Looking Ahead to 2017 | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, January 2017

New Year poster. 2017 Vibrant 3D Pixel Letters.At year’s end, you may have made one primary New Year’s resolution, but there’s no rule that says you can have only one.
So in addition to better health, smarter finances, or earning that promotion,
why not consider some new habits that
will make your gaming life more rewarding and let you relate better to your ­gaming patrons.

Get back to Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO burned bright but faded fast. The social tidal wave that the game started receded in light of missing features and updates that made the game less fun to play. However, firm Niantic has been working diligently to make it more enjoyable and interactive. With an enhanced tracking system that now shows Pokémon in relation to Poke Stops, increased spawn rates, and a more diverse population of pocket monsters (plus, there’s a rumor that new Pokémon will be added soon), now’s the perfect time to rekindle the excitement and novelty of the initial release. Schedule “Poke Walks” around your neighborhood (perfect in combination with those “get in shape” resolutions) and see if the trading feature is ever introduced; if so, you’ve got the perfect reason to start a Pokémon GO club.

Diversify

Gamers all too often tend to find one genre or game-play style that they enjoy and stick to it. Dedicated sports game players, RPG (role-playing game) enthusiasts, or first-person shooter (FSP) veterans rarely branch out. Try to find approachable, enjoyable games in the most popular genres and push them toward your patrons (make sure to try out a few yourself) to get them out of their comfort zones.

Do you have patrons who have never picked up the controller for a shooter? Encourage them to give Doom a spin. If you know gamers who always rush into in-game encounters with wild abandon, encourage them to try out Dishonored 2 and go through each level without being spotted by enemies. Sports gamers might be willing to give Rocket League a try and would probably find the team-based play of Overwatch appealing.

Of course, diversity doesn’t just apply to game-play mechanics. Make an effort this year to have the characters in your gaming collection reflect the population that plays them. Horizon Zero Dawn, coming out this year for the Playstation 4, features a female protagonist. TellTale’s “Walking Dead” series is a great game for many reasons, not the least because it features an African American man as the chief player character. Never Alone integrates elements of the Iñupiat people, a culture of Alaska natives, into its story and imagery. With some research, it’s possible to find great games with diverse characters and themes. Encourage your gaming patrons to embrace diversity and be champions for the underrepresented. It’s more important than ever for the library to be a place where communities are built and strengthened; let your gaming collection and programming be a part of that critical mission.

Finish it already

How many of us have a backlog of games that we’ve never finished, or have only played for a few hours? Yes, the constant barrage of new releases and ­triple-A hits means that it’s far too easy to ping from one game to another, but make it your goal this year to finish the single-player campaign of every game you buy. It leads to an all-around more fulfilling engagement with the hobby you love so much. Besides, if you can honestly say that you’ve played every game on your shelf, you have a perfect excuse to buy more games!

In that vein, consider extending the checkout period for your circulating games if it’s less than two weeks. Yes, there are gamers who can crush even the most challenging campaigns in a caffeine-fueled weekend binge, but for most of us, playing a game to completion is a serious commitment that can’t always be attended to every day. Respect your patrons by giving them plenty of time to experience the games they check out and get the most out of every one.

Have fun!

Like many gamers who engage in heated competitive sessions, I’m occasionally guilty of insisting that games aren’t supposed to be fun, they’re supposed to be challenging, and there should be no relaxing, no friendly rivalries, no celebrating well-played strategies that still resulted in a loss. That’s obviously not true, and it’s an attitude from which we all need to get away.

Yes, games are meant to be challenging, but when it all comes down to it, games aren’t designed to separate the strong from the weak; they’re intended to bring players of all degrees together to learn from one another, develop social skills and creative thinking, and celebrate memorable moments. Encourage this culture at your library. It’s vital that we all remember that everyone benefits when we work in unison and that we can collaborate even in ­competition.

Happy New Year, and until next month, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

This article was published in Library Journal's January 1, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.