Wednesday, August 09, 2006

gaming in libraries: take-aways from Steven Markley

Recently interviewed Steven Markley here about gaming. Librarians might see some serious trackback (tracking back to the real door of the real library, and really going in and using the real collection, that is) if they incorporate a few of these low-to-mid-hassle tips to woo gamers. This is real "long tail" business, here. You put a dozen gaming books in your 790s, advertise them right, and bingo -- you'll have trouble keeping them on the shelves. I've done it, I've seen it, it works.


A few key points from Steve, with some further thoughts by me:

"But RPGs force us to interact with the story and contribute to its telling; there's a certain magic that results from the ideas of four or five people bouncing around a table or living room or wherever."

My take: if you want to build community in and around your library (and you do, don't you?), harness the interactions of people who are so actively interested and involved in story-making or "storytelling" through role-playing games. Hardcore gamers love gaming, and if they see you as an ally it could be very good for all parties.

"A campaign can end, and another can begin with the same characters or in the same setting with fresh characters, letting the story continue while giving a sense of accomplishment to the players. Or a campaign can be run on and on, never reaching any conclusion but simply continuing until the players move away or burn out... and maybe never really stop."

My take: Gamers can become long-term patrons if you make your library available to them and useful to them.

"Seriously, gamers have a bad image in general, and with the ladies especially. While some of this is mainstream snobbery toward the fringe, I honestly think a lot of it is gamers' fault. For whatever reason, gamers tend to be poorly socialized males that generally view women as objects of desire or unknowable x-factors, not real people. I think that's true of many men, but gamers end to be especially guilty of it."

My take: you're going to have to watch out for creeps. You want a relatively creep-free environment where females and males can join in activities without too much creepiness. Keyword here: creep. Watch out for them.

We want an equitable place to play, trade dice, and talk gaming. You don't want to scare the ladies out of your library by running some kind of creepy dungeon of gaming in the quiet reading area, or in the YA section.

"Another thing WW did was make female characters strong and viable personalities, rather than merely sex objects (though there is a subtext of eroticism in the contemporary vampire myth, which WW plays on). Finally, the emphasis of WW games was more on the characters themselves and interpersonal interactions, rather than combat tables and beating down the opposition -- so the goals became more about issues personal to the character, and less about concrete goals like leveling up, kill counts or treasure."

My take: Follow White Wolf's lead in this, and pro-actively promote character and community driven games. This will take some coordination with gamers, and some knowledge of the personalities of any local gamers you might want to invite to head up the activities. Don't pick a pig to be the first game-leader or whatnot. You might even consider getting a few people (certainly including a woman) to work together to design the game setting. Keyword: inclusive. Be ye inclusive. Practice inclusivity. Inclusivitiness. Be an inclusivite. A citizen of Inclusiville.

"I do notice a lot of female gamers are also anime fans. It's possible there's some sort of correlation, there. WW has an anime game called Exalted that's doing quite well, and many fans of the WoD are also Exalted fans, and vice-versa, creating a lot of genre mixing."

My take: From my experience working with gaming and manga/anime programs in libraries, if you can get a strong group of anime fans getting together for popcorn and a movie on Saturday afternoon, you'll also have a subset of that group who'll take out manga, and other graphic novels, and a smaller subset who game. Manga fans and gamers are natural allies. Exploit this.

"There's been cross-pollenization between Wizards of the Coast's collectible card games (like Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering) and their D&D property..."

My take: younger patrons tend to be the biggest fan of the card games. If your gaming night(s) can include kids, teens, and adults, all running different kinds of games, so much the better for your circulation stats -- so long as you make sure to display books of interest for these programs.

"...other figures say that the number of gamers is holding steady or even that there are more gamers. I guess depends on how broadly you apply the definition of gaming or interpret the numbers. But even if there is a shrinking number of gamers, that doesn't worry me; it's the lack of diversity in the market that is the cause of concern."

My take: you'll do well to impress gamers by having a variety of gaming systems' rulebooks on hand. This won't cost you alot of $$s, but it will earn you a lot of respect.

"...pen and paper gaming as a whole is doing fine, as far as I know, and I don't see consoles and other gaming mediums being direct competitors, as they fill different gaming needs..."

My take: don't think you've got all the gamers just because you're running LAN computer-game parties for your YA patrons. And don't think that if you set up a pen and paper RPG gaming night that you've got all the gamers. Have both & you'll see some overlap, but you'll see unique sets coming to each kind of program too.

"Read up on the books and play or run something. After that, the game groups will gel or fall apart based on the participants; you can create an environment for them, but it's the people that make the games. So try to find good ones."

My take: a gaming night program is going to take tending to. If you don't take care of it, get involved, and know what's happening, it may spin in some unwanted or creepy direction. So frickin participate.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

12 info viz: the higher dimensions toward superstrings

Thanks to Information Aesthetics, take a look at this animated explanation of higher space/time dimensions (pic links to Flash page):