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.

What do I do with old games? Donate!


Donate old games!

Yeah, I know we all love our games, especially the more retro they become, but as gamers we can donate our games to a good cause–

DonateGames is an innovative social enterprise dedicated to supporting children with rare diseases through the collection and re-purposing of donated video games and gear

Just put your game in a padded envelope and send…if you give your email and return address they’ll send you a tax-deductible receipt.


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.

Why you should participate in #libuncon & Planning an Unconference, by Michelle Boule


So our great friend Michelle Boule, who is no doubt the library world’s leader in “unconferencing”, has shared with me a bunch of valuable information for librarians planning on organizing and/or participating in National Library Unconference Day ’11.

Michelle’s FYI stats: Michelle Boule is a Geek Librarian living in Houston, TX. Michelle was recently a Social Sciences Librarian at the University of Houston. She now spends her time writing and consulting while trying to care for her growing brood of children* and large dogs. In 2008, she was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker. Michelle has created online learning environments, taught in-person classes, presented on a wide variety of technology and training subjects, shelved books, read books, written articles, organized unconferences, and participated in subversive activities in an effort to save the world. She has a booki coming out in the Fall on entitled Mob Rule Learning: camps, unconferences, and trashing the talking head from Information Today, Inc..  Michelle can be found online at A Wandering Eyre, http://wanderingeyre.com.

Let’s start with her post on Why You Should Participate in National Library Unconference Day ’11.

And here’s her prezi titled Planning an Unconference.


I’m getting really excited for Unconference Day!!! Our kick-off set of lightning talks (by library greats like Eli Neiburger, Jaime Hammond, and Michael Stephens) will be offered free courtesy of the ALA Learning Round Table. And even if you can’t organize an unconference of your own, we’ll have a full-day live chat unconference at tinychat.com/8bitlibrary, a twitter unconference via hashtag #libuncon, and you can still check out the free lightning talks at 1 pm EDT. May 2nd, 2011, be there, #makeithappen – JP

*everyone say YAY to Michelle for recently adding another child to her clan!!!! I got to see the pictures and the baby is so beautifulllll.


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.


Sign up now for National Library Unconference Day ’11! #libuncon


Hello all! You can sign up now for the National Library Unconference Day ’11 aka #libuncon, sponsored by ALA’s LearnRT and organized by #TeamRock8 of 8bitlibrary.com.

Libraries from all over the country are going to be screening our free keynote set of lightning talks and then running their own Unconferences, Staff Development days, and BarCamps.

We encourage you to organize your own at your place of employment, or via your library school student association, or your regional library cooperative or state library association.

For those of you who can’t #makeithappen, 8bitlibrary.com will also be hosting two digital unconferences: our twitter unconference will be at hashtag #libuncon, and our live chat unconference will be at tinychat.com/8bitlibrary.

HOW do you sign up?????? Leave a comment here with your name and what uncon you’ll be physically organizing or participating in (including those of your who will be participating in the chat room unconference or twitter unconference). Please use a real email address when you leave the comment, because I’ll be using those addresses to send out a reminder email to you a few days beforehand!

And check back here at 8bitlibrary.com every day this week. We have a slew of new #libuncon content!!

#makeithappen means taking action.


What does #makeithappen mean? Taking action.

Action is something that you do.

Doing is different than saying. We can write, talk, make statements, chat, dish, diss, blog at blog.8bitlibrary.com or any other blog…but it’s never a substitute for action.

In librarianship specifically, I hear lots of talk. Some of it is negative complaining about the state of things. Some of it is positive ideas about how we should move forward.

Neither of those are #makeithappen. #makeithappen is saying “I want today to be Teen Library Day in my town”, then calling the mayor, and getting it officially on the books as [Insert Town Here] Teen Library Day. #makeithappen is not just THINKING outside the box, but DOING outside the box. Like having librarians influence global gaming discussions that otherwise would have been completely out of the realm of libraries. Or having local professional athletes chill in the library.

