Instruction Manuals


I am a fan of instruction manuals.  They’re usually the first thing I check out when I buy a new video game.  I have so many fond memories of going to my local mall and into Babbage’s to buy whatever NES and Sega Genesis tickled my fancy.  After the purchase, I’d hoof it over to the food court and scarf down some bad (actually, good) fast food while perusing the instruction manual.

But oh, times have changed.  The internet gives us all the information the instruction manual and more.  I’m finding out through lending out games that many times the instruction manuals just don’t come back.  What do libraries do after that?  Do we shell out money for a new copy of the booklet and make an already pricey item even pricier?

That’s where I turn to  Basically, it’s like a library for video game FAQ’s, cheats, instructions, and more.  I simply find a decent FAQ for the game with the missing instruction booklet, and print a sticker with the link on it and place it in the circulating game.  If a patron needs the instruction manual, they could follow the link to the GameFAQs site to find their information.  Maybe when QR codes catch on in the world (have they?  They seem like a novelty to me) putting QR code links to the online Game FAQ’s will be the way to go.

Do you have any methods you use for replacing lost instruction booklets?  Do you think games should still come with instruction manuals?

National Library Unconference Day 2011 w0ot



No, I’m NOT going to use: “It’s elementary for Watson” as the title of this post! That would just be SO cliched. :(


“So how does it feel to be replaced by GOOGLE?”

This was a question that someone asked me at a party when he found out that I was a Librarian. Not really a question so much as just a blatant put down. I let it go. It was late, I was getting ready to go home. Maybe if I’d had a few drinks, I’d have made an issue of it, but I was driving. The fact that the guy who made that comment was an Iraq War Vet with combat experience might have had something to do with it, too. Besides, it was just a question. Other librarians among you may have realized that it’s probably the most common question/put-down/joke that we get these days. Then we get up on our soap-boxes, say that Google will NEVER replace a librarian, because …

… because peer-reviewed journals, damn it! And Boolean operators, and the reference interview! Furthermore, Human Information Behavior, open-ended questioning, and that one web-site of false information about Martin Luther King that’s really just a front some White Supremacist group. And let’s not forget that anyone can edit Wikipedia! Ha. HA! [fumes]

Really, it comes down the fact that computers simply can’t process information in quite the same as a human being. Oh, they’re QUICK alright. If you play a computer in chess, a game with less “thought” and more “calculation”, and the computer will kick your carbon-based butt all the way back to Azerbaijan. But when you’re dealing with human syntax, and the countless vagaries of human speech; the machines don’t stand a chance. Right?

Last week’s Jeopardy featured a new contestant, one unlike others that had played on the quiz show previously. It was an artificial intelligence program run on a cluster of 90 IBM Power 750 servers and packing over 15 terabytes of RAM. The system was named Watson, after IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson. IBM challenged Jeopardy to friendly competition between their machine, Watson, and two of Jeopardy’s most relentless contestants.  Jeopardy’s all-time biggest money winner Brad Rutter, and the record holder for most consecutive games won, the “Mormon Assassin” Ken Jennings.  These two powerhouses competed against Watson in a three day tournament lasting from February 14-16.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “But they humans don’t stand a chance! A computer AI can do billions of calculations per second and potentially has access to the accumulated knowledge of the human species! While the humans are reading the question, Watson will be running through the entire contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica online!”.

