programming

Are we looking at the past?

Wii 2 on the way? Don’t worry.

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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.

Save the Date: National Library Unconference Day ’11

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What?

When?

  • Save the date: May 2nd, 2011, 1pm EST. More info to follow this month.

Where?

  • At your library for a staff development day. Or an unconference for a regional library cooperative. Maybe something hosted at a state library? Or hosted by your state or regional library association. A great place to hold an uncon for National Library Unconference Day ’11 is at an LIS school. It’s totally up to you!

Why?

Who?

We’ll be streaming a free keynote session to all participating librarians, libraries and library organizations. Our confirmed speakers so far include:

How?

  • Soon enough, we’ll have a link up for you to sign up your unconference to receive the FREE keynote lightning talks webinar. For now, mark your calendars, organize your group, and get ready to change the world. Once you sign up, we’re imaging you’d use a computer + a projector to screen the keynote to your local participants, then you’d get to your individual unconference. We’ll have a constant digital conversation on Twitter via hashtag #libuncon. And we’re hoping people share what they learned and accomplished via blog posts and youtube videos!

MARK THOSE CALENDARS NOW, and #makeithappen! signed, JP & the 8bitlibrary.com team.

What type of media belongs in a library? (or, Who Are We?)

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I’ve been getting alot of questions lately: “what IS 8bitlibrary“?

6 months ago i would have said “it’s the gaming-in-libraries blog”! And I’m not, 6 months later, saying that statement is wrong. But we’re about a bigger issue, and that is: “we’re the #makeithappen blog“.

In libraries, #makeithappen is a taking new exciting ideas and seeing them through to the end. It’s the blog about all the really cool new stuff people are actually doing in libraries.

I had the opportunity to watch the Joaquim Phoenix movie I’m Still Here thanks to the Netflix instant queue. It was a great documentary about Joachim trying to become a Hip-Hop star. I won’t give spoilers, but the end, to say the least, “leaves you wondering”.

Tonight, again because of the Netflix Instant Queue on Xbox, I got to see the 1998 documentary Wrestling with Shadows, which ultimately chronicles the end of Bret Hitman Hart’s WWF career, with the Montreal Screwjob being the crux of the story. Everyone KNOWS wrestling is scripted, and the movie takes you through the process of how wrestling IS scripted. However, the end of the movie is the story of a script gone wrong, where the person who was supposed to win was “screwed”. In the 90s wrestling era, this was a defining moment of “OMG, wrestling can be REAL sometimes!!!”.

When the movie started, I felt that the fact that a documentary was being recorded at the convenient moment when the ultimate wrestling “real” outcome (vs the usual fake wrestling) was proof that even at the time wrestling was “real”, it was also an elaborate hoax.

I suggested to my wife that this would be a great program for a library (like a book discussion, but with movies instead of books). Show both movies and have people discuss the fictional and the factual elements of both, and maybe try to decide which told a better fictional but factual story.

My wife said “this doesn’t belong in libraries“. There’s lots of dicks, boobs, balls, sex, and drug use in the Joachim movie after all, and the wrestling movie was full of violence: everything we love to censor.

I thought back to all the books I have read since becoming a librarian. Lots worse violence. Way more sex and drug use. Much more graphic violence. They are making a MOVIE out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, after all! As an aside, that book was set right in the same historical period as the Montreal Screwjob.

I said to myself: WHY is it ok to have certain forms of “inappropriate” expression in books but not movies? Why do we treat some forms of media as sacred, and other forms as dirty?

This, of course, is also what 8bitlibrary.com is about. We believe that storytelling media shouldn’t be judged just because it is presented in a certain media format and not another.

And so, I ask, how have libraries dealt with “controversial” content in one form of media that is less-controversial in other forms? We already know that some library board in the middle of nowhere decided to ban their library from showing the Michael Moore movie Sicko just because they didn’t agree with the argument the movie made. I’m sure they already own books that make similar arguments, and no one cares. Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong’s grandfather, would probably applaud their ban.

So, should libraries ban content in some formats and not others? And, do you feel like 8bitlibrary.com is just a “gaming blog”, or do you feel like we talk about gaming so much because we are touching on an issue that is really relevant to current libraries?

