8BitLibrarian Justin Hoenke


REVIEW: Picross 3D


WHAT?  Picross 3D is a sort of sequel to other handheld Nintendo Picross games (see here and here) which finds the user chipping away at numbered blocks in a puzzle like manner in order to reveal a picture.  It’s sort of part puzzle, part sudoku, part trinket collecting, and more.  And it’s really addictive

WHY? I gave this game a shot a few months ago and since then I’ve been thinking about it nonstop.  The simple puzzle mechanics of the game combined with the ability to work towards an end where you get something (hey, everyone loves a blocky dolphin) has got me hooked.  It takes just enough brainpower to keep the player learning and working towards a goal and at the same time saves just enough energy for fun.

WHO? I really think Picross 3D could be a gateway drug into video gaming for many non gamers.  When I play the game, I imagine it having the potential on a non gamer as say, something like Angry Birds has had on the world…something that sucks up time, is enjoyable, and requires some planning to play.  The game will require a tough sell though…”hey, you figure out puzzles by decoding numbered blocks and the prize you get is a blocky dolphin/dog/Nintendo character”.  I recommend talking up the game as an investment.  It is something that may seem clunky at first, but the potential for a rewarding experience are there.


What it’s all about


I know I’m preaching to the choir with this one, but it made my day so I thought I’d share.

As we’ve said before, games can bring people together.  This is beautiful.


Emerging Leaders present best practices for video game collection development


Emerging Leaders present best practices for video game collection development

Are you thinking about starting a video game collection for your library? Are you wondering how to take your video game collection to the next level? Join the 2011 ALA Emerging Leaders Team G for a poster presentation on video game collection development at the ALA Annual Conference on Friday, June 24, 2011 from 3:00pm – 4:00pm in Conference Center Room 271-273.

Team G, comprised of Erik Bobilin, Abby Johnson, Kate Kosturski, Jonathan Lu, and Nicole Pagowsky, will present information on issues and best practices when developing a video game collection, including Circulation & Access, Selection & Purchasing, Weeding, and an ideal MARC record. The team surveyed public, academic, and school libraries across the United States and Canada and spoke with experts in the field to find out what innovative ideas might change what we know about video game collections in libraries.

ALA’s Emerging Leaders program allows new professionals to gain experience and create personal networks within the American Library Association by working with a group on an assigned project.

For more information, check out the team’s website: http://bit.ly/libvideogames


JP and I had the opportunity to work with the awesome Team G over the past six months on this program.  They’ve done some amazing work with this project that I hope you all will check out if you’re going to be at ALA 2011.

The Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow comes to the District Central Library Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow: Berlin, Germany (May 20-21)


The Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow comes to the District Central Library Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

Another installment of the Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow (which I posted about in the past here) happened over the last two days in Berlin, Germany.  I had the opportunity to once again talk via Skype with Christoph Deeg and the wonderful librarians who attended the program on Saturday morning.  I’ll turn the mic over to Christoph:

The gaming Roadshow is a great success! We had many participants. In addition to children and adolescents, and adults were also interested librarians from Berlin and Potsdam and the surrounding area as Fürstenwalde with it.

In the afternoon at 16:30 we had a special guest at the road show, we were visited by the Ambassador of the United States, Philip D. Murphy and his wife and a son. The ambassador did not want to just talk and see what we do so but he wanted to play above all. And thus he was or his family for a half hour of the Road Show.

US Ambassador Philip D. Murphy and Councilman Dr. Jan give Kinect a shot

Many thanks to Christoph and everyone else involved with Gaming Roadshow.  It’s always an amazing experience for me to talk to others about gaming.  I learn so much from you and I take that and do my best to translate what I’ve learned for my patrons here in Portland, ME.  If you haven’t checked out what Christoph and the Gaming Roadshow are doing, click on the link above (use Google Chrome and Google Translate for wonderful results!) and enjoy.

And to end, I can’t think of anything else more fitting:

Gaming! Love!

Are we looking at the past?

Wii 2 on the way? Don’t worry.


