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Overview of games and gamers./n Some learning using digital games./n 12 areas of interest to the wider library community./n Online games: World of Warcraft and Second Life./n The attributes of a gamer.

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Digital Games and Digital Libraries

Before we start…

I am not a librarian too…

Presentation by John Kirriemuir (no beard!)

and “Lucky the dog”

in this presentation
In this presentation
  • Overview of games and gamers.
  • Some learning using digital games.
  • 12 areas of interest to the wider library community.
  • Online games: World of Warcraft and Second Life.
  • The attributes of a gamer.
  • Often from own children who play games.
  • Gamers do things really quickly

… pick up objects …

aggregate objects …

manipulate objects.

  • If you don’t play digital games, you are less likely to discuss games with your peers.
digital games and game players
Digital games and game players

What …

  • Often complex, difficult, involving, thought-provoking, interactive (as opposed to reactive), graphically intense, instantaneously responsive, multi-threaded, multi-interface, social multiplayer games.
  • Video games have been around for ~30 years. Old enough to be considered no longer a “fad”, more a mainstream entertainment culture.
  • Things have moved on a bit in those 30 years. Take tennis, for example:
digital games and game players9
Digital games and game players

Who … There are many, many surveys. Most focus on the US games market. Key trends and facts:

  • About 35% to 45% of digital game players are female.
  • Average number of years adult gamers have been playing computer or video games: 12
  • Frequent game players in 2003: 83 million worldwide
  • Game play is displacing other media-centric activities, especially watching television. Online game play is a key driver in Internet use and broadband take-up.
more who social gaming
More who: social gaming

People play against friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family. The top four reasons parents play video games with their children:

    • 79% Because they’re asked to
    • 75% It’s fun for the entire family
    • 71% It’s a good opportunity to socialise with the child
    • 62% It’s a good opportunity to monitor game content

(ESA 2006 survey)

  • In the US, 32% of heads of households report they play games on wireless devices such as a cell phone or PDA.
  • Again in the US, 58% online game players are male, 42% of female.
more who neilsen entertainment survey
More who: Neilsen entertainment survey

According to a Nielsen entertainment survey, men spend more on computer games than they do on music.

It also found that games are starting to attract significant numbers of players beyond the core target market of males aged eight to 34. “Almost a quarter of gamers, 24%, are over 40 years, said the report.” It found that 40% of US homes own a PC, game console or handheld gaming device.

Almost a quarter of these, 23%, own all three types of gaming gadget and the vast majority of gamers, 89%, do their playing via a console.


digital games and game players14
Digital games and game players

Where …

  • At home.
  • Friends / relatives homes.
  • School / college / university.
  • Travel to school.
  • Travel to work.
  • At work.
  • When “roaming”.
  • (in the library…?).
digital games and game players15
Digital games and game players

When …

  • Whenever a person wants to.
  • (Online mobile games) whenever you are in range of a wifi hotspot so you can play against other people.
  • Mobile, persistent and online gaming means a player can drop in or out of a game to suit their needs.
  • Small portable devices with lit screens and increasingly long battery lives mean there are few situations where gaming is not possible (scuba diving?).
wario ware and nintendogs
Wario Ware and Nintendogs

Wario Ware

  • 200+ mini games in one game
  • Each mini game lasts 5 seconds
  • Use the stylus on the screen, or blow into the mic
  • In the 5 seconds, you must:
    • Figure out what to do
    • Do it


  • You own a dog
  • Teach it through voice commands
  • Take it for walks, play with it, feed it
my cousin is off to university
My cousin is off to University…

Here’s his electrical items list:

  • Xbox 360 <- games
  • Television (to play Xbox on)
  • Watch <- games
  • Digital Camera
  • Ipod
  • PSP <- games
  • Laptop computer <- games
  • Hoover / vacuum cleaner
  • Mobile phone <- games
  • Blackberry <- games (soon)

(btw whatever happened to “convergence”?)

digital games and game players18
Digital games and game players

How …

  • Handheld games console e.g. DS, PSP
  • Games console operated through TV
  • PC
  • Video game arcades
  • Mobile phones
  • PDAs
  • Front headseat on a plane
  • Keyring device e.g. digital pet keeper
  • … any other devices with a chip inside e.g. Internet-connected fridge
how many sold
How many sold?
  • PS2: 106 million by November 2005
  • Xbox: 24 million
  • GameCube: 21 million
  • Xbox 360: 5.05 million
  • GameBoy: 70 million
  • GBA: 75 million
  • PSP: 20 million
  • DS: 22 million
  • 718 video games have sold over 1 million copies each
  • Super Mario Bros (NES): 41 million copies sold
digital games and game players22
Digital games and game players

Why …

A lot of research into this, especially learning psychology. Two (related) oft-said questions:

1. “Why does someone voluntarily do the same repetitive task in a game over and over?”