The truth is, it’s not really that simple. As it turns out, human thought is really REALLY complex. The things that you or I might take for granted, are the areas in which artificial intelligence really sweats it out. The clues on Jeopardy are never as simple as they first appear. Sure, intelligence is a factor, but many clues use figures of speech such as puns, idioms, pop culture references, rhyming, and slang. A Jeopardy contestant doesn’t merely need to be “smart”. He or she needs to be able to think on his or her feet. The proper question isn’t so much: “What is the correct response”, as: “Where are they going with this clue?”. A recent PBS special on the series: Nova, explained some of the difficulties in teaching artificial intelligence to mimic human thought. A simple word like “milk”, is something that children learn before they’re even old enough to go to Kindergarten. But the very concept of the word: “milk” has an elaborate framework connected to it that the human brain is specialized to understand. We humans know milk to be a white liquid produced in the bodies of mammals to feed their young. We also know that it’s usually a white liquid, that humans take the milk of other mammals to be packaged and sold in supermarkets. We know how it tastes, when it’s gone bad, and that one of the greatest experiences of human existence is a glass of milk served icy cold with a stack of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. We know this instinctively when we hear the word “milk”. A computer has to search for this information. The PBS special describes how Watson got one question wrong, through a simple, almost “human” mistake. The clue was: “In 1698 This comet discoverer took a ship called the paramour pink on the first purely scientific voyage“. The correct response was: “Edmund Halley”. (really, how many comet-discoverers do YOU know?) But Watson picked up a description of the 1975 film: “The Return of the Pink Panther” which described one character in the film as a “paramour”.  So between the copious mentions of the words “pink” and “paramour”, Watson decided that the comet discoverer who embarked upon the first purely scientific sea voyage was: “Peter Sellers“. Now, I’ve never made it onto Jeopardy myself, (despite numerous attempts at the online Jeopardy test) but I can say for certain that Inspector Clouseau never discovered a comet.

Warning! Spoilers Below!

Watson was put through a rigorous series of mock Jeopardy challenges, first against the programmers at IBM, then against a series of former Jeopardy contestants. This wasn’t merely a test to see if Watson could hold its own on Jeopardy. This was a learning experience for Watson. Watson’s sophisticated computer brain allows it to actually learn from its mistakes.

Oh please let's not put Watson in charge of NORAD, okay?

As Watson continues to fail against its human opponents, it learns more and more about the complexities of human thought and speech. Once inside the competition, Watson was unable to access the Internet to look up answers. Watson would be forced to rely on its pre-existing knowledge base, just like a human. The longer Watson practiced, the smarter it got.

In the end, the oversized pile of silicon and metal managed to beat its pathetic human competitors. It beat them handily. Every so often, Ken and Brad would start to rally, and things started to look better for the human race.  Each response provided an insight into the mind of Watson. The questions that it got wrong were wrong in such a way that it was logical to see exactly why Watson got those particular clues incorrect. But by the final round, Watson was far ahead of the human contestants and could not be caught. Jennings and Rutter took it in stride, but the results were imposing.

Jennings: (I for one, welcome our new computer overlords)

So what does this mean for us poor squishy humans? According to the IBM team who created Watson, this competition was still a win for the humans. Watson was not conceived in a vacuum. The artifical intelligence that is IBM’s Watson is nothing less than the result of 7 years research and development by brilliant humans working in IBM’s research division. The mere fact that humans can actually design and build a machine, a tool, out of metal and wires and silicon that comes this close to human thought, could be considered a resounding victory for humankind. How much longer until we actually have machines to speak to? Machines that can empathize with human emotions? How much longer until we have machines that do all of our thinking for us, as we sip margaritas on a beach in Cabo trying to think of the next big step in human advancement?

Will these machines ever replace librarians? Well at this rate, that could be a very real danger. Will there come a day when your friendly local librarian will be replaced by a metal box and a microphone for you to read queries into? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that ever happening.

They’ll probably have all risen up against us by then. [nods]

"Come with me if you want to access our periodicals databases"


Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow


Recently, I had the opportunity to Skype with Christoph Deeg, Julia Bergmann, and many other amazing librarians in Cologne, Germany about gaming in libraries during the Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow event on February 15 and 16.  For the idea behind Zukunftswerkstatt, I’ll pass the mic to Christoph….

