January 3, 2008

Gaming and the Fall of Western Civilization

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 6:56 am

The LTR update on gaming in libraries is just about done, and I’ve been reading some fascinating articles and books as background for it. I’ve been wanting to read Susan Gibbons’ 2007 book The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student and this gave me the excuse because there is a chapter devoted to online gaming. Gibbons focuses solely on Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGs), which at first seems a little strange for an academic librarian. However, she explains what these games are, provides a little history about them, gives some information about how NetGens use them, and then brainstorms some ideas for their relevance to academic libraries. I’d argue it’s good reading for folks in *all* types of libraries.
Given some of the negative comments I’ve gotten here about gaming in libraries, including how it will devalue the MLS, I really enjoyed the following history from Gibbons.

“In the late 1700s, parents were warned to protect their children from the many dangers of free access to ‘romances, novels, and plays [which] poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth’ (Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, quoted in Standage 2006, 114). The early twentieth century witnessed the scourge of ‘moving pictures’ because of which ‘God alone knows how many are leading dissolute lives’ (from The Annual Report of the New York Society for the Presentation of Cruelty to Children, quoted in Standage 2006, 114). Or how about the evils of the telephone, which causes laziness, the tendency for crime caused by reading comic books, or the sins of the waltz, with its “voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies’ (from Times of London, 1816, quoted in Standage 2006, 114). The pattern is clear: the new form of entertainment of the younger generation is misunderstood and portrayed as the ‘scourge of society’ by the preceding generations.
Brown suggests that many of us miss the importance of online gaming because we focus too tightly on the game itself: ‘So don’t just think about the games themselves–the content–but about the knowledge ecologies developing around these games–the context’ (2002, 64). The knowledge ecologies of online games include conversations, reading, writing, research, buying and selling, the formation and dissolution of partnerships and pacts, mentoring, instruction, and a host of other activities. The games do little more than provide a compelling and immersive platform for all of these social activities to occur.” (p.34)

Gibbons has clearly spent time studying and thinking about about how the reference desk could incorporate some of the best features of MMORPGs (I’m hoping I have enough room in the LTR to include a mention of these provocative ideas). She is clearly being proactive, rather than simply reactive (especially in a knee-jerk way).
If I’m going to be responsible for the end of the world because I advocate for gaming in libraries, it’s nice to know I’m in such good company. ;-)


  1. Gaming ROCKS!
    I was hoping to read more about how libraries might incorporate mmorpg into gaming at a library, particularly since the single-user subscription cost of many of them over time is rather high, more specifically World of Warcraft (WOW). It would be cool to host a WOW night where particpants go on a quest together, but again, how does one pay for or budget for the cost? Jenny, do you know of anyone out there that has or is doing this?

    Comment by Kevin — January 3, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  2. How fitting that Gibbons is her last name.

    Comment by andrew — January 3, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  3. looking forward to new LTR…..because the only other way they can pry the last one out of my hands involves my dead body.

    Comment by royce — January 3, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  4. Online games have been expanding like nothing on the Internet.
    Many new online gaming sites have come up.
    Even I’m a big sucker of online games. They are susually easy on systems, have a light theme and can be interesting without getting addictive.
    Some of the latest that I came across are from Zapak.com.. Zapak is promising to give away free cash to the people who play one of the 30 cash games. (Not cash prizes for winning the game, but to anyone who plays the game) . Just loved the way they have structured the games in this category.
    Here is the link

    Comment by Ashi Kacheria — January 4, 2008 @ 12:27 am

  5. I think it was in Bennett’s “Before the Mayflower” where there was a really interesting passage about one of the downfalls of Timbuktu being the fact so many of the young men got addicted to playing chess to the disregard of anything else. It’s one of those things I always have had in the back of my mind to read more about.

    Comment by Jon Gorman — January 4, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  6. And as I submitted my last comment, I realized I can’t remember whether the book used the phrase “young men” or not. Replace that with people just to be safe ;).

    Comment by Jon Gorman — January 4, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  7. “Devalues the MLS” Excuse me?! If you have any ideas how much programmers eat, breathe, sleep physics and mathematics I don’t think anyone would say that. Game programming and game art clearly shows practical applications of the math and sciences. This is teaching opportunity for librarians to share with library users, patrons, and students.
    I will admit I am biased in this regard because I work as a librarian at a college that offers degrees in this area. I am blown away by what these students know and their willingness to help others by using library resources.

    Comment by Karen — January 4, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

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