given that Verizon charges 10 cents per message sent or received.

Coming Attractions

This is turning out to be a very busy time of year for me. Regular posting will resume sometime in the near future.

Sunday, I leave for Chicago and the Gaming in Libraries Symposium!

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be blogging the event in something approaching real time. Look for posts here on Monday and Tuesday night, if you’re interested.

Cory Doctorow – Eastern Standard Tribe

Product Image: Eastern Standard Tribe
My rating: 4 out of 5

I recently finished reading Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe (available for free at that link). As a main element of his near-future world, Doctorow postulates that as online connectivity increases, users will form friendships and relationships that are more based on the time zone of participants than anything else. Some even go so far as to live their life on another time zone’s schedule, or move to another time zone and get jobs deliberately holding back progress of that competing zone. The protagonist finds himself caught up in this inter-zonal intrigue and social-technology madness.

As always, Doctorow excels at writing a near-future that makes you go “hmm”. Everything seems quite plausible, but puts pieces together in ways I never would have. For example, cars broadcast music to each other in a Peer to Peer network on highways.

That said, I do think Doctorow unfortunately took the core premise a bit far. Thanks to the online world I have friends and colleagues across a number of different time zones. I connect with them on a number of hobbies and interests. But I’ve never felt the need to live my life on Pacific or British time. I’ve done calculations to figure out when PST events happen for me, but never gotten up early or gone to bed late for them. Still, an interesting concept. And maybe it is or will be true for others.

Eastern Standard Tribe is a pretty quick, light read. But the price is right, so give it a whirl.