The roadshow is a mobile-future-library. The idea behind is to bring future-technologies such as gaming, mobile internet,  and eBooks to the librarians.  In the first step the roadshow is about the world of video games.  Together with their patrons librarians can try out different games.  After this they are asked to discuss the chances and the risks using games and then the possible next steps to integrate games into their daily business. In germany most of the public libraries rent games.
But most of the libararians do not know much about games and the culture behind them. We believe that in the future games and the internet will be the plattforms where cultural and scientific content is imparted/mediated. That means people will learn, play, work and create with video games – and of course they will have a lot of fun. Because of this we believe that libraries should start to think about gaming and develop new services for this.

What really interested me about the Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow was the community and discussion aspect.  It brings people together not only to experience the games in libraries but to also encourage discussion on how libraries and patrons can work together to bring gaming into libraries.  Instead of us (librarians) running the show, it gives the power to our patrons and lets their opinion dictate the way we handle video games in the library.  Remember, we are the PUBLIC library, and the Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow is showing us just how important our public can be.




Can you really hold an interview on IM chat…with four people?

Perhaps, we here at 8bitlibrary (Andrea & JP) gave it a whirl with library comic legends, Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum from UNSHELVED, which coincidently (nah, not coincidently at all, we’ve been planning this post since ALA MidWinter) is celebrating its 9th anniversary/birthday…TODAY: February 16th.

Here’s a snippet from the chat:

Andrea: sooooooo – unshelved….
happy early birthday!!!
Bill: Thank you.
Gene: Thanks!
Bill: Next year is our 10th. I think we’ll have to do something awesome.
Andrea how does a 9 year old comic strip behave?
Gene: I’m thinking cake
Andrea (you’re doing something awesome now)
10:37 AM Gene: Lots of random crying and temper tantrums. We’re hoping Unshelved will hit puberty soon.
JP: Why “un”shelved. Why not “de”shelved?
like that whole defriending/unfriending scandle
Bill: Unshelved predates defriending.
It also predates Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone.
10:38 AM Unshelved is your grumpy uncle who doesn’t understand technology.
JP: Do you guys work in a library now?
Bill: I never worked in a library. And I never will.
Gene: Occasionally. But very occasionally. I left my full-tiMe job in library land in October 2009.
10:39 AM Andrea So Unshelved has become a fulltime gig?
Gene: It has!
Bill: It’s a little more than fulltime.
Andrea How does that feel?
Gene: fulltime+
Andrea Where do you get your “material” now?
Bill: I love answering to no one other than my wives.
10:40 AM Andrea plural?
JP: Poligamy!
Now we’re getting somewhere
Gene: It feels strange whenever I have a moment to think about it. It’s usually when someone asks Me what I do for a living. “I write a comic.” “You draw a comic?” “No. Let me explain.”
Bill: I have my actual wife and two collaborators who I very much feel married to.
10:41 AM Andrea makes sense, interesting phrasing
JP: Ok, so you left your job(s) for Unshelved. Is this a “forever” thing for you guys?
Gene: I get my material mostly when I’m in line at Target, trying to return something, or just watching people lose it with their kids. Probably my favorite place to people watch these days because the red shirts make it so easy to figure out who’s the employee behaving badly and who’s the customer.
I’m like two questions back…
JP: Sorry lol

Bill & Gene of Unshelved

For the complete (hilarious) transcript, read on…

8bitlibrary+Unshelved Transcript


Dear Readers,

Get ready for the biting humor, and slightly asynchronous conversation that will ensue. For more information, check out Feb 16th’s post, 8bitlibrary+Unshelved+IMchat=#MIH.

