This introduction to gaming aims to provide a basic overview of games, a survey of research on issues in gaming, ideas for gaming programs for youth and a range of online and print resources about gaming. (To jump to a section, click on the link in the Table of Contents.)

Why should we care about games? Humans have played games for as long as we have been a species. And over the years games have served similar functions throughout; they are a social activity, a way to sharpen the mind, and a spectacle of competition and teamwork.

With the advent of computers, a whole new realm of game possibilities has opened up. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 72 percent of all American households play video games. While game players range from young to old (the average player is 37, according to ESA), teens are a particularly enthusiastic audience; a study by Kahne, Middaugh and Evans suggested that 97 percent of teens play video games, three-quarters play weekly and one-third play daily (ctd in Farmer).

While video games make up a significant portion of game-playing in today’s digital world, board games hold their own as a tactile and face-to-face activity that remains popular. In a 2009 report by NPR, industry leaders reported that board game sales increased by more than 20 percent from 2008-2009. Some individuals interviewed said board games are a cheaper form of entertainment and a way to cut back on spending during tough economic times. The owner of a board game store described his game nights that draw players aged 12 to 60. He is convinced that the opportunity for human contact and socializing are what will make people want to keep on playing.

An Anecdotal Introduction to Gaming

I am an aspiring youth services librarian and I like playing family games, but as I set out to really research gaming, I felt that I was delving into a new world. The word “gamer” evokes for me a subculture of individuals who play games that must not be accessible to a casual game-player like me. I assumed that these games would be very different than the kinds of familiar games I have played with friends and family.

It was not until a friend I met recently began to introduce me to “gamer” games – games that I would have previously considered “on the other carcassonne1.jpgside” of the gamer/non-gamer dichotomy – that I began to see games in a whole new way. As my friend introduced some of his favorite games (try Carcassonne and Dominion, both have pretty gentle learning curves) I began to see that games are like books; there is a huge variety of games that range in difficulty, artistry, subject, and quality.

As I talked to other gamers, I found that most are willing and competent guides who are glad to show you around games that they enjoy. At a recent National Gaming Day event at my local public library, I arrived late but was welcomed to a table and taken on as a new pupil, so to speak, for the game Seven Wonders. I stopped to watch another game as I was leaving and the players paused to apologize for having started before I arrived. They invited me to another local gaming event and I left feeling like I had stumbled into a very welcoming space.

The welcoming space convinced me that games could be a powerful and fun way for youth services librarians to serve a wide variety of teens. Because games are so varied, there is probably something out there for everyone from toddler to teen to elder and even for non-competitive folks dominion1.jpg(for example, the cooperative games designed by Jim Deacove can be found on the Family Pastimes website). Some people treat games as social entertainment, some use games for learning, and others engage with games as musicians or composers would with music; as long-standing cultural practice. And youth services librarians have a stake in helping people, and youth in particular, achieve all of these goals: finding entertainment, learning, and engaging with culture.

-Miriam Larson

History of Gaming in Libraries

Despite its reputation of silence and strict order, libraries have opened the door to games for the past 150 years (An Online Toolkit for Building Gaming @ Your Library). Unsurprisingly, chess was the game of choice that has been played in libraries since the beginning, and it laid the groundwork for other amusements. During the Great Depression, toys and games were donated to libraries, and librarians put them into circulation, allowing children to take them home. Later, in the mid-1960s, libraries hosted "game design camps, jigsaw puzzle contests, and live action roleplaying" (An Online Toolkit for Building Gaming @ Your Library). Contemporary gaming and game programing in libraries continue to evolve. (Scroll down to the section on Game Programming in Libraries to learn more.)

International Games Day @ your library

Originally known as National Gaming Day, International Games Day began in 2008. International Games Day occurs on the first Saturday each November, most recently on November 3, 2012. The American Library Association (ALA) developed the event in an effort to promote the social side of gaming. The stated goals for the event include encouraging patrons to interact with diverse peers, strategize together, and learn from one another. There are two primary components to each International Games Day, both coordinated by ALA. The first event is a massive, international game tournament. The tournament includes both online and offline events. Online events are played directly against other libraries via an internet connection. Offline events are played locally, and scores are posted online and compared against players at other libraries. Additionally, ALA partners with sponsors such as game publishing companies to distribute free games to registered libraries.

