Like most American families back in the day, mine had an Atari 2600. I was too young to manipulate the now-iconic joystick, but I had fun watching everybody else play. Frogger was one of my favorite games to watch. When poor little Frogger would meet his terrible fate by way of a hungry alligator or a semitrailer, and the game’s soundtrack would make the partly satisfying, partly discouraging SPLAT! sound, I would giggle with an enthusiasm other boys reserved for sports or climbing trees.
Thus began a lifetime romance with games: video games, board games, and card games‚ along with comic books‚ were the things I loved the most as a child. Since I’ve never grown up, I’m still passionate about them. I visit the comics shop at least three times a week, and there are nights when I have to force myself to go to bed by 3 a.m.
I’ve owned just about every major console, have played most titles that gamers would consider classics, built a gaming rig just for the geek cred, and lost most of my mid-20s to World of Warcraft. My fiancée calls Magic: ‚ÄâThe Gathering the other woman (don’t let her fool you‚ she’s a gamer as well).
Doing what I love
I’ve grown passionate about libraries, too. I started working at Wayne County Public Library, NC, part-time when I was in college and have been there ever since. It was a natural fit. I spent so much time there as a child, borrowing books on all the awesome things I loved to read about‚ like ninjas, karate, UFOs, monsters, and folk stories with big heroes‚ and it was there that I first discovered the Internet.
Since working at the library, I’ve managed to merge the things I’m passionate about into my job. I select comics for our collection, I oversee our gaming programs, and since I work with teens as our teen services coordinator, I don’t ever have to grow up entirely.
As good a handle as we have on games and gaming, there’s still a lot to understand. We know why gaming is a positive social activity and why it needs to be part of library service. Now it’s time to comprehend the games themselves, to know what the essentials are, to understand that just because a game is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, to approach gaming collection development‚ both for circulating and programming‚ the same way we consider books and films.
Also, we need to appreciate all the issues facing gamers when it comes to purchase, because those are the identical issues that we’ll tackle as librarians.
You will not only hear in this column from me but also from other gamers and librarians as well‚ people who get it and are ready to take gaming in libraries to the next level.
The game plan
In the coming months, I’ll cover the essential titles in gaming’s major genres: first-person shooters, action/adventure, role-playing games, sports/racing, and what I like to call experimental games‚ titles that don’t fit cozily into one major genre, or simply create a new genre all their own. Once we’re caught up, I’ll look at new (or at least recent) releases to flesh out our core collection with some current selections.
The focus will be on video games; tabletop games will get a mention here and there but more so from a programming than a collection development standpoint (spoiler alert: I do not consider circulating board games a good idea). Occasionally, I may even look at specific literary themes or tropes and talk about games that relate to or exemplify them. Expect a few words as well on how games tie into other media‚ and I don’t mean games based on books and vice versa‚ I’m talking about the next level of readers’ advisory here. I think it’s going to be a fun ride.
I hope you’re as excited about the future of this column as I am. I cannot wait to see where this road leads us. If there’s one thing gaming has taught me, it’s that sometimes there’s a big, scary monster behind the door, but on the other side of that big, scary monster is sweet, sweet loot, so let’s go get some of it!
Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and achievements of Liz Danforth, who held the line with this column for more than two years. She’s a brilliant gamer and an eloquent advocate. I have a tough act to follow.
Until next time, keep telling yourself‚ just one more level!