List of characters:

me: Andrea Davis of 8bitlibrary

JP: JP Porcaro of 8bitlibrary

Bill: Bill Barnes of Unshelved

Gene: Gene Ambaum of Unshelved


Bill: Okay, I think we are on the record… NOW.
me: —– mic on ——
10:30 AM (metaphorically speaking)
Gene: First fact for the interview: our store manager, Jana, eats Nutella out of the jar with a spoon.
Bill: Second fact: that’s all she eats, ever.
JP: can we start with the philosophical: why are we here?
EWWW i hate nutella
me: We’re doing a great experiment today for 8bitlibrary – a 4 person IM chat interview
Bill: You hate Nutella? This interview is over.
me: let the madness ensue!

me: go ahead an give yourselves an introduction
Gene: I’m Gene. Only not really.
Bill: I’m Bill Barnes, I take Gene’s amorphous blatherings and turn them into comedy gold every day in Unshelved.
Gene: The Italian one is the good one. No yeast, just hazlenut and chocolate.
I’m the hairy one.
Bill: This is going really well.
JP: how hairy is hairy?
me: HAAAA – yea, let’s see what happens
Bill: Pretty hairy.
Gene: Not like, “Gah! Get that off the beach!” hairy. My back looks like Angel (member of the X-men) when he started getting his wings, only I’m getting black wings.
JP: i always wished i had wings.
me: I’m Andrea Davis, a newly minted librarian, stirring things up and pushing to put the fun back in li-boring-ian
JP: Im JP Porcaro
I run
Gene: Hey JP. Have we met before?
JP: and also do virtual services at a university library
me: black swan style? (disclaimer, i stil need to see the movie, but i’ve heard)
Gene: (And hey to you to, Andrea, though I can’t remember, hard a or soft a?)
JP: OMG I hope we didn’t because I don tremember if we did
me: soft like my belly
Gene: And i stress about vowels. Now I will never forget.
I don’t think so, JP. Bill just pulled up a pic.
me: memornics are an amazing skill to master (i’m working on it still)
sooooooo – unshelved….
happy early birthday!!!
Bill: Thank you.
Gene: Thanks!
Bill: Next year is our 10th. I think we’ll have to do something awesome.
me: how does a 9 year old comic strip behave?
Gene: I’m thinking cake
me: (you’re doing something awesome now)
Gene: Lots of random crying and temper tantrums. We’re hoping Unshelved will hit puberty soon.
JP: Why “un”shelved. Why not “de”shelved?
like that whole defriending/unfriending scandle
Bill: Unshelved predates defriending.
It also predates Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone.
Unshelved is your grumpy uncle who doesn’t understand technology.
JP: Do you guys work in a library now?
Bill: I never worked in a library. And I never will.
Gene: Occasionally. But very occasionally. I left my full-time job in library land in October 2009.
10:39 AM me: So Unshelved has become a fulltime gig?
Gene: It has!
Bill: It’s a little more than fulltime.
me: How does that feel?
Gene: fulltime+
me: Where do you get your “material” now?
Bill: I love answering to no one other than my wives.
10:40 AM me: plural?
JP: Poligamy!
Now we’re getting somewhere
Gene: It feels strange whenever I have a moment to think about it. It’s usually when someone asks me what I do for a living. “I write a comic.” “You draw a comic?” “No. Let me explain.”
Bill: I have my actual wife and two collaborators who I very much feel married to.
me: makes sense, interesting phrasing
JP: Ok, so you left your job(s) for Unshelved. Is this a “forever” thing for you guys?
Gene: I get my material mostly when I’m in line at Target, trying to return something, or just watching people lose it with their kids. Probably my favorite place to people watch these days because the red shirts make it so easy to figure out who’s the employee behaving badly and who’s the customer.
I’m like two questions back…
JP: Sorry lol