2. “How can this enthusiasm / keenness / determination / focus be transferred to learning situations?”

and here s why question 1
…and here’s why (question 1)
  • Because games are difficult.
  • In addition to completing the game, there is the challenge of figuring out what to do and how to do it i.e. mastering the game.
  • They present a challenge (like crosswords, sudoko).
  • They appeal to the curiosity of people.
  • Often a game presents instant feedback to the player on his or her actions.
  • The learning curve of a good digital game is:
    • not too easy (will get bored)
    • not too hard (will get frustrated)
    • something that opens up new parts of the game (and provide other “rewards”) in return for in-game skill development.
    • encouraging a sense of “just one more go” in the player.


…using digital games


JISC Strategy 2004-2006:

“In the home, set-top boxes together with digital television and games consoles are increasing the proportion of the population with access to online interactive services and may offer new opportunities for learning to reach more people.”

resistance to widespread use
Resistance to widespread use
  • “Violence” : players become psychopaths
  • “Addiction” : how much play is too much
  • “Accuracy” : of content
  • “Relevance” : to the curriculum
  • The difficulty in identifying those games which are suitable (explicitly fit in with the curriculum)
more resistance to widespread use
(More) resistance to widespread use
  • “If learning is fun then it cannot be learning”. “Learning wasn’t fun in my day.”
  • Effects on the younger generation e.g. (from earlier in Ticer event):

“Young people will lose the ability to hold paper”

digital games in learning how
Digital games in learning: how?

“Games are widely used as educational tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses…. Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error.

Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions…. Playing games is, thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st century, as some forward-thinking firms are already starting to realise.”

The Economist, August 4, 2005

the body of research
The body of research
  • Huge amount of research into the use of digital games in learning, teaching and education.
  • Older research primarily in the psychology and sociology fields; more recent (1998+) in education fields.


  • Unfortunately rather less research is based in actual learning situations.
  • “Violent video games” get all the media headlines, making implementation much more difficult.
  • Very complex issues at the learning and skill enhancement levels.
  • Measuring their effectiveness (i.e. “do they work?”).
digital games in learning where
Digital games in learning: where
  • Major part of the UK sector. Software market for schools = 130,000,000 pounds per year (core market).
  • Large numbers of digital games developed with curriculum relevance in mind:
    • Audited against national curriculum
    • Tested by teachers and educators
    • Mainly in primary schools (age 4 to 12) but increasingly in secondary
  • Smaller number of schools (less than 500) use COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games such as Zoo Tycoon for cross-curricular learning.
digital games in education
Digital games in education

Examples of use:

  • Historical simulations
  • Planning and architecture
  • Problem solving (instant response)
  • Economics and financial management
  • Literacy (major success with Myst)
  • Physics (gravity, vectors, acceleration)
  • Chemistry
  • Cultural studies and religion

Cross-curricula games very popular

zoo tycoon
Zoo Tycoon
  • Build a zoo and populate it with animals
  • Stay on budget
  • Pay for feed, staff, animals, vets bills

Used in schools for:

  • Maths
  • Economics and finance
  • Biome
  • Ethics (should animals be caged?)
  • Planning and design
digital games in health
Digital games in health

Examples of use:

  • Pain relief and distraction
  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery skill increase
  • Diabetes awareness
  • Easing carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Mental health and sharpness (Brain Train!)
  • Acting out domestic and social situations
  • Social and communication development

digital games in getting fit
Digital games in getting fit!
  • Dance Dance Revolution and similar installed in many schools and colleges in the US e.g. every school in West Virginia. Results are very clear, but only work best in school environment with e.g. healthy food.
  • In UK, school resistance to games has meant lone teachers have done their own thing.