I wrote an article in January 2011′s School Library Journal along with 8bitlibrary.com contributor Beth Gallaway on the USA Supreme Court Case on First Amendment Rights and how they apply to video game content (vs, say, the same content in a Bugs Bunny cartoon). Same issue, different media format.

I would really love to get a convo going, either here, on twitter, or on facebook, about what you think!!!

Thanks for reading, true believers.

#makeithappen!

activelifeoutdoorchallenge

Gaming for Children with Special Needs: What to Play?

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Chances are, if you made it to 8bitlibrary.com, then you’re well aware of the benefits of gaming, including the development and reinforcement of various cognitive, literacy, and social skills. So the question is, what are you going to do in 2011 to enhance gaming services in your community? Our suggestion is  expanding these programs to a new audience, and there is none better than children with special needs.

For complete information on the how and why of gaming for children with special needs, see the article from the December 2010 issue of School Library Journal, “Rated E for Everyone”. Then come back and check out this list of game recommendations and get a program started for this frequently under-served audience!

Card & Board Games

  • ThinkFun Zingo is a fun, fast-moving matching game similar to Bingo in which players try to match up their picture card with tiles that are revealed by pulling on a Zinger. The first player to fill his or her picture card wins. This game is great because it accommodates 2 to 8 players, keeps kids engaged, teaches image and vocabulary recognition, reading, matching, memory, concentration, and encourages social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing.
  • I Spy Memory Game is a memory game, for 1-6 players, with riddles just like the I Spy book series, which can be played three different ways to accommodate younger and older players. This game helps young players to develop memory, reading, thinking and language skills, as well as important social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing. Kids that enjoy reading I Spy books and playing I Spy computer games will enjoy this board game, which has simple rules, is easy to set up, and can be completed fairly quickly.
  • Jenga is a stacking game consisting of wooden blocks that are big and easy to grab.  This interactive, engaging, and tactile game teaches kids the importance of strategy and concentration, while improving dexterity and coordination. Jenga is great because the rules are simple, a game can be set up and completed fairly quickly, and requires only 1 or more to play.
  • Pictionary Card Game is a fun, fast-moving card game that is played in teams as small as two, which combines the fun of Pictionary and Charades. Players race to act out the clues using only the simple images on the cards by combining them, building scenes with them or using them as props. This interactive game is great because no drawing is required, is easy to play, and improves concentration, while fostering imagination, creativity, thinking skills, teamwork and cooperation.
  • Sequence for Kids is a fun, fast-moving sequence game, similar to Bingo in some ways that preps kids for strategic thinking as they anticipate their opponents’ next move. This game is great because it only requires 2 to 4 players, fosters social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing, and builds matching, pattern recognition, counting, and literacy skills.

Video Games

  • Wii Active Life Outdoor Challenge is a fitness game that will get kids up and moving, similar to Nintendo’s Wii Fit, in which players are actively engaged in a variety of 16 fun, energetic, fast-paced mini-games such as river rafting, mine-cart adventure, log jumping, see-saw, jump rope, water trampoline, and many more.  Using a specially-designed eight pad Active Life mat, this game will help kids will improve their overall fitness level, sense of balance and coordination, eye-hand coordination, literacy skills (reading on-screen directions), as well as foster teamwork, cooperation, and social skills such as taking turns and sharing. (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Boom Blox Bash Party is the exciting sequel to Wii Boom Blox that challenges the players’ reflexes, dexterity, and problem-solving skills. Like the original Boom Blox, players use the Wii Remote to direct objects and forces toward structures made of blocks in order to knock them over. The Jenga-like gameplay requires players to pull out blocks, with the goal of toppling over as many blocks as possible, without bringing down the entire structure, and like Jenga, kids will learn strategy skills, improve dexterity, and observe physics in action.  Wii Boom Blox Bash Party is great for all ages, is easy to play, and features quick games that foster teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Just Dance 2 is the energizing sequel to Just Dance, featuring 45 songs that can be used in four different dance modes to help kids improve their overall coordination and physical fitness levels, build teamwork and social skills such as sharing and taking turns, and work on memory, pattern recognition and following instructions.  Basically, players hold a Wiimote in their right hand, and copy dance moves presented by an animated dancer presented on the screen. Just Dance 2 is suitable for tweens and teens, but if you have a younger audience, you may also want the very recently released Just Dance Kids (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone), which will contain more age-appropriate songs and lyrics targeted toward a younger age group, which also helps kids work on similar skills as noted for Just Dance 2. (ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+)
  • Wii Party is an interactive and engaging kid-friendly party game featuring 13 different party game modes and 70+ mini-games, which provide kids with lots of variety that includes cooperative and competitive gameplay that turns over quickly to keep the game moving. This game helps kids improve their eye-hand coordination, builds literacy skills (like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, players can read on-screen instructions for help), and social skills (taking turns and sharing with other players).  (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party is the third Wii game in UBI Soft’s popular Rayman Raving Rabbids series, and features 60+ fun, quick minigames. The “rabbids” are bunny-like creatures who communicate by screaming and occasionally hitting each other with any object that comes into their hands. The rabbids have taken over the TV stations, broadcasting a series of nonsense shows in an effort to drive Rayman crazy. Players will discover new and innovative ways to play with eight types of gameplay, which will help them improve their sense of precision, dexterity, balance, and coordination, and reading written instructions to complete the mini-games will help kids improve their literacy skills. This game also fosters teamwork, cooperation, and social skills as kids practice taking turns and sharing.  (ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+)
    Game reviews by Peggy Wong, Children’s Services Librarian, Piscataway Public Library
    pwong AT lmxac DOT org