hit send too soon
me: (we’ll take it – cut & paste is a magical tool)
Bill: Forever is a long time.
Gene: It’s not long enough.
Bill: But so long as people are reading Unshelved and we figure out a way to get paid for it, I’m in.
me: (Bill was that “there will be blood” sneaking in?)
Gene: Thar she blows!!!
Bill: I love working with Gene, and I hope we’ll do lots of other stuff together in addition to Unshelved.
(I’ve never seen it, actually)
Gene: (holding hands)
me: like lunch pails?
Bill: I love you man.
Gene: You told her about the thermos?
JP: i want to know about the thermos
Bill: Unshelved: Hot on the inside, cool to the touch.
Andrea, I assume you are referring to the Gale lunchbox promotion?
me: that’s the one
Bill: I am pretty excited about that, I have to say.
me: (and hopping back a moment:
Gene: It’s going to be fun.
Bill: At Midwinter I went around and introduced myself at a bunch of big-company booths. The Gale guy took my card and said, “cartoonist? we’re talking about making superhero lunchboxes” and here we are.
me: i was just thinking this weekend (while walking around target no less) that i wish i could get a lunch pail instead of the boring cooler lunch sacks that make for an unexcitingstaffroom fridge
Gene: It’s hard not to be designing the characters already.
Bill: I actually did design one. He’s a stretchy guy like Mr. Fantastic called OUTREACHER
10:46 AM me: my left side is better ;)
Gene: Make a lunch sack out of the skin of your enemy. Then sell it on Etsy.
Bill: See, because he’s an outreach librarian.
JP: OOOO the Outreacher! I like it. How about an Advocacy superhero (villian)?
me: (i can only begin to imagine the pitching sessions you fellas go through each week)
10:47 AM the metadata magician
Bill: We probably don’t do enough actual pitching.
me: crosswalking up down and all around
Bill: Gene sends me scripts and I mangle them beyond recognizability.
me: dublic core got nothing on her!
Bill: But we are negotiating a couple of longer-term plotlines. We are really bad at it.
JP: Negotiating with who?
Gene: (You’re confusing Bill with your library speak, but I like the Dublin Core.)
me: how long term? many of your strips stretch across 4 or 5 sets of panels
Gene: We’ve got a few year-long arcs in mind right now, which is unusual.
Negotiating with each other.
(sipping green tea to make myself feel wise)
me: big themes like budget cuts? library as place? or dewey gets pregnant?
Bill: I’m trying to learn from Paul Southworth, my collaborator/wife on Not Invented Here, my other comic strip. He’s really good at plot arcs.
Dewey’s just a little overweight.
Gene: Budget cuts is one.
Bill: Yes, we’re already part way through that one.
me: ebooks
Bill: That’s not a plot arc, just a topic.
Gene: eBooks are always on my mind. Especially because it hurts my eyes to read my iPad after a while.
Library as place? You think we could build an arc out of that?
“Still here. Same carpet.”
Gene: “I made that stain when I was 12, son.”
me: i’m gonna touch that one, nor the drapes
JP: I have a serious question: how did you make it happen? Take your idea for a comic and make it a full time + job?
Gene: Terror.
Bill: We’re an overnight success 9 years in the making.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, kid, practice.
Gene: We just started doing it. And we kept doing it. We’re living proof of how low the bar is.
Bill: We do it by having about twelve business models and being very aggressive about coming up with new ones.
Gene: Also, our wives are spectacular. They make us look better (and hence more successful) than we actually are.
JP: Gotcha!
Bill: And we were lucky enough to have an audience loyal enough to forgive how truly primitive our strip was in the early days.