International Games Day 2012 occurred on November 3. Tournament events included an online Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament and an offline Mario Kart Wii tournament. Free donated games were sent to the first 1,000 libraries to register for the event. Worldwide, 1,281 libraries and 17,152 players participated.

The next International Games Day will be November 2, 2013. Libraries can register online at

Issues in Gaming: Representation and Violence

“Non-gamers may decree the popularity of video games among young people as a sign of the downfall of humanity and ruination of fine young minds, but that actually places video games in good company alongside other forms of entertainment that have borne the same accusations over the years, such as comic books, movies, the telephone, the waltz, and the novel. (Most of these are now well-ensconced within libraries, making it fair to say that public libraries specialize in materials that were once thought to lead to the ruination of fine young minds.)” Neiburger and Gullett.

Violence in Games

In the same way certain books may advocate for or against violence, so different games also incorporate violence with varying levels of frequency and detail. While games, video games in particular, have garnered a reputation for gratuitous violence, the Entertainment Software Association reports that only 15% of games sold in 2005 were rated “M” for “Mature.” Studies have probed the relationship between violent video games and aggressive acts of violence by teens and have found no conclusive evidence that playing violent video games leads young people to aggressive or criminal behavior (Ferguson).

Violence in video games is traditionally confusing for those who have not grown up with video games because unlike other forms of aggression in media the player is the one in an active role, that is, he or she is the one who takes the role of the aggressor. Huesmann as well as Flemming and Rickwood point out that gamers' “normative beliefs” about what forms apposite behavior in a given situation have the most impact on how a video game with violent content will impact them. This means that, rather than learning from the game content, personal learned behaviors (from friends, family, or school) are of more concern to librarians when it comes to the promotion of violence. Extensive psychological testing done by Flemming and Rickwood on 35 girls and 36 boys concluded that “…there was no significant increase in aggressive mood scores for either boys or girls after playing the violent game” as well as noting that even violent video games offer a boost in overall positive mood when compared to traditional pencil-and-paper games. Even so, the research also suggests that violent video games may result in greater arousal in children than nonviolent games (Flemming and Rickwood, 2001). It is best for the librarian to exercise caution, but also to be well-informed as to the content of video game acquisitions as well as video game culture and local video game user populations as a whole. There is no denying that video games have an educational or social potential for libraries, but librarians should nonetheless be aware of game content and the concerns and needs of patrons or the parents of younger patrons.

It is still important to choose age-appropriate games and to understand the rating system for video games. Computer and video games are rated by the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) . Visit the ESRB website or skip to the Gaming Vocabulary section to read definitions for each rating.

Gender Representation in Games

A common assumption about gaming is that the majority of gamers are male. In fact, forty-two percent of game players are women, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and women over 18 make up a greater portion of the game-playing population (37 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (13%). Interestingly, female game-players make up the majority when it comes to “casual games.” These are games that are simple and cheap, like solitaire, and Donghee Yvette Wohn found that the characters represented in casual games are much more likely to be female; of all characters represented in causal games (including non-humans), 42% are female as compared to 12% male characters (201).

While gaming may be more gender-balanced that one might think, games still have their share of sexism. As educators, and particularly as media specialists, it is important to be conscientious about the ways gaming may perpetuate stereotypes about women and discourage female players from being active gamers.

In contrast to casual games, other studies of video games have found that many do a bad job of equitably and respectfully representing women. Dietz found that only 59% of a sample of video games had female characters of any sort. Many of the female characters were not main characters and they were more likely than male characters to be portrayed as hyper-sexualized (ctd in Wohn 201).

In his article “Video Games as Digital Learning Resources,” Agosto offers some tips for supporting girl gamers. He is particularly interested in doing this in order to foster girls’ experiences with computers. Agosto suggests that school library media specialists can help by providing games that girls favor and provides a list of characteristics for games that girls are more likely to favor:

Girls favor games that:
  • eschew the conflict between good and evil
  • center on storylines and character development
  • are not competitive in nature
  • use real-life locales
  • feature strong female characters in charge of decisions and actions
  • enable users to play the role of main character, either through self-identification or through the power to make decisions
  • focus on human relationships
  • offer some educational value as opposed to those designed purely for entertainment
  • contain non-violent action
  • reflect girls’ common play patterns

For help finding games that fit these characteristics, visit the Girls Tech Project hosted by Douglass College.