Martyn Thompson, head of P.E. at Groby Community College (14 to 19 year olds), Leicestershire, UK (pictures authorised by same). Lunchtime and after-school optional classes.

two models of teaching
Two models of teaching

Typical assumption is that every student would use an individual copy of the game, working in isolation.

No! Most effective models of teaching require great social interaction.

Both models require:

  • communication-based participation by all participants.
  • the teacher and game being the axis on which the lesson runs.
1 teacher as guide
1. Teacher as guide

The teacher has control of the game, and leads the class through appropriate scenarios. The class have to tackle the appropriate scenario before moving on.

Game control is passed around, or the teacher retains it for the duration of the exercise. Usually uses one computer and a projector.

2 teacher as referee
2. Teacher as referee

The class is split into different teams. The teams collaborate internally, and use the game to “compete” against each other e.g. which team can develop the most economically stable city using an urban planning simulator.

The teacher sets the task, answers queries, helps the teams to an appropriate extent, adjudicates, and leads the class debriefing.



12 areas where libraries

and digital games collide…

1 preservation
1. Preservation

“Here at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France we deal with legal deposits of video games. Since 1992, video games are part of patrimonial collections. Every video game distributed in France must send in two copies to the French national library.

Our missions are based on exhaustively collecting these kinds of documents as we do with others, cataloguing, and preserving in order to ensure long term access for researchers. We work closely to the game community to defend the game as a document and an object for scientific research.”

Relatively problematic; needs a lot of resources.

2 keep kids quiet in public libraries
2. Keep kids quiet in public libraries

“I don't know if this counts, but at my library we're just starting to have video games in our After-School Zone.  Kids and teens can go in from 3:15 until 5:00 every day and get a small snack, study or play games.  We get a lot of latchkey kids, and we figured that if we entertain them, they're less likely to get into trouble, and they'll be less likely to clump up on the public computers.  Originally we'd wanted to buy a set of laptops for the After-School Zone, but we couldn't work out the computer issues.  The video games were a second-best solution.”

   Allison Angell, Head Youth Services Librarian

   Benicia (California) Public Library 

3 get people into the public library
3. Get people into the (public) library

“Check out our newest public library branch in South Carolina – called the Carvers Bay Branch Library. We opened the library two weeks ago with 10 Xbox 360s and 8 gaming PCs, and we plan to use them to persuade young people to register for library cards and to read: the games will serve as the hook for more library usage.

The library is located right in front of a high school and middle school campus in the poorest, rural area of our county where illiteracy is currently 30% and library card registration is only 2%.”

Dwight McInvaill

Director, Georgetown County Library

4 circulating games
4. Circulating games
  • A small but growing number of public libraries loan out games. Issues include:
    • budget
    • age ratings
    • formats
    • identifying the best games to stock
  • John Scalzo, librarian, ran a game loan scheme for a year: “…at the end of the first year, having games in a library has been a complete success. They are popular with adults, children and teens and I've only heard the faintest of grumblings (mostly from older patrons) questioning why a library would carry, scoff, games. They are an accepted part of the collection now and it's hard to ask for anything more than that.”
5 circulating support materials
5. Circulating support materials

When people play digital games, they use a wide variety of materials. This is a little-researched area i.e. the effects on literacy through games support.

Materials include:

  • magazines and newspapers (print, online)
  • walk-throughs (print, online)
  • cheats e.g. codes you type in (print, online)
  • maps (print, online)
  • interactive guides (online)
  • game forums (online)
  • blogs and websites (online)
  • tips from friends (online, social)
  • team-based playing/support (online, social)
6 ab using the library network
6. (Ab)using the library network
  • Problem in UK universities. Halls of residence networks where students have a network point in each room becoming choked with Xbox Live traffic.
  • Wireless hotspots around campus could be taken up by Internet-based mobile or online gaming (Laptop, PSP, DS).
  • Playing a digital game has a different timeframe to searching a library catalogue:
    • library catalogue search: 20 seconds to 2 minutes
    • flash, shockwave, Java game: typically a few minutes
    • PSP/DS game: 10 minutes to an hour
    • PC game e.g. simulation: 20 minutes to a few hours
    • Online RPG game e.g. World of Warcraft: 6 hours+ common
wireless hotspot in your library
Wireless hotspot in your library

“Visitors to the British Library will be able to get wireless internet access alongside the extensive information available in its famous reading rooms.