Rumor has it that the Wii 2 is on its way.  With reports of Wii system prices dropping to $169.99 at select retailers as well as other bundles of information flying off of the blogs of video game websites (“it’ll be fast!  it’ll have pretty graphics!  it is coming in June!) it’s easy to get caught up in the fever and think that this is the end of the Wii for you library collection and/or programming.

Are we looking at the past?

Well, don’t worry.

The Wii has a strong library of 968 games (as of December 2010) with more to be released in the near future.  The total number of systems that have been shipped is 84 million, making it Nintendo’s biggest home video game system to date.  Chances are that the people using your library will continue to use their Wii systems for their gaming entertainment for years to come, so providing them with games to enjoy is still a solid strategy for library video game collections.


When it comes to video game programming, I myself believe that you can’t go wrong with a Wii system and a library full of patrons.  Most, if not all, of the 4 player games for the system have an insanely high replay value which will keep players having fun.  The biggest complaint that will most likely come when the next generation Nintendo system is released is that the Wii is “old and that we want to play something new”.  What do I say to that?  I say give them options.  When the next generation of video games come around, libraries will have to invest the time and money into obtaining these systems and learning about them and what they offer our patrons.  But that doesn’t mean that we should just give up on the Wii.  Use it as you have always been using it for programs.  The games speak for themselves…they are enjoyable and full of entertainment, so let them do the talking.

Video Game Collection Development (UPDATE!)


Video Game Collection Development 101

Much thanks to Alex Lent for giving us the nudge to update this post!

1. Start small

I still stand by this idea 100%.  You don’t have to go for broke with your new collection.  I recently had a great conversation with Devin Burritt of the Jackson Memorial Library about starting up a video game collection.  He made it happen at his library recently and started off with a small collection of Wii titles aimed at all ages.  By keeping things small at the start, you will understand how your collection is being used by your patrons.  With this information, you can continue to build your collection and have it guided by patron input.  Which brings me to my second point…

2. Know your audience

Who will be playing these games?  Your patrons.  As fun as it is to buy video games, you have to put aside your personal preferences.  Sure, I really dug Elite Beat Agents but you know what?  My patrons didn’t.  It’s one of the few games that constantly stays on the shelves here at my library.  What did I learn from this?  Don’t trust my gut reaction when purchasing games.  Instead, TALK to your patrons when they’re browsing your game collection.  Notice what they’re checking out.  Heck, just simply ASK them what they want!

3. Plan ahead

You have to have a plan for your collection.  Are you going to collect games for systems that are no longer supported by companies?  Are you going to invest in the newest video game systems even though there is a chance they may not take off?  Once again, gauging your patrons interests is key to planning ahead.  At my library, we recently received a donation of Nintendo Gamecube and Playstation 1 and 2 games.  I decided to add them into the collection just to see what people would think.  It turns out that they circulate like mad and now I have people asking me to get a bigger selection of older titles.  I’ve even had to submit an interlibrary loan request for a title I couldn’t find in print anywhere.

4. Gamer’s Advisory

Over the past year, I’ve found the topic of what I’m calling Gamer’s Advisory key to making a video game collection work in your library.  Sure, you will most likely have a rabid set of patrons that will check out your games, but the collection only really starts to show its true worth when you can add recommendations (not just for other games, but for other materials and experiences the library can offer).  Keep the patrons coming back for more at the library.  Turn the avid gamers onto something that else that they may not have tried in the past.

5. It’s not just about lending physical items out

I’m a big fan of this topic.  Libraries are struggling to grasp how to circulate electronic materials in the library.  This is cause for some concern, but at the same time it opens up a new door for us.  Instead of lending out items, create experiences.  Give the patrons something they cannot get elsewhere.  I bring up the example of the local Portland, ME store The Fun Box Monster Emporium.  They’ve got a row of awesome pinball machines in their store that their customers can play.  Why can’t libraries do something like this?  Invest in some gaming tools that will give patrons gaming experiences that they can’t get everyday at the local video game store.  Personally, I want to buy a Pac Man arcade machine for my teen lounge.





Gamer’s Advisory: Minecraft and other “do what you want” video games


I have to admit that I haven’t actually played a minute of Minecraft yet.  However, that’s not to say that I haven’t been pretty interested in the game.  I watch a lot of Minecraft YouTube videos in my spare time and I’m amazed by the stuff that people are creating in this game.

