Vs. Mode: Our Gaming Dollar

I’m thankful to Chad for starting back up Vs. Mode (link) for this academic year. I was pleased with our discussions on GTA IV, safe exploration spaces, and interfaces from last spring.

Chad’s discussion about stretching one’s gaming dollar for personal enjoyment and value, but then turns the discussion to libraries with:

“The question as it applies to libraries is this: Should more libraries be circulating video games in an effort to extend the value of a video game? Isn’t that what libraries are all about? Don’t we buy books, movies, music, and other media so that more people may use them as often as they wish? Won’t our dollar go a lot further if libraries buy a game and have it played so much that it won’t play anymore?”
I subscribe to the logic of getting good value for your gaming dollar. Rarely have I paid full price for a game and pride myself on buying only 2 games in the last year and a half over $30. I’d be happy talk about my successes in finding games on the cheap, but I’d rather be talking about why we should be finding games in the library.

Chad’s question about the cost and value of videogames in library collections. I was fortunate enough to be formally at the Charles C. Myers Library of the University of Dubuque where we started a gaming (both board and videogame) collection. I feel very strongly that videogames should be treated by libraries as any other media. The artistic, entertainment, and educational value with videogames should be enough for libraries to consider adding them to their collections. I was pleased to see that my new public library, the Brown County Library, had already started a gaming collection with their system.

As I defended videogames in libraries in a letter to the editor in Dubuque, the same issues are true with Chad’s question. Just as movies and graphic novels have found homes in libraries, so too should videogames. Regardless of your rationale of choice (social significance, cultural importance, etc) videogames fit that role.

If the justification applies to other media we need to be advocating to our colleagues, administrators, Dean’s, City Councils, and voting public why videogames should have a place within our collections. If your library can budget to buy popular movies for entertainment purposes… then gaming collections are the next step. While the argument of the potential sizes of audience may have once held true, the gaming industry now is on par with the movie industry in the amount of revenue generated. The audience for games is no longer an isolated minority.

Now at academic libraries like my own they are not buying DVDs for recreational use. It needs to be tied to the curriculum. Videogame would fall under that same judgment. But if your academic library budgets for recreational movies for students and the campus, you should be considering videogames as well.

The University of Dubuque library spends some money and partners with their Student Government Association to provide additional money to buy DVDs for solely entertainment purposes. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. The Student Government initially turned down the idea of a videogame collection. What we thought was going to be an easy audience, was not. Fortunately, eventually, the collection moved forward and within two weeks of being on the shelves over 50% of the games had circulated multiple times. Their gaming collection was a success.

I hope more libraries of all types begin seeing the value of gaming collections and those providing the funding see the value as well. There are a variety of stories and resources out there.

The ALA's Gaming Resource wiki has some good talking points to get started. There are a number of other resources out there (including a few on the 100 Tips list) and I know that there are more being added to the ALA Gaming wiki... so add your thoughts and resources.

Since this is a Vs. mode, I need to send a question back to Chad. So if we agree that videogames have value and should be included in collections...

What does a core collection look like? How can we help others get started?