Types of Games

Board Games


Board games can be categorized in wide variety of ways. BoardGameGeek offers a list of "subdomains" or types of board games. This categorization is useful because they have an easily searchable database of games that are organized by subdomain and further broken down by more specific type, which they call "categories." (definitions are quoted from BoardGameGeek unless otherwise noted)

  • Abstract Games (no description on BoardGameGeek) – Games like chess or connect-four that are strategic but not themed.
  • Customizable Games - All forms of Collectible Games, such as CCGs (Collectible Card Games or Customizable Card Games), CDGs (Collectible Dice Games), CMGs (Collectible Miniature Games), LCGs (Living Card Games), and TCGs (Trading Card Games).
  • Children’s games (no description on BoardGameGeek) – Games for kids pre-K through elementary school.
  • Family Games (no description on BoardGameGeek) – Games for families. Many are cross-listed in other game subdomains.
  • Party Games (no description on BoardGameGeek) – Games for parties. These are often suitable for large groups, some are suitable for all ages as well.
  • Strategy Games – Games generally built around a set of rules and mechanics with a unifying theme often added later.
  • Thematic Games – Games that contain a strong theme which drives the overall game experience, creating a dramatic story ("narrative"). . . . This type of game often features player to player direct conflict (with the chance of elimination), dice rolling, and plastic miniatures.
  • War Games (no description on BoardGameGeek) – Games that use war as theme and often overlaps with strategy games and may involve moving units around maps or strategically using cards to advance in different ways.

Video/Computer Games

In their article on gaming and critical thinking, Gerber and Scott offer a category system by genre for video games that is useful because it describes the appeal of different games. (See examples under Gaming Vocabulary-Genres)

  • Adventure – Player must complete puzzles or tasks by interacting with characters in a scenario. Emphasizes exploration over reflexes and confrontation.
  • Fighter – Player competes using some means of combat, usually one-on-one.
  • First-person shooter – Player takes a first-person view, centered on a weapon, such as a gun. Requires speed and fast reflexes.
  • Music – Player emulates music using mock instruments or body movements to represent tones.
  • Platformer – Specific type of action game involving jumping onto platforms to travel through a course with obstacles. Emphasizes precision and fast reflexes.
  • Puzzle – Player solves logic puzzles or maneuvers through mazes. Often emphasizes fast reflexes.
  • Racing – Player drives a vehicle and competes in a race. Player usually takes on the view from the driver’s seat. Emphasizes precision and fast reflexes.
  • Role play – Player assumes the role of a character and explores a world, gaining new abilities along the way. Many games have a science fiction or fantasy component. Emphasizes story.
  • Simulation – Player is involved in a realistic simulation of the world. Simulations may involve life, building or business.
  • Sports – Player emulates the experience of a sports game. Games involve choosing strategies for play, displaying physical skills or both.
  • Strategy – Player has command of units, such as an army, and seeks to defeat opponents. Can either be real-time or turn-based. Emphasizes tactical planning.

Online Gaming

To sum it up briefly, online gaming is a category of computer games that require the internet. This genre can encompass a large variety of games; ranging from multi-player role playing games like Everquest or World of Warcraft to flash based games like Bejeweled. The multi-player real-time strategy game has also gained recent popularity through League of Legends, which has finally surpassed World of Warcraft's seven-year reign of most popular multi-player online game (by subscription).

Online gaming is a great way to introduce information literacy. One study at the University of Dubuque in Iowa found a strong connection between fantasy football and information literacy. The library held two brief fantasy football themed orientation sessions where they introduced strategies to evaluate web sources. At the end of the session, students filled out a an evaluation in which 80% of students were able to identify two to three appropriate source evaluation criteria (Librarian's Guide to Gaming). By pairing research techniques with online gaming, the librarians were able to educate the students in a meaningful and entertaining way.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind with online gaming:
  • It's FREE! Most games found online are at no cost (with the exception of some subscription-based games such as World of Warcraft)
  • Make sure you have the necessary requirements: computers, software updates, high speed internet, etc
  • Double check your library's computer policy. You made need to update or adjust it to allow for patrons to access online games.
  • Create bookmarks suggesting free gaming sites
  • Incorporate online gaming into programming with a LAN (Local Area Network) party. A guide to setting up a LAN party can be found here.