Games where you start out with nothing and you build something have always interested me.  I’ve reviewed one of my favorite “do what you want” games here on 8BitLibrary and I continue to play these types of games at home.  One of my recent rediscoveries was the game Wrecking Crew.  Wrecking Crew was part of the small Nintendo Programmable Series.  Chances are that you’ve played one of these three games.  With Wrecking Crew, you are Mario and your job is to break things.  You have a giant hammer that makes it so that you can’t jump.  On each of the 100 levels, you’re charged with finding an optimal order in which you will have to destroy the various elements of the board without making contact with one of the enemies.  That part of the game was good fun and all, but where I spent most of my time was in the level editor.

The level editor let you design up to four of your own Wrecking Crew levels.  This is where you could get creative and let your wildest Wrecking Crew dreams come to life.  Creating impossible and intricate puzzles was what I liked to do the most.  I’d make them into mind bending little adventures that you’d have to study before actually attempting the level.  This feature also got me rather interested in game development.  It gave me a chance to look into how games are constructed and why developers made the choices they did.  The biggest bummer was that the LOAD/SAVE feature that game claimed to have didn’t work (it only worked with the Japanese version of the game).  My mini Wrecking Crew masterpieces could only be enjoyed for as long as the NES stayed on.

It feels like Minecraft is inspiring a new generation of video gamers that love to build, explore, and understand video games.  With that in mind, here’s a quick list of five games that any Minecraft fan that you run into at the library may enjoy.

Justin’s TOP FIVE games for people that dig Minecraft:

  1. Wrecking Crew was released originally for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but you can get it on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo Wii (and you can save your levels now!)
  2. Excitebike was released originally for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but you can get it on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo Wii.  It has a really wonderful track editor feature.
  3. Tail of the Sun was originally released on the Playstation.  You can read my review of the game here.
  4. Endless Ocean and its sequel Endless Ocean: Blue World were released on the Nintendo Wii and you can still buy the games here.  In these titles, you do little more than explore a vast ocean full of life and other interesting locales.  Quite a unique adventure.
  5. SimCity and any of the countless sequels (my personal fave was Sim City 3000) are great examples of games where you have to manage resources and build your own city.  I started off with the Super Nintendo version of Sim City.

EDIT: Via Alex Hylton over at the Darien Library.  Watch the awesome programs they’re running at their library using Minecraft.

Minecraft from Darien Library on Vimeo.


Super Mario Brothers in the Classroom (Part 5 of 7)


This is long overdue, and I am sorry.

As the first title for the Nintendo 64 system, Super Mario 64 changed the way we look at games.  Up until this point, games had been mostly a two dimensional affair, with some lame attempts at immersing the player in a larger 3D having entered the video gaming fray.  It wasn’t until Super Mario 64 that we learned just how much fun it is to run around everywhere in a game instead of just usually going from left to right.

Play a game like Banjo Kazooie or the Jak & Daxter and then play Super Mario 64. Notice anything?  They all share similar game play.  Your view is from behind your main character and you’re in a 3D rendered world.  This “style” of game was created by Super Mario 64. The first time you fired up this game on your Nintendo 64 was the first time you ever played anything like this and let me tell you having experienced it first hand, it was a pretty amazing moment.

These days, these types of 3D platforming games are a dime a dozen.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.   There is an excellent selection of titles just like this out there that will provide hours of enjoyment.  Super Mario 64, being the first 3D platforming game, brings a unique scenario to the table.  Through this title, we can understand how the 3D platforming game has evolved over the years and see just how much influence this one particular title has had on the gaming industry.

These things about stood out to me as I recently replayed the Super Mario 64:

1. Originality

It may be a hard thing for younger students to grasp, but this game was one of a kind when it first came out.  Explain the history of the Mario series and how it evolved from 2D to 3D.  Emphasize just how much of a change it was going from Super Mario World to Super Mario 64. With those ideas established, then have your students look at other 3D platforming games (I recommend the Crash Bandicoot series, any 3D Sonic games (especially Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast), or the games I mentioned above.  What have those games borrowed from Super Mario 64? Where have they made improvements on the game play of Super Mario 64?

