Fun and games: library promotes game literacy

Most of us play games for fun so an academic game collection might seem like an oxymoron.

But students in game development or interactive multimedia design programs need to understand the educational aspects and technology of gaming, which is why video and board games can now be borrowed from the Carleton University library.

“Students must be ‘game literate,’ for example, be knowledgeable about existing techniques, traditions and technologies,” explains David Mould, a computer science professor. “The library’s interactive media collection gives students access to a much wider variety of games than would be the case if they had to buy products themselves.”

Mould spearheaded the creation of the pilot collection along with Robert Smith, the library’s subject specialist for computer science as well as systems and computer engineering. Last fall, they facilitated the transfer of 28 games from the school of computer science to the library. The collection includes video games such as Super Mario Galaxy as well as board games like the award-winning Apples to Apples. Games are held on reserve at the circulation desk and three games can be borrowed at a time for seven days.

According to Mould, the collection needs to contain both digital and tabletop games as both promote game literacy, plus board games enhance game-building skills without the often high technological overhead of making a computer product.

“Students can design, play, refine, and critique board games more quickly than digital games —making paper prototypes is easier than making software models.”

Like Mould, Assistant Professor Anthony Whitehead believes the collection will benefit students studying various forms of game development.

“We wouldn’t consider writing a book or making a film without going through a rigorous analysis of either medium so it only makes sense to study this medium in a similar way to that of literature and film,” says Whitehead, who teaches multimedia design to students in the bachelor of information technology program.

Although the library may not have held games in the past, Smith points out the library already collects and circulates multimedia materials such as DVDs so adding interactive multimedia to the collection makes sense to him. Other academic libraries are developing their collections in this area and some have appointed games librarians.

Initial response to the collection has been positive — to date more than 90 per cent of the games have been signed out at least once — and University Librarian Margaret Haines has struck a committee to consider the library’s role and resources needed to extend support for the various games development programs. The committee will make its recommendations to Haines this April.

Gaming facts:

According to the 2008 Pew Internet & American Life Project:

  • 53% of American adults age 18 and older play video games
  • One in five adults (21%) play every day
  • 97% of teens play video games
  • 57% of respondents with at least some college education play games
  • 76% of students play games, compared to 49% of non-students
  • This entry was written by Martha Attridge Bufton and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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