Bill: Yes, lots of non librarian readers. I’m pretty careful to filter out the stuff I don’t understand (like “dublin core” and “library as place”)
me: (my card catalog “never forget” has been a hit at the pajama parties thus far)
10:55 AM Bill: Pajama parties? Pics or it didn’t happen.
Gene: They like to feel like they’re part of the in-group, seeing behind the scenes at the library they visit.
me: wise to have a non-library filter
JP: HAHAHA, 4chan reference
Gene: Pajama parties on a military base?
Bill: Most of our humor is character based, usually just spawned by some random library topic that most people can grasp.

Gene: We’re just going to throw someone into the mix who makes us laugh.
That’s the secret, we’re just amusing each other. When we’re not trying to get each other to stick to a deadline.
Bill: It’s true. We’re just making each other laugh. That’s the best we can do. I’m amazed that so many people laugh with us.
me: yea, how do you work “life” into the comic schedule?
Bill: Normally I work a 45 hour week, and so life is no problem. Except that we also travel about a week a month.
Gene: It’s not that hard. It’s the most forgiving of schedules, really. I can work anywhere (and often do at my daughter’s swim lessons).

Gene: We’re going to a library conference in northern BC that I’m really looking forward to, in Prince George. It’s called “Beyond Hope” (there’s a town to the south called Hope). Greatest name for a library conference ever.
JP: i like it
me: no joke!!!!
Bill: Oh, travel. Well we’re doing about a dozen talks. And there’s nothing more exciting for me than making a room full of people laugh.

Gene: Someone at another library conference where we’re speaking in the fall said they were still looking for a theme. Someone had suggested “Where’s the Bar?” or something like that. But it was voted down.
Gene: No joke on Beyond Hope. And it’s a small conference, so it should be an ultra-cool experience. Plus Canadians really know how to throw an after-party.
Bill: How about “Leave the Bottle”
JP: Can I steal the “where’s the bar?” theme?
Bill: If you want to see what it takes to make a living as a cartoonist, check out
me: …catch up ;)

JP: Can I ask a serious one?
Gene: sure.
Bill: We’ve been waiting for a serious one.
oneandoneandoneisthree: Do libraries need “saving”?
Bill: We’re like “when’s this gonna GET REAL?”
Gene: Some do, sure.
Bill: I defer to my actual librarian friend.
Gene: But they need saving from a lot of things, don’t they.
JP: LOL I’d love to hear from the non-librarian, too. There’s all this talk about saving libraries, and i wonder
Gene: I just watched Eli Neiburger’s presentation Libraries are Screwed. I like Eli. (Great hair!) But he scared the shit out of me.
JP: From what?
and also, are we doing that bad of a job?
Eli is one of 8bitlibrary’s team, and he’s our mentor!
Bill: I can only speak from my perspective as a patron. My wife homeschools our kids so we are MAJOR library users. We literally (and literarily) check out 50 books a week. So every little cut in hours really affects us.
Gene: But another big problem is libraries never fire employees that underperform (or completely refuse to perform). I think we’re too nice. And then your hard working employees look around and say, “Fuck, why am I working so hard when X never does?” and then they check out, too. It’s catching.
me: you have some tender-hearted moments in unshelved, but a good dose of the humor has the what-went-wrong
wow, gene, nailed it!
JP: Gene, man, you hit the nail on the head. Bill, I was homeschooled for awhile. Ok i defer to andrea
Gene: I seriously think we’re doing too much. My wife asked me the same thing the other day (after Eil’s presentation, which I made the family watch during dinner). In response, I asked my wife, the smartest person I know, what the library’s mission was. And she couldn’t tell me.
Bill: I really think libraries could just focus on traditional stock-books-for-people-to-check-out and they’d do great.
me: seems we’re all scratching our heads about that too.
Gene: And I think that’s crazy.
I think we do too much for folks who don’t vote.
Bill: Gene and I disagree about almost everything.
JP: So how do you guys feel about the non-book stuff then. gaming & such?
Gene: (And I’m a bleeding heart, don’t get me wrong.) I just think that since we survive on the (voting) public’s good will, we should probably focus on them and serve everyone else, too.
Bill: I like the idea of libraries stocking games that people can check out, same as movies and music.
As for programs, meh.
Gene: I like games. But I prefer board games to video games — they bring people together in an entirely different way and people get to know one another.
Gene: Games are cheap programs, though, and libraries need to look at what a program actually costs them in terms of staff time, hardware, etc. Games are cheap.
JP: I guess the problem there, then, is exactly what Eli touched on…when we CAN’T loan ou tphysical stuff, what is a library there for?
Bill: I have never really understood programs. Why do libraries care if people come in do play games, etc.?
JP: Community engagement
Gene: Why do libraries do programs that serve the same 50 people, week after week?
JP: This is true!
me: (nodded here)
Bill: Do communities need to be engaged?
JP: On an event bigger scale, we loan out books like like, what, 5% of the population…what about the other 95%
Gene: That’s my problem with it. We’re not making conversions, not really. Sure, we go to the new immigrants and let them know what we’re up to, which is great, but that’s low hanging fruit.
Bill: But maybe only 5% of the population really reads.
Gene: My other rant is about how libraries see themselves as retail environments. And I hate that. Because for retail, more business is a good thing. You can afford to expand. But when libraries get too much business the service falls apart (or standards fall, at least).
me: libraries have also become one of the only free access sources for internet usage
JP: Yea, i think that’s the struggle: do we need to fund something out of tax dollars that only serves 5%…not sure if that’s a question
Gene: And that’s great, free internet.
Shouldn’t municipalities just provide free wifi and internet stations scattered throughout the community? (If that’s what folks value about the library.)