Talking about something is a stepping stone to action, but in the end, no amount of blog posts here or anywhere will amount to #mih. However, we want this blog to be the #makeithappen blog, a place to show off pictures and videos or things people have #mih’d all over the country, to provide inspiration to all in their own efforts to #makeithappen. Have you made something great happen in your library? Please email me so you can show the world; I can be reached at jp at porcaro dot info

#makeithappen never gives up, ever.

#makeithappen is professional AND personal. In many ways, it is personal first: envision what you want in your life, and then stop imagining and #mih, because the reality is so much better than the fantasy.

#makeithappen is climbing 10,000 mountains before breakfast.

An 8bitlibrary.com contributor linked me to this a few days ago. I know it is harsh, but climbing 10,000 mountians is way harsher than any web comic:

The secret to #mih: work really really hard.


And although we define “make it happen” in twitter-hashtag form, we all agree that nobody can #makeithappen on twitter. The real work that needs to be done is through toil and sweat and hard work, even in the library.

#makeithappen is saying “Hey, let’s help people develop video game collections”, starting up a website about it, and becoming the most influential web resource for video-games-in-libraries.

Failure, of course, is a big part of #makeithappen as well. Video Games can be a great example of this: you toil through failure after failure, repeating the same tasks you fail at, sometimes failing at the same thing for hours or days. And then you win. You fail until you win. And #makeithappen is not stopping, because once you’ve jumped one hurdle of failure, you’ve got 100s more to jump. This is why video games are the perfect fit for the #makeithappen philosophy: keep pushing through failure until you win, because luck won’t get you anywhere, experience will, and the only way to gain experience is through failure, not success.

#makeithappen is also about priorities: like, knowing when to stop writing about it, because you have to go to work to DO SOMETHING. Which I am about to do.

8bitlibrary.com‘s own JP Porcaro (me) & Justin Hoenke, as well as our friends/colleagues/movers&shakers Ed Garcia and Jaime Hammond will be speaking on “Make It Happen in libraries” at the New England Library Association Conference in October 2011. Please come out and share the #mih mojo with us.


Survival Through Touching by Rick Prelinger


It’s not a video game related piece, but I got a heck of a lot of inspiration out of Survival Through Touching by Rick Prelinger.
His final paragraph really sums it up for me…

In short, what if we embraced hospitality and touch as attributes of modern cultural repositories? Can we actually let users touch unique materials? Can we enable participation not only in the exhibition rooms and galleries, but in the back rooms? We can say no, or we can try to engineer ways to make this possible. Hands-on access to cultural materials, plus the encouragement of tranformative appropriation turns institutions from hermetic repositories into workshops and places of production, a change that I think will be essential to institutional survival.

Let’s let the public into the back of our archives, museums and libraries, and see what happens.


It goes along well with this post I recently wrote over at Tame The Web.  Libraries as a place in the community where people can produce their own video games (amongst other things)?  Let’s make it happen.



librar*+SXSWi=awesome ____up’s


While our storm-the-panels-with-library programming hasn’t been added…yet. We have pulled together some social let’s-make-it-happen events planned for the nutty week in Austin for those librar* involved/interested/ingrained to come out and friendly.


So what’s going on?



We already “sold out” of the 100 free tickets for the librar* drinkup, had to add more tix for folks to RSVP (note – if anyone wants to sponsor a tab at the bar – we’re listening!).


Saturday, March 12th @ 6pm at the Lustre Pearl (97 Rainey St)







And SXSW Interactive respects its library contingency and is holding an official meetup (yea, it’s OFFICIAL): Librarians and Technology Meet Up.


Sunday, March 13 @ 12:30 -1:30 (noonish) at the Hilton, Room 615AB

(it’s posted so places, it’s hard to keep up):









Let’s get conversing about what tools/ pieces/and people we need to get at the table to make library stuff more amazingly awesome and less annoyingly archaically stove-piped systems.


If twitter is your thang:

#sxswi + #library = #sxswlib11 OFFICIAL meetup ow.ly/46Poh unOFFICIAL drinkup ow.ly/46PmO let’s #makeithappen
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