Free Online Gaming sites:

Internet Security to Keep in Mind

With any public internet access policy, security must be kept in mind, especially when young people are given free rein of the internet with little to no adult supervision and guidance. This may be more difficult when considering whether or not to employ internet filters, what to filter, and how this will affect the patrons' use of games and other sites on the internet. Samuel C. McQuade wrote "We Must Educate Young People About Cybercrime Before They Start College" (Chronicle of Higher Education 2007) as an instigator of change for America to better inform students and to regulate the internet in more ways than to just prevent minors from finding porn or to lock up adult predators. While this may be extreme, and libraries have to consider some things that are not addressed in McQuade's argument (freedom of speech, freedom of information, etc.), the idea that young adults are causing and succumbing to cybercrime is valid. This cybercrime encompasses cyber bullying, identity theft, and harmful programs called viruses. With viruses, the average young patron may not know exactly what these are or where they come from. Although many young adults have had some exposure to viruses in one way or another, it is doubtful that they are overly concerned with identifying sites that are prone to viruses. This is why libraries and librarians should install anti-virus software on all library computers and do regular maintenance (or hire someone else to check the computers) to prevent system malfunctions and loss of availability.
This actually applies to older patrons who may come in to play games on the internet as well. Galen Grimes, Michelle Hough, Elizabeth Mazur, and Margaret Signorella worked together to discover that older adults are lacking knowledge about internet security, while younger generations do know about the more common security problems due to their proficient use of computers. (This does not mean that they are better able to apply that knowledge.) The library, then, has the opportunity to include security awareness in the programs it offers, especially when dealing with internet games.

Gaming Vocabulary

Multi-Player Games - A multi-player game is any type of game that allows more than one person to play at the same time, as the term suggests. Some popular examples of this would be any of the Mario Kart racing games. However, unlike many multi-player games, Mario Kart is not an example of a game that encourages participants to problem solve together while playing.

Multi-player games offer a host of benefits for libraries to utilize resources to help promote community engagement as well as education. Starting in 2005 researchers in New Mexico State University’s Learning Games Lab carried out an experiment alongside local middle school students (half of whom were female) regarding the potential of video games as a learning tool and discovered that 72% of the students expressed their preference for multi-player games, of these respondents 35% said they enjoy having the opportunity to play with friends in a collaborate environment, 30% said they enjoy working with others to reaching the goal of the game, 25% said they enjoy the competition with others, and 8% felt multi-player provides more of a challenging gaming environment. One teen remarked: “I would rather play multi-player because you are playing with a real person not just a computer; Multi-player games are more challenging because you both have to play as a team. One-player isn’t that fun considering there is no one to play with” (Trespalacios, et. all 2011).
Professor of Learning Sciences Jesús Trespalacios suggests that multi-player games offer a constructive way to challenge students’ natural sense of competition in such a way to avoid stress and anxiety.

An example of multi-player gameplay can be seen in the video game Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Gamers can choose whether they want to play as Harry, Ron, or Hermione—and it makes a difference. Each character has certain strengths that will help the party in certain ways. When this game was released in 2004, participants had to be in the same room, playing from the same console. However, with the advent of ubiquitous wireless Internet in every entertainment system, all multi-player games can be played with anyone from anywhere. Players can either work together in co-op missions or go head to head in certain games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Not only did Uncharted 2 win Game of the Year in 2009, but IGN Entertainment named it Best Multiplayer Game of 2009 (Best of 2009).

MMORPG – Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game. MMORPGs are online computer games set in virtual worlds that allow many people to play at the same time and interact with each other as well as the game ( Most MMORPGs are fantasy-based, and MMORPGs can be free or charge a monthly subscription fee. The most popular MMORPG is World of Warcraft (WoW).

