October 15, 2007

Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story

This time it’s in the Dal­las Morn­ing News and the arti­cle is called Video Games Encour­age Teens to Check Out Libraries.

The good news: We learn that the Forth Worth Pub­lic Library is cre­at­ing a room ded­i­cated to gam­ing. Can’t wait to learn more about that!

The bad news: Yet another news­pa­per story that lets some­one (this time a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land) get away with sweep­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions about gam­ing. Melanie Killen claims, “a vast major­ity of the games have neg­a­tive con­tent and the con­se­quences can be destruc­tive, includ­ing increased impul­siv­ity, aggres­sive behav­ior and shorter atten­tion spans,” with­out pro­vid­ing any proof at all.

Whether that’s her fault or the newspaper’s, let’s just nip this in the bud right now in case you encounter this argu­ment at your own library.

First of all, 85% of the games sold in 2006 were rated E (for Every­one), E+10 (ages 10 and up), or T (for Teen). That means only 15% of video games sold in 2006 where rated for adults, so that’s hardly a “vast major­ity.” Only 4 of the top 20 games sold in 2006 were rated M (Mature) (PDF). That would be 1/5, which means the “vast major­ity” of games sold were actu­ally appro­pri­ate for kids and teenagers.

Sec­ond of all, let’s define what we mean by “destruc­tive” and “aggres­sive behav­ior,” because as video games have become more pop­u­lar, youth vio­lence has actu­ally dropped, despite those sto­ries that grab all the head­lines.

Third, “impul­siv­ity” and “shorter atten­tion spans” can be attrib­uted to many things, not just video games. If I’m not mis­taken, these argu­ments were made against tele­vi­sion forty years ago, so it’s not like this is some­thing new and it’s not like you can blame video games as the mas­ter evil behind these prob­lems. In fact, one won­ders if shorter, less com­plex news­pa­per sto­ries that fail to pro­vide facts or links for fur­ther infor­ma­tion or, you know, evidence/data/research might con­tribute to that trend, too.

What’s really ironic is that Killen is later quoted as say­ing, ” ‘There is a con­cern in our soci­ety about the prepa­ra­tion of the next work­force in terms of read­ing and math and sci­ence skills,’ she said. ‘We should be doing every­thing we can to facil­i­tate that, and I think that allow­ing video games to go in libraries is a bad sig­nal.’ ” If you run into this mis­guided assump­tion your­self, you can point folks to this report or this report or this report (PDF), which dis­cuss how gam­ing can help with exactly those things.

The worst part? They cite a fig­ure for the num­ber of libraries offer­ing con­sole or PC gam­ing pro­grams that is flat out wrong, all the more curi­ous since the sum­mary of the sur­vey is avail­able online (PDF). Had they both­ered to point to it from the arti­cle, they might have got­ten it right. Sadly, the DMN doesn’t allow com­ments or track­backs, so their read­ers will never know just how wrong the paper got this story. Luck­ily, the rest of us do.

Be Socia­ble, Share!


  1. Gonna have to file this post under “keep handy”. Love the numbers.

    Comment by royce — October 15, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  2. Jenny,

    Thank you for address­ing it (again)(and again)(and I’m sure again). It’s a dis­cus­sion we all need to be pre­pared to have. I’ve run into this argu­ment before. Espe­cially in aca­d­e­mic libraries, the more research and stats there are the stronger the case. So while my files on video game vio­lence and aggres­sion are large there are many counter stud­ies out there as well.

    Thanks for pulling stats together to assist us in mak­ing these arguments.


    Comment by Paul — October 15, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

  3. The arti­cle in the local paper (Fort Worth, not Forth Worth) was more pos­i­tive:

    Comment by Amanda — October 15, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  4. […] in Libraries Arti­cle (and Com­men­tary) The Shifted Librar­ian has some inter­est­ing com­men­tary on a recent Dal­las Morn­ing News arti­cle about Gam­ing in […]

    Pingback by Gaming in Libraries Article (and Commentary) « UW-Madison SLISIT — October 15, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  5. thanks Jenny for pulling all those links in to one place for easy access… we know what gam­ing has done for our teens and our library… most grownups who ven­ture into the Young Adult area are truly appre­cia­tive and under­stand­ing but every now and then you have that one that rolls their eyes and says “I believe you have cre­ated a mon­ster! They need to be learn­ing about books!”… thanks for the hard facts…

    Comment by Iris Shreve Garrott — October 15, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  6. […] Another Arti­cle about Gam­ing and Libraries, Same Old Story The Shifted Librar­ian » Another Arti­cle about Gam­ing and Libraries, Same Old Story […]

    Pingback by Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story « Suggested Reading — October 16, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  7. I’d be curi­ous to see if any­one has pre­sented this infor­ma­tion to Dr. Killen, or tried to deter­mine where her data comes from. All in all, though, I’d say it was a fairly pos­i­tive arti­cle, and fairly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sea change in atti­tudes toward gam­ing as a means of under­stand­ing the world.

    It seems like a few years ago the fram­ing (descrip­tion of games in the library –> naysay­ing –> more pos­i­tive exam­ples) would have been inverted. It could have been some­thing like “Library Wastes Tax­payer Resources on Don­key Kong.”

    Comment by Toby — October 16, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  8. Despite where Dr. Killen found her data, coun­ter­ing her with data pro­vided by the Enter­tain­ment Soft­ware Asso­ci­a­tion seems a lit­tle self-serving, kind of like ask­ing the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute to come up with some num­bers to prove going into Iraq was good for Amer­i­cans ;-)

    I think games could be used to develop use­ful skills, but most of us play them purely to enter­tain our­selves. Libraries are adding them to their col­lec­tions because they are on the verge of going out of busi­ness and this is an easy way to pull up their sag­ging num­bers. There is noth­ing wrong with pro­vid­ing an arcade in your library but it seems disin­gen­u­ous to pre­tend that it is any­thing else.

    Comment by Jorca — October 16, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  9. You’re right Jenny! The media has to find a scape­goat and pre­vi­ously it was tele­vi­sion and now it’s videogames. The stud­ies out there are con­tra­dic­tory. I hope it won’t take 20 more years for there to be a gen­eral accep­tance of the true value of learn­ing from videogames. Thank you for cit­ing the 2006 Sum­mit Report on Edu­ca­tional Games by the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Sci­en­tists. They really are lead­ers in try­ing to edu­cate the pub­lic and in try­ing to forge the dif­fer­ences of opin­ion between com­mer­cial ven­dors and edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions. Thank you!! Ann

    Comment by Ann Crewdson — October 17, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  10. […] Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librar­ian com­mented with a link to a pre­vi­ous post of hers about video games in libraries. […]

    Pingback by Library Attack » Blog Archive » Have gamers taken over libraries? — January 22, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

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