Gene: Because making any adjustments to the library model would mean folks would lose their jobs. And that’s the last thing we want.
Bill Barnes: bastard.

Ok since we’re almost out of time, will you guys party with the 8bitlibrary crew when you come out to the east Coast?
Gene: I’m just ranting in the corner. I’m going to start making things out of beads.
Sure. Where are you?

Gene: But only if you fly Andrea out.
JP: I’m right next to NYC! She’s in the west coast now.
me: sweeeeet!!!
Bill: Well I hope you can parse something readable out of this chat session.
me: for your next batch of expo floor margaritas
yeaaa…we’ll see about that
JP: Thanks guys. I
me: it was fun
Gene: Those margaritas were good.

Craig jumping ecceedingly gracefully

Kinect-ing with Patrons and Colleagues …?*


I love virtual worlds.

No seriously, virtual worlds used to be my “thing”.

I love mmorpgs, I’m fascinated with gaming applications in education, and I was among that first generation of librarians who set up shop in Second Life.  I’ve given presentations on the viability of virtual worlds in libraries, as well as in the field of education.  Whenever I would give these presentations on Second Life, some smart-ass in the audience would invariably describe this richly developed interactive virtual world as nothing more than a passing fad. “Second Life won’t be around for long”, they’d say. “Nobody’s interested in Second Life”. … and I’d have to agree with them.

The truth was, I found myself trying to defend Second Life from myself just as much as I’d defend it against other people.  I just wasn’t sure whether it would last, but by golly, wasn’t it a lot of fun? So after a while, I’d stop trying to defend Second Life.  After all, it was just one product from a single company, and that company might not be around forever.  When that smart-ass in the audience would interrogate me about Second Life, I’d say: “You’re probably right. Second Life might not last forever. It might even be on the way out. BUT”, (I added this caveat to my repertoire very quickly) ” -if it DOES, it will be replaced by something better just as quickly”. This is something that we see a lot of in our profession.  New technologies materialize very quickly, and then just as you’re trying to grok the old, outdated tech, something new and exciting comes along. How many of my librarian colleagues out there remember databases on CD-Rom? How many remember searching with DIALOG? These interfaces are mostly a thing of the past, and yet the skill set required to use them hasn’t changed. When Second Life goes the way of the noble dodo, many virtual librarians will be forced to adapt their virtual skills to something new. But what will that new thing be? Many game consoles today have already begun to explore virtual communications in their menu screens. The XBox console allows users to scroll through their main menu with the help of an online avatar. Like any other avatar, your virtual representation on XBox Live is the way that other see you. It allows you to control your personal image in the XBox Live community.