Who owns your digital downloads? (Hint: it’s not you)

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Who owns your digital downloads? (Hint: it’s not you)

Click the link, read it, and explain to me how libraries (or, more importantly, WHY) libraries plan on overcoming this obstacle. Why not just drop the whole “libraries are places to loan out popular commercial materials” and focus on what’s really important: connecting people.

Retro Game Night at Bridgewater Library

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On Monday, December 20, the Bridgewater Library, in association with 8bitlibrary.com, will be hosting a Retro Game Night from 5-8:30 PM. Be there or be anti-aliased!
Bring your retro systems and/or your gaming thumbs.

Here’s the PDF with the details.

ngd play with

Play Along

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I was inspired to write this article after a discussion in the LibGaming Google group, of which I’m part.  It was a lively discussion about what librarians should know about gaming, and there were lots of participantsI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, for what was said in that discussion certainly informed this article greatly.

If you’re a librarian, you do readers’ advisory.  It may be a small part of your job, if you do cataloging or ordering or hold an administrative position.  In fact, you may never do it while on work time, but if you work in a library, people (especially friends and family) are going to ask you if there are any good books out there.  Conducting readers’ advisory at the family dinner table is no different than conducting readers’ advisory at the reference desk, and is part of the overall public service you perform as an information and media professional.  Given this, you have to read.  You have to sample from all genres and formats.  You may not finish every book you start, but you need real experience with as much literature as you can get your hands on.  Read-alikes, reviews, and guided tools found online can only go so far; effective readers’ advisory begins with reading.

Following this line of logic, effective gaming programs and advocacy begins with game play.  If you’re planning on integrating games into your library’s offerings, you need to be at least an entry-level gamer.

You don’t have to be an expert on tactics and techniques for first-person shooters.  You don’t have to have an encyclopediac knowledge of the classics and up-to-the minute know-how on new games.  It’s not about being the best.  It’s not about having a backlist of D&D characters at varying levels for use with multiple editions of the game.  It’s about having an appreciation for the medium as an art form and a way to connect with others–and there’s no better way to do that than to actually experience the medium itself.   Also, be an active gamer will give you more credibility when you advocate for gaming at your library; you’ll be able to bring your own experiences to the table along with the excellent research and professional writing done supporting games and gaming.  What’s more, if you’re familiar with games and gaming, you’ll be able to actually play with your patrons during your game programs, just like I do.

Even if you don’t get into the action yourself, it doesn’t hurt having some know-how on basic mechanics shared by many of the most popular games, so that you can better assist your patrons on getting started with their game play.

You don’t even have to spend money on games to get into the hobby.  Kotaku recently did a run down of the best free PC games.  Maybe you can give some of these games a spin.  If you have a friend that owns a gaming console, chances are they’ll have you over for a game night, or even let you borrow their equipment.  Check around your community for gaming groups that get together for Dungeons and Dragons or other tabletop games.  Gamers of any type are, for the most part, an enthusiastic lot who love to share their passion and welcome new members to fold.  If you do end up having to take a financial plunge, don’t be afraid of buying used equipment and games from GameStop, eBay, or Amazon.