A study revealed that 86% of visitors to the Library carried laptops.

The technology has been on trial since May (2004) and usage levels make the Library London's most active public hotspot.”

BBC News website, November 18th 2004

7a input output devices
7a. Input/output devices

Old style of data entry: keyboard and mouse

…then: joystick

…then: eyetoy


  • floor pads (dancing games)
  • feedback devices embedded in controllers
  • fishing rods (containing motion sensors)
  • touch-sensitive screens (DS portable console)
  • voice / speech recognition
  • (Coming soon) the Wii “Nunchuck”

Moving rapidly towards a “no wire” gaming environment.

7b keyboard mouse vs motion
7b. Keyboard/mouse vs motion
  • Unlikely that the keyboard will be overthrown as the main method for data entry.
  • Speech recognition input, to date, has been a disappointing development.
  • Information systems still organised around database structure, though offering a much richer way of finding “connections” between items.

Simple voice recognition and touch screen technology could enable more effective searching through these richer environments, especially through mobile devices.

8 mobile library catalogue access
8. Mobile library catalogue access?

The positive side of using the library LAN..

  • Relieves use of library computers.
  • Cuts down time in trying to locate book / journal / periodical.
  • GPS features; guide you to the shelf and item (would this save much time?).
  • Both PSP and DS are development platforms.
  • PSP is easy to (unofficially) develop on:
    • RSS feeds: done!
    • Telnet: done!
    • IRC (Internet Relay Chat): done!
    • PSIX (alternative OS): done!
    • PSP-HTTPD (web server on a PSP): done!!
9 library researcher the game
9. Library researcher: the game

Several variations on the following been done as small, in-house projects:

  • navigational, adventure/discovery game
  • knowledge quest: find and assemble knowledge from library resources
  • acquire practice and skill of library researcher
  • resident librarians as game masters/mentors
  • “open source” game engine, content development, and community participation

No large-scale version of this … yet.

(as described by Walt Scacchi, UCgamelab)

10 digital library support for learning game
10. Digital Library support for learning game

CERLIM providing the digital library

infrastructure for the game data.

online gaming

Online Gaming

Where things get very interesting…

world of warcraft
World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). You explore, and team up with people to complete quests, elavating your status.

June 2006:

  • 6.6 million subscribers worldwide (Netherlands = 16.3 million residents, the Randstad = 7 million residents)
  • 2 million in the USA, 1 million in Europe
  • Most of the rest in China

At any given time over 500,000 subscribers are online. (Rotterdam = 588,000 residents)

levels 1 to 60 getting social
Levels 1 to 60: getting social

“While some early parts of World of Warcraft can be experienced alone without the help of other players, it is fundamentally a group-centric game.

Some of the game's low-level, less rewarding dungeons can be completed with small groups of up to five members, called "parties."

The most challenging (and rewarding) encounters, however, require the cooperation of many players, with the maximum totalling 40 players, which are referred to as "raids".”

beyond level 60 getting very social
Beyond Level 60: getting very social

“The game fundamentally changes upon reaching level 60, its raid-dependent (and time-consuming) nature a vast departure from the relatively casual experience of advancing one's character from levels 1 to 60.

The majority of World of Warcraft's endgame content (for level 60 players) requires raiding, with 40-player raids making up the bulk of the game's development since release.

The game's most complex dungeons and encounters are designed to take raiding guilds months of playtime and many attempts before they succeed.”

what the heck is going on
What the heck is going on?
  • A 2D or 3D visual representation of the game environment, buildings, your avatar, the other players' avatars, items such as weapons and computer-controlled characters.
  • A text-based or other chat system through which you can communicate with players whose avatars are near yours.
  • An inventory of items you are carrying.
  • A map showing key geographic features, other avatars and other characters near your own.
  • Avatar/character status information, such as strengths, injuries, spells and weapons.

Much of this is changing in real-time. Need to constantly monitor it all while figuring out the game and while playing the game.