2. The World of Super Mario 64

While the world in which Super Mario 64 takes place may seem small to the worlds in which games take place these days (I’m thinking of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess), at the time of the release it felt like the world was never ending.  Each world had it’s own unique feel, enemies, music, and more.  What are the elements of each of these unique worlds and how do they work together to create a unique feel?  Can these worlds be mapped out visually?  How are they constructed?  Since the game is in a 3D setting, I would recommend using Google Sketch Up to have your students either recreate the Super Mario 64 worlds visually or to have them create their own worlds influenced by the game.


Retro Gaming


Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that I’m first and foremost a retro gamer.  When it comes to the latest and greatest games out there, I haven’t played about 99% of them.  I rely on video gaming blogs and magazines to keep me up to date when it comes to the present.  For most of the time, however, I live in the past.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I grew up with these games.  That’s the big reason why they are still a huge part of my life.  With my video gaming history firmly in place mixed with the librarian thinking part of my brain comes a barrage of ideas on how libraries can use retro gaming to attract and educate patrons.

It's odd to think that these kids were not born when the last NES game was released.

Retro gaming programming at your library is a great way to let the public know that video games have a HISTORY.  8BitLibrary and Piscataway Public Library teamed up and had a Retro Gaming Event in 2010 (Click here or here for pics).  These programs are designed to turn your library into a makeshift museum of video game history.  What does this history do?  Like classic books, it will show your community that gaming has a rich background.  Games like Minecraft which encourage players to build and create their own world have their roots in games like  Sim City.  Librarians can find and show these connections to their community.  These connections in video game history will create a rich tapestry of games which we can then use to educate our patrons about the rich possibilities gaming has to offer.

Personally, I really enjoyed the Virtual Boy.

Yesterday’s release of Nintendo’s new handheld 3D gaming system the Nintendo 3DS gives libraries who have the system a chance to offer up the device for testing within the library.  It’s a simple idea…set up some systems for your patrons to play and teach them about the technology.  So where does retro gaming come into the picture?  Nintendo’s tried 3D gaming before with the Virtual Boy.  It didn’t really work out that well and the Virtual Boy died off rather quickly less than 1 year after it was released.  Most people haven’t ever heard of the system and look at you in disbelief when you tell them about it (“why in the hell would they have released that?” is my favorite question I get when I tell them about the specifics of the Virtual Boy.) Giving patrons a chance to play the Virtual Boy at the library will create a unique experience which they’ll most likely not get anywhere else.  It will also open up a lot of discussion on 3D gaming and how this new technology will impact our culture.

Yes, I applied some photo filter to this pic to make it look older.

Which brings me to my final point…can anyone give me a good reason why we shouldn’t lend out retro games and systems to our patrons?  I’ve talked about this topic once before and the more and more I think about it this option seems like a no brainer.  As libraries are squished out from viable eBook lending options and all that other stuff, what does the mission of the library become?  I’m an advocate of giving our patrons experiences over just giving them stuff.  Lending out retro games and systems like the Sega Saturn above gives our community a chance to experience something that they may not have a chance to experience elsewhere.  My recent ongoing affair with X-Men: Children of the Atom for the Sega Saturn was only made possible by the fact that my mother and myself are pack rats who saved every single piece of video gaming history I collected.  While I do enjoy the time I spend playing this game at home by myself (my wife won’t play with me) it would be a lot cooler if I could share this experience with others.


Let the kids say “Wii!”


From over at Mental Floss:

Good news for all the parents out there who are worried about their kids not exercising enough. A new study by researchers at Brigham Young University and University of Massachusetts has shown that kids who play 10 minutes of active videogames, like Wii Boxing or Dance Dance Revolution, get exercise that’s just as stimulating as a three-mile walk on a treadmill. This is particularly good for kids who live in cities where playing outside is either dangerous or unpractical. Better still, the kids most at risk for obesity enjoy playing games even more than their lower-BMI counterparts.

Of course, the benefits only work if the child is playing an active title that uses the full range of motion from the Wii, Move or Kinnect systems. You can’t just sit around all day playing Angry Birds or Super Mario Galaxy and still expect to get any health benefits.


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