Learning Curve - The "learning curve" for a game may describe how difficult a game is to learn to play or it may describe the rate at which levels in video games increase in difficulty.

From E-rated to M-rated games, video games generally progress by levels. They have easier elements initially as the player gains more experience, then the difficulty level increases. A good example of this can be seen in Disney Interactive Studios and Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts series of games. The game has a third-person point of view and players control Sora who is the Wielder of the Keyblade. Throughout the story, Sora is trying to find his friends but must learn how to master the Keyblade with the assistance of Donald and Goofy (as well as other recognizable Disney characters). The more experience Sora has the more his fighting abilities increase. Also, players can collection new Keyblades after defeating villains in the worlds Sora travels to. By the end of game the difficulty level is extremely high, but players have learned the strategies along to way to be able to ultimately win.

Mechanism - Game mechanisms are the means by which games create strategy, story and competition. Game designers are perhaps the most attuned to game mechanisms. Martin Wallace described how he came up with Struggle of Empires and shaped the game mechanism around his historical theme. He was interested in shaping the game around the period in European history when there was a war of succession each decade. During this period alliances were made and broken with regularity. Wallace designed the game mechanism around these alliances; “the key mechanism is the alliance system which stops allies from attacking each other. . . once you are allied with somebody they cannot attack you, although they might not work too hard to help you. Overall the rules are actually simple, but the interactions are complex.”

If you or one of your patrons find a mechanic that you like, or perhaps it is a useful educational tool, you can browse board-games by different mechanic types on here.

Ratings - Developed by the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB), the following are the ratings used to label video and computer games:

  • EARLY CHILDHOOD: Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
  • EVERYONE: Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
  • EVERYONE 10+: Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
  • TEEN: Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
  • MATURE: Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
  • ADULTS ONLY: Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
  • RATING PENDING: Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)

Genres – Video games are frequently organized by genre. Some of the more common video game genres that libraries should be familiar with are (McCann):
  • ACTION: These games are all about timing and quick reflexes. Popular examples include the Mario games, Tomb Raider, the Pokemon series and causal games like Fruit Ninja.
  • ACTION-ADVENTURE: This genre adds storytelling to the action genre. Popular examples include the Zelda series, Assassin's Creed, LEGO Lord of the Rings and games based on movies.
  • MUSIC: As the name suggests, these games relate to music in some way. Popular examples include Guitar Hero, Wii Music, and Rock Band, and dance games such as Just Dance and Dance Dance Revolution.
  • PUZZLE: These games are more popular for hand-held consoles. Popular examples include Sudoku, crossword, and other classic puzzles as well as Angry Birds, Jeopardy, and Tetris.
  • ROLE-PLAYING: Role-Playing Games (RPGs) are stories told through video games. Popular examples include the Final Fantasy series, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Kingdom Hearts, and World of Warcraft.
  • SHOOTER: Shooter games, including the sub-genre first-person shooters, allow players to engage in combat with other players or computer generated characters. Many objections to video game violence refer to games in this genre. Popular examples include Halo, Borderlands, Max Payne, and Call of Duty.
  • SIMULATION: This genre includes games that simulate real life tasks. Popular examples include The Sims, Minecraft, Nintendogs, and flight or driving simulators.
  • SPORTS: Sports games allow players to control their favorite teams or simulate sports play. Popular examples include Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, NBA and Wii Sports.
  • STRATEGY: Strategy games include classics like chess and other games that require careful thought and planning. Popular examples include Civilization, Age of Empires, Starcraft and Harvest Moon.

Developing a Gaming Collection

From determining the materials to developing a policy, there are many aspects to keep in mind when establishing a gaming collection.

The first step is to start small. Purchase a few games that are accessible to all ages. By limiting your collection, you can become acquainted with how your patrons are using your collection. From here you can build your collection guided by user trends and input.

An important element to keep in mind is establishing a policy specific to your game collection. If you are going to make your collection available for check out, you must consider loan periods and limits, fines and replacement fees, and what materials will be available for checkout (games, consoles, game pieces and accessories, etc.).

If you are purchasing a gaming console, there are many to choose from.