12 chat communication systems
12. Chat / communication systems
  • Language issue e.g. English, Dutch, French.
  • Txt spk, other shortened forms.
  • Symbols (proprietary versions of emoticons) often used.
  • People entering, leaving a conversation (“raids” of up to 40 people).
  • Player monitors dialogue area while:
    • monitoring other players
    • entering own chat
    • moving around the area
    • manipulating other objects
wow encourages curiosity
WoW encourages curiosity…
  • World of Warcraft game player: "I wonder what's over that horizon / in that building over there?"
  • WorldCat user: "I wonder in which other libraries this particular book is held?"
  • Amazon customer: "I wonder what other books are read by people who own my favourite book?"
what s happening cognitively
What’s happening cognitively?
  • Socially & materially distributed cognition.
  • Collaborative problem solving, multiple problem spaces.
  • Coordination of people, (virtual) tools, artifacts, & text.
  • Constellation of literacy practices across multimedia, multimodal ‘attentional spaces’ (Lemke).
  • Empirical model building (exploits, mods).
  • Negotiation of meaning & values within community.
  • Authoring of identities within & beyond the community.

“The Gaming Generation & Libraries: Intersections” by Constance A. Steinkuehler.

information searching within the game
Information searching within the game
  • Textual “clues” rare inside the game
  • Clues are often abstract or symbolic
  • Often a time-critical element for finding information (“must work out how to do X before Y happens”)
  • Clues are often recursive: Do A to find B to give to C who will give you D etc…
  • Gamer can thus mentally keep track of:
    • several things that need to be done
    • status of current objectives
    • people
    • places
    • information
    • items
second life the librarians online game of choice
Second Life: the librarians online game of choice
  • Own currency system (Lindendollar) pegged to real world currencies
  • Libraries being built by

groups of people

  • IBM and others buying islands

and running training courses

for their staff

  • 400,000 users, and 3,100 businesses set up within “real” estate
  • The BBC hold concerts within Second Life…
under construction
Under construction…

Several libraries built / under construction

…There is also Info Island, home to the Second Life Library 2.0, a collaboration between the Alliance Library System and Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL).

"More and more educators see Second Life as a way to engage students," says ALS director of innovation Lori Bell. "We wanted to see what role a library could play."


A group of about 35 librarians have volunteered their time to build structures and stock the collection, which includes searchable indexes, audio and video clips, and books, many of which are public domain and available to own.

The library also offers live help at certain hours of the day, for the typical real-life reference questions that inevitably come up, and it will hold live events like authors' chats and tours.


The library is also exploring ways to offer learning experiences that simply would not be possible in real life. It is working with the Library of Congress to build a Declaration of Independence room, where a larger-than-life-size copy of the document will be on display along with additional readings, audio files, and period furniture.

There's also a library in the works on Caledon, the exclusively 19th-century island where avatars wear period dress.

Librarians congregate in OPAL and in SL to listen to Michael Stephen's presentation on blogging for the Alliance Library System, thursday June 15 2006. 
10 attributes of a gameplayer
10 attributes of a gameplayer
  • Expects instant, relevant results.
  • Able to multi-task (e-juggling).
  • Interrogates a wide array of information source and media (see “circulating support material”)…
  • …consequently, is “beyond Google” in terms of information retrieval tools.
  • Is usually a net-user; many game players often blog.
10 attributes of a gameplayer80
10 attributes of a gameplayer
  • Can find information/knowledge that is not in obvious places.
  • Comfortable with complex online systems; does not differentiate between “online” and “offline”.
  • Comfortable with peripherals and unconventional data entry hardware.
  • Comfortable with online talk/chat systems.
  • No problem with spending colossal amounts of time online … so long as it is rewarding.
interface points to ponder
Interface points to ponder
  • Not everyone is a game player. A senior citizen may just want to “Google and go.”
  • Google: “Does what it says on the tin”. 1 search box – that’s all that is required.
  • Large amounts of research, development and funding have been put into making digital game interfaces as rewarding as possible.
  • Interfaces differ tremendously between digital games: compare World of Warcraft to Minesweeper.
summary and pointers
Digital games used occasionally, but not much, in learning

Many people play them

Across many demographics

Mainstream form of entertainment

Instant response to trial and error (implications for teaching and learning)

Cognitive and neural changes and development

Encourages online exploration

Did I say “Play more games”…?


Keep kids quiet in the library

Get people into the library

Circulating games

Circulating support materials

(Ab)using the library network

Input/output devices

Mobile library catalogue access

Library researcher: the game

Interface design

Accelerated online multi- tasking

Huge real-time social networking

Summary and pointers