What games should you play?  Well, as many of them as you can!  Just like every book has its reader and every reader their book, there’s a game out there for everyone.  If you’re a really competitive person, you may like Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach for their online multiplayer modes.  If big guns and tactical positioning isn’t your thing, and you prefer something a bit more fast-paced, then Super Street Fighter IV might be a good choice.  Not up for that level of competition?  Team Fortress 2 is one my favorites, because it’s just plain fun, even when you’re losing.  Super Smash Bros. Brawl is already a popular game among your teens, most likely; why not give it a try yourself?

Like racing and fast cars?  There’s lots of great racing games out there, both realistic (Need for Speed: Shift, Gran Turismo 5) and not (Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Blur, and Split/Second).  Mario Kart is always a fun, cartoony racing game that makes a great centerpiece for a party.  Maybe you love puzzles.  There is no shortage of puzzle games out there, but if I might suggest the excellent Portal, or the rather addictive game Plants vs. Zombies, which while not strictly a puzzle game certainly fires the same neurons as a puzzle game would.

If you love fantasy and science-fiction and always wanted to live those types of stories, try these role-playing/adventure games: Dragon Age: Origins, the Mass Effect series, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, or any game with Final Fantasy or Zelda in the title.

Maybe you’ve played video games in the past and drifted away from the hobby.  Well, I’ve excellent news for you.  The Nintendo Wii has a feature called Virtual Console, which lets you purchase and play the old school classics for the consoles from the ’80s and ’90s.  Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and many others are right out your fingertips.  Perhaps reconnecting with an old favorite is the best way to start your new gaming journey.

And to think, I just touched on video games!  Board games  are infinitely more varied.  If you want something quick and easy, yet addictive and engaging, try Pictureka or In a Pickle.  Chess, checkers, Connect Four, and Clue are old favorites that never fall out of popularity.  I love Stratego because it’s highly tactical in its game play, much like the video games I enjoy.  There’s also many, many card games out there, traditional and new.  Collectible card games such as Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh are great.  Go to your local Target or Wal-Mart and look at the board games; you’ll find lots to explore.  Also, hit up FunAgain Games to see some excellent, less mainstream games.  And by the way, Monopoly is so yesterday: Settlers of Cataan is where it’s at now.

Regardless of how you get into games or what games you get into, you may find this to be a hobby you enjoy and want to keep at.  Even if you don’t become a gamer, you need to learn to play if you want to bring gaming into your library.  You need to connect with the material, experience first-hand its value for education (both direct and indirect), understand why people love games, and be able to speak the gamer’s language (not the one used by hardcore competitors, necessarily: they make sailors and tattoo artists blush).  You need an appreciation for the demographic you are serving and you need to be able to help users engage with games on their level.

So go ahead.  Get gaming!

curious2

What Happened to Wellington: A One Book NJ Alternate Reality Game

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As part of the One Book NJ initiative, each year four books are chosen around which NJ libraries will have discussions and programming as a way to promote literacy around a single book. A book is chosen in each traditional age population from children, YA, teen, and adult. This year’s adult title was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. So… we decided that we wanted to try something a little different in support of One Book NJ and do an alternate reality game (ARG).

As a brief background, an ARG is basically a game in which the movements, actions and goals take place in the real world. However, the other part of this equation is not only the real world application of the gaming elements, but that the “game world” is created by having a story in place that creates the “alternate reality”. The players as such are invited to be part of this story that is taking place in the real world and to themselves engage in the game play elements within that context. Also, there is usually a website created where information can be shared and disseminated, as well as a place for active players to be able to communicate and collaborate with each other to work on the different parts of the game.

ARGs have been becoming ever more popular as they are used to promote new video games, television programsmovies.. even jeans! These types of games work well for marketing new products and services because they actively engage the player or participant, and in many cases offer real world rewards for their participation.  If you want to know more about them, or even play one yourself, check out ARGnet.

So… I proposed the idea of doing an ARG as a program to support the One Book NJ initiative to our professional staff, and they really seemed to like it! So for a few weeks we got together and discussed our story, the gameplay elements we wanted to incorporate and developed a timeline for how the game would progress. While being a little intimidated by the process at first (it is our first ARG after all!), we were able to get all the pieces in place by mid August, when we officially “launched the game”.