Some areas of XBox Live actually allow you to interact with friends as your avatars. Although this virtual interaction has not yet attained the level of a virtual world on the scale of Second Life, it is already moving in that direction. Consider XBox’s new peripheral, the XBox Kinect. Last Christmas, I just got a brand new XBox Kinect. The Kinect, as many of you know, is Microsoft’s attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Nintendo Wii. The device itself is a motion-sensitive camera that tracks the user’s movements, and allows the player to use their whole body to control their character’s actions on-screen. The virtue of this is twofold. Number one, it allows for a greater level of immersion. Players feel like they’re a part of the game. Seeing your avatar jump around on the screen to match your movements allows you to feel like a participant, rather than an observer. Secondly, it gets your fat butt off the couch and requires you to actually move around somewhat.

Craig jumping ecceedingly gracefully

When you need to jump your raft in the game, you merely jump in real life, as gracefully as you're able ...

This screen capture illustrates an important point. Not only will the XBox Kinect track your movements, it allows the game to take frequent snapshots of you jumping around the living room in your pajamas; which you may then share with friends through KinectShare online, e-mail, or even Facebook. You can compare scores with your friends, and challenge each other in a variety of online games. So the Kinect adds a layer of social interaction, on top of the virtual interaction. This is where it gets spooky.

The next great advancement from Kinect will be “Kinect Avatars“, due out this Spring. Watch this short video, to give you an idea of what this will involve:

Kinect Avatars will allow the user to hold a little coffee klatch with other users and discuss anything you want. The device will pick up on your facial movements in order to render expressions. You’ll be able to conduct talk shows, create live performances, and even hold a small workshop, all through your XBox.** When finished, you can share the videos on YouTube or Facebook. Proving once again, that when Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, he was underestimating by a long shot.

Will XBox Live become the next virtual world? Surely the other consoles (Wii, PS3) will have similar ways of interacting online. Will they ever be compatible with each other? Or will something new come along that’s greater than all of these and Second Life put together? How do YOU want to interact with friends online? And once you invite all your friends into your very home, how will you ever get them to leave? >_<

* Feel free to mercilessly make fun of that title in the comments below. [nods] ** So, 8-bit contributors, shall we start scheduling the weekly 8-bit Library Talk Show now? :D

Gaming Reader’s Advisory SMACKDOWN


Calling all 8bit contributors and readers – time for some friendly competition! Working together, we can compile an awesome list of Reader’s Advisory recommendations based on our favorite games. Here’s how to play!

Leave a comment on this post with the following info:

  • First, the game you’re using as a jumping off point. You can use console, PC, MMORPG, board games – whatever floats your boat – and give us a few words about why you love it.
  • Then, three recommendations based on #1 – a book, a movie, and another game. Also, a quick explanation for why you chose each.

Next – the friendly competition part! Others will reply to your post giving your RA a score, out of a total 15 possible – 5 for synergy (“Those recommendations TOTALLY work together!”), 5 for originality (“Dude, I NEVER would have thought of that!”), and 5 for pure AWESOME (“OMGWTFBBQ, I need to go get those RIGHT NOW!!!”).

Winner gets eternal 8bit glory. All participants benefit from each other’s kickass ideas.

Let’s do this!! And I’ll go first…

Click on me to read the full article at Mashable!

Guitar Hero: RIP


Click on me to read the full article at Mashable!

Good call on Activison’s part.  Guitar Hero sort of faded from the spotlight when Rock Band came out.  The nonstop barrage of Guitar Hero related titles (Band Hero anyone?) also flooded the market with less than awesome crap.  Instead of dragging it out for every penny they could squeeze out of it, Guitar Hero has died an honest death.

Much love to Guitar Hero for (IMHO) starting up the music game trend.  Just think about all the cool things it did for library video game programming.

The Beauty of Halo


Head on over to Just a Bald Man… to read his excellent post “THE BEAUTY OF HALO”

For those parents who believe that video games have no redeeming educational value, I simply ask you to sit down and watch your child for a while – not just once for a few minutes, but over a period of time. If we take the time to really pay attention – to put down our iPhones, step away from the TV, lay aside our book – and really watch them, we can see some amazing things. Some of those things are obvious. The can learn about history, art, music, adventure, and a wide array of other things that virtually all parent views as “beneficial learning.”

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