Wii.jpgWii: released in 2006, popular with all ages, known for it's wireless controller that detects movement.
external image Wii_U_console_and_controller.jpg Wii-U: released in 2012, a touch-screen console that is backwards-compatible with Wii games and peripherals, considered the successor to the Wii it has increased graphical abilities.
31355096-2-440-OVR-1.gifXbox 360: released in 2005, popular with hardcore gamers and males 15-34, supports popular games such as Halo, Bioshock, and Mass Effect
sony-playstation-3-3ej-460.jpgPlaystation 3: released 2006, attracts hardcore gamers and older crowd, known for it's impressive graphics and blu-ray player

There are several resources available to help you in deciding which games and consoles to buy. Keep in mind though, the best advice might come directly from your users.
Helpful resources:

Video games are not the only type of game that your library can add to its collection. There are many more formats to choose from like card games, board games, and tabletop role playing games. Card and board games may be hard to circulate and are usually kept within the library for in-home use; however, tabletop role playing has many books that are highly suited for circulation. Since tabletop games hardly need more than rule books and imagination, this may be a great addition to a library's collection.

Collection development for your gaming collection can extend outside the game itself. Here are some titles to help connect literacy to gaming.
Literature for gamers:
  • Magazines
    • Playstation
    • PSM
    • Games for Windows
    • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • GamePro
  • Manga
    • Kingdom Hearts
    • .Hack
    • World of Warcraft
  • Fiction
    • Resident Evil by S.D Perry
    • Halo series by Eric Nylund
    • Virtual War by Gloria Skurzynski
    • Epic by Connor Kostick
    • ​Legend of Drizzt ​by R.A. Salvatore

Game Programming in Libraries

Incorporating gaming programming into your library can open a whole new world of benefits. Beth Hoeffgen, Young Adult Librarian at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio, experienced many successes implementing gaming into her programming during Teen Tech Week. After being awarded the Teen Tech Week Mini Grant from ALA, she invested in three new videos games for the her Teen Video Game Club and prizes for a Super Smash Brother Tournament. The tournament was a rousing success with 24 teens in attendance. Hoeffgen stated that this gaming environment attracted new patrons to the library and facilitated an opportunity for the teens to socialize (Hoeffgen 2008). Including gaming in your library programs can appeal to new users, create educational experiences, and stimulate socialization.

According to Beth Saxton's article "All Thumbs Isn't a Bad Thing", there are three basic types of gaming programming:

Tournaments- These tournaments can vary in length. They can be a brief informal meet up after school or an all day affair with multiple systems. Holding tournaments is a great and easy way to ensure that all participants get equal playing time.
Some great games for tournaments are:
  • Guitar Hero for the Playstation (later versions available for other systems)
  • Rock Band for the Playstation or Xbox 360
  • Mario Kart for the Wii, GameCube, or N64
  • Super Smash Brothers for the Wii, GameCube, or N64
  • Dance Dance Revaluation (DDR) available for many systems
  • Madden NFL available for many systems

Each year, ALA sponsors a massive video game tournament on International Games Day @ your library. In 2012, 17,152 people at 1,281 libraries worldwide participated. International Games Day happens the first Saturday in November. To register your library, or for more information, visit

Free Play- Just set aside some time for free play. This works great in conjunction with after-school programs, community outreach events, and lock ins. Be sure to decide in advance how the players will take turns. Many of the games used for tournaments will work well here.
Other games you might consider:
  • Mario Party 8 for the Wii (Earlier versions available for the GameCube and N64)
  • Wii Sports for the Wii
  • Katamari different versions available in multiple systems

Meet-Ups- This kind of programming allows users with portable gaming devices, such as the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, to compete or collaborate using a wireless connection. This is a great way to get patrons with common interests together. The only downside is that the users must provide the equipment themselves.
Some games that facilitate meet-ups:
  • Pokemon for the DS
  • Animal Crossing for the DS
  • Nintendogs for the DS
  • Mario Kart for the DS
  • NFS Rivals for the PSP
  • Wipeout Pure for the PSP
  • Lumines for the PSP

Websites with more programming ideas:

Here is another event idea that heavily uses games as the main programming.
Lock-Ins- This is one of the programs being used by libraries that want to incorporate more after-hours programming to invite teens to visit the library. The forbidden nature of being in the library after it's closed for the day coupled with the privilege of being the only patrons to demand attention from the librarians and other staff or volunteers makes after-hours programming more intriguing to teens, which might increase the numbers of participants for a library's programs. Monicah Fratena wrote an article that describes the planning process for such an event. Her agenda for the lock-in included large blocks of time devoted to both video games and board games as well as more physical games like sardines and a scavenger hunt. Here is a list of other websites that have ideas for after-hours events.