The story of the game goes something like this: In mid August, the library received a shipment of books that were to be used for programming for One Book NJ. Mysteriously, the books were not here more than two hours, before they went missing. We announced that the books were missing using our website and social networks and “asked” if anyone saw anything mysterious during that time, and to report it if they did. This basically began the story.

The story continued through updates to our website, twitter, and facebook, where we started receiving letters from a person identifying his/herself as “The Mystery Thief” and claiming responsibility for the theft of the books. Finally, we also created a separate website, off of our regular website, where people could visit to find updates and additional information related to the game.

We created ficticious notes with a font resembling magazine cut-out letters and posted them on the website as well. The letters contained hints to a live event during our town’s annual street festival. The event hinted at an opportunity for participants to be able to “find” the books. We also created a book display with additional copies of the book, and copies of the notes referencing our missing copies.

The live event took place on 9/11 during our town’s annual street festival. The library had a table and per the final letter we received, released a clue to the wherabouts of one book each hour. Needless to say, the live event went better than expected with more than thirty teens/tweens dashing around town working the clues to find the books. That day all six books that were hidden were found. When a player found a book, it was theirs to keep as a prize for finding it. It was really was a cool thing to be a part of.

Currently, the game is still going, with four books hidden after 9/11. These are the final four books that were taken by the “Thief”. The clues have been released, this time a little harder as we encrypted them with simple ciphers. We currently have a smaller core of kids working with them. As of yesterday (9/16), one had been found with three remaining. We may also add an element to the story arc and have players work on discovering who the mystery thief is.

This has really been a great experience for us, and a learning experience as well. It was amazing to watch as every copy of the book from our display was checked out, as well as have so many people talking about the book itself, and about reading it after this all started. The real goal of this whole thing was to promote the book, and one book NJ, within the context of the game. We really marvel at how well this was accomplished (considering, again, it was our first go at something like this.) Furthermore, it was an engaging program that promoted literacy and only cost us the copies of the books we gave away.

Interest in our game? Here are some links you can use to see how we conducted the game:

http://www.cranburypubliclibrary.org (our main website, a WordPress blog, where we started our game with posts to the site) – start with the 8/18 post

http://www.cranburypubliclibrary.org/wellington – this was the companion site that was setup to allow players to immerse themselves the alternate reality, follow what was going on, and obtain information.

http://www.twitter.com/cranburypl – Our Twitter account where we posted information about the game, and tried to build buzz toward our live event.

If you are interested in seeing how another library approached doing an ARG, check out the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library (MD) and their games: The Mystery Guest and Find Chelsea. They did a really awesome job in both story development and incorporation of digital media (esp. video) and were an inspiration  for us in developing our own ARG.

Any questions.. just email me

-Doug

Cranbury Day 2010

Retro gaming display at Piscataway Public Library

Retro Gaming is Fun for the Whole Family

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Retro gaming display at Piscataway Public Library

Retro Gaming events are great for public libraries. This program is fun, loud, and active. It presents an opportunity for everyone to connect through a shared interest. Mom is showing kids the Atari 2600 she played in the late 70s, teens are showing dad their favorites games on by-gone consoles. Everyone is interacting, engaging, and learning. Nostalgia abounds!

And a simple display can accomplish much of the same magic. Identify people in your community who have retro consoles or games and provide a secure area for them to display their treasures in the library. Between the consoles and controllers and games and artwork, these displays are highly engaging, and the conversations that result are priceless.

Public libraries are about connecting people and ideas, and the opportunities presented by retro gaming are endless.

NO

Retro Gaming Day!

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Today was the first Retro Gaming Day at the Piscataway Public Library.  We had a few emulators, but mostly it was old school actual consoles (with big boxy TVs) that patrons and librarians could play.

Atari console – Asteroids, Galaxian, Missile Command and even the god-awful but nostalgic ET was played.

NES- 2 dead consoles, and a patron went home to bring his working- still in the box.  Much Duck Hunt was played.

SNES, DreamCast, Mac Classic, Playstation–a room of TVs, people, laughing, bazooka guns!

JP and Allen have much more video and pics to share on favorite games and why libraries should have video game programs to come…

Retro Gaming Flickr set

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