Games and Learning

Educational games, and computer games in particular, have become increasingly popular among teachers and even among businesses and the military. While games do have potential as educational tools, librarians are shying away from strictly promoting educational games and are investing more in games that are genuinely for entertainment (An Online Toolkit for Building Gaming @ Your Library). Rather than hinder development, games for entertainment help children learn new forms of literacy such as visual literacy, multi-modal literacy, technological literacy, programming literacy, and informational literacy (Gaming and Literacy). Players also learn from each other; gaming is an inter-generational practice with teenagers teaming up with older counterparts and kids of different backgrounds bonding over a common interest.

Games and Literacy

Perhaps the seminal work on games and literacy is James Paul Gee’s What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Gee is a professor of literary studies and approaches videos games from the perspective of learning theory. In this book, Gee focuses on applying the theories of situated cognition (the theory that learning takes places within material, social, and cultural contexts), connectionism (the theory that thinking happens best through pattern recognition), and new literacies (the theory that literacy extends beyond reading and writing). Gee concludes that the best video games incorporate elements of learning, and enumerates 36 learning principles found in games. Gee stresses that his point is not necessarily that we should use games in education, but rather that these 36 principles of good video games should be used to improve education, with or without games. A few of the ways in which good video games engage players in learning are:
  • Games allow players to create as well as consume.
  • Games encourage players to think like scientists, forming and testing hypotheses.
  • Games lower the consequences of failure.
  • Games function at the outer edge of a player’s “regime of competence” (i.e. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development)
  • Games make players think about relationships, not just isolated facts.
Several of the 36 principles Gee presents relate to library instruction concepts, such as 1.) Active, Critical Learning Principle that stresses the importance of active and critical thinking, 18.) Text Principle that discusses the importance of the experiential context for understanding text, and 19.) Intertextual Principle that says texts should be understood within the broader family of texts.

Games and Information Literacy

Games are being used within school and academic libraries to instruct students in information literacy concepts. As Mashriqi says libraries should be a place of “flexibility, fun, and learning.” This can include Jeopardy- or Bingo-like games to teach library vocabulary or online games to teach phonics. Interactive whiteboards can be used to create simple games to review such concepts as the Dewey decimal system (Mashriqi, 2011). Get a Clue is a game developed by Utah Valley University library staff to orient students to the library. The game requires students to explore the library, moving from clue to clue, in order to aid a rather inept detective in solving a mystery (Smith, 2011). More sophisticated computer games are being used to teach advanced information literacy concepts. Utah Valley University also offers students a computer game titled LibraryCraft which instructs students on the resources available through the library’s website, basic search strategies, and library services such as Interlibrary Loan. Such games are enthusiastically received by students and faculty alike, and were played by students even when not required (Smith, 2011).

More Resources

Online Resources


Print Resources

  • Devlin, Keith J. (2011) Mathematics education for a new era: video games as a medium for learning. Natick, Mass.: A K Peters.
  • Gee, J. P. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2003.
  • Gee, James Paul. (2007) Good video games + good learning: collected essays on video games, learning, and literacy. New York : P. Lang.
  • Gilsdorf, Ethan. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: epic quest for reality among role players, online gamers and other dwellers of imaginary realms. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press. 2009.
  • Mayer, Brian and Christopher Harris. Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games. Chicago: ALA. 2009.
  • Nicholson, Scott. Everyone Plays at the Library: Creating Great Gaming Experiences for All Ages. Medford, NJ: Information Today. 2010.
  • Schaffer, David Williamson. (2006) How computer games help children learn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Squire, Kurt.Jenkins, Henry. (2011) Video games and learning: teaching and participatory culture in the digital age. New York : Teachers College Press.


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