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* Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gaming @ Your Library Sessions Blogged!

Today's Tech Summits on gaming in libraries were fan-tast-ic! I couldn't have asked for better presenters, as expressed by the participants themselves who noted on the evaluations how enthusiastic and knowledgeable Eli and Erin were (are!). Everyone learned a lot, and the actual game play was a BIG hit.

Several people told me that they hadn't expected to enjoy themselves so much, and that you truly don't understand gaming until you experience it yourself. You haven't lived until you've seen a roomful of librarians competing against each other in Mario Kart and DDR! In fact, several people stayed after the second session ended just to keep playing (and I think Dan B. probably stopped to purchase a PlayStation and DDR package on his way home!). We even had a few extra minutes to let some of our staff play, including our executive director, Alice Calabrese!

I've already got two applications for our grant on my desk, and I suspect we'll get more than 16 libraries that want to participate based purely on the level of enthusiasm in each session. Our plan is to draw names out of a hat in order to be fair if that does indeed happen.

I'll post the application to the MLS web site tomorrow for those MLS libraries that weren't able to attend. Eli is going to send me a copy of their presentation, which I'll also post to our site. Oh, and I'll have a copy of AADL's DVD to circulate to those libraries that would like to borrow it.

So without further ado, here are my combined notes from the presentations. Unfortunately, they really don't give you the full flavor of Eli's and Erin's wit and wisdom, but they do illustrate just how great AADL's program is! (If you're reading this in your aggregator, you'll need to click through to the full post - sorry.) Sorry about the length of this post, but MT won't display the extended entry, so I'm forced to put it all in the body in order to get the text to display at all.

95% of teenage boys play video games (!!!!!!!!!!)

not a big market for book rental; libraries missed the boat on video game rentals, which is why it's such a huge commercial market now

this is what kids today think of first when they think of “content”

current YALSA strategic plan includes language about supporting emerging technologies

Erin: don’t have to be a gamer to facilitate this; can advocate for what teens want and need from us without judgement

Department of Labor study: determined that the average teen spends 7 minutes a day reading content in their hands (3–1/2 hours per month!) or not on the internet

Eli: don’t want them to grow up to be taxpayers based on 7 minutes a day

it's difficult to just circulate titles; teens are trading games with each other, which is competition for you

“The Bun” - our image problem; even the Jedi librarian had a bun!
— just circulating titles or putting up a kiosk of sample games gives you what Toys ‘R Us already does, except they don’t hassle you and limit how long you can play

AADL did tournaments to try and create a community

tournaments give kids something they can’t do at home

first choice you have to make is to pick your game; ideally one that can be used with multiple audiences

their DDR tournaments are 50% girls, but Mario Kart is only about 5%

they did monthly events on Saturdays: single player race, single player battle, co-op team race
— each event has four winners that go to the final championship, where there are 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place winners
— also had a wildcard tournament for eight spots in the championship round
— difficult organization of the tournament, but the kids understand it innately

multiple rounds and events meant a kid wasn’t knocked out for the whole day for one loss

if/when they have to start turning kids away, non-card holders will be first, which will be even more incentive for kids who are residents to get cards

grand prize was an iPod
— jaws dropped when this was announced

arranged tournaments by grade, not age

they broadcast the championship tournament live on cable access
— had 60 kids at the big Sunday tournament; two birthday parties even came
— big niche for younger kids
— AADL was a little unprepared for the chaos with the younger set

gave the kids who were in the DVD a copy

the kids really get into this, so the AXIS blog gives them an outlet for their mania

they suggest using consoles instead of computers because you can spend as much on one computer as on a multiple console setup

the big key to the setup is to have a completed game saved - you'll need to get that from one of the kids; nothing makes you look more rinky-dink than having only the basic cars, paths, etc.

if you can't afford the larger setup or if you want to test the waters first, you can have kids bring in their own dance pads for DDR
— DDR Max is the favorite among teens; teens won’t see DDR Extreme as being fair because it evens out the competition and lets novices beat experts

ideally you want a ceiling-mounted projector for DDR so that heads don’t chop off the view and you don't have to dance around the projector (literally!)

for the tournaments, they’re not doing pre-registration for now; that will change when they have to start turning people away

AADL will release the new version of their software as open source this summer after they revamp it; a library could use an Excel spreadsheet if they had to

in DDR, participants get two dances; for Mario Kart, they get three or four races
— combine scores to see who moves on

DDR requires you to provide a lot of drinking water!

then come single elimination rounds; head-to-head DDR

need 2 people minimum to run a tournament – an emcee and a scorekeeper

for the focus groups, let the kids bring in their own games and talk about what the second season should be like; AADL let the kids play for two hours, talked to them for a half-hour and got good feedback; 20–22 kids showed up!

flourescent lights say “school” so turn them OFF!

for the next season of DDR, AADL is planning an extra camera with a fish-eye lens to focus on their feet

do a season, not just an event; it becomes more valuable to the kids; not just “an afternoon at the library”

schedule heavily during kids breaks, have lots of open play time; the kids love it and the parents love it even more!

next season, every weekend will be a tournament weekend at AADL, with all three groups each weekend: adults/families on Friday nights, teens on Saturdays, and younger kids on Sundays

really only need two pads for a DDR tournament; you might want to have two separate tournaments with different levels of difficult (beginner and expert) so that novices aren't competing against experts

AADL did a Mario Kart tournament during their staff in-service day that helped get buy-in
— started the tournament by having the director and 3 managers play with the game on the big screen
- this helped the staff understand the program, and they were able to talk to patrons about it when asked

when you promote it, you can’t just use traditional places like newspapers
— AADL uses telephone pole posters, which is a huge communication medium for these kids
— post about it on the game’s fan sites; AADL got 5 or 6 participants just from one posting on a DDR fan site, all of whom had never been in the library before

kids looked at the library differently
the library didn’t have to force their information on them
the kids are using the library more
parents are happy that the kids are not passive in the library anymore

Eli: this isn’t intended to be a loss leader; this is a core service, but it’s also the easiest way to show you have value to an audience that doesn’t feel that way; these are your future taxpayers!

tournaments are to video games what storytimes are to picture books; anyone can check out a picture book, but we still do storytime

it really helps to get your library as a focus in their hearts and minds; shows you “get it”; really gets the boys in the door

Eli: “if you hand them a bibliography, you’re through”; do a commercial instead; hand out flyers instead

only 17% of the games sold are M, 51% were E; realize that only a few bad apples get all the press, but that there really are a lot of great games out there

AADL did an “adult DDR” night for 20–somethings on a Friday night; this is a tough group to market to, so they try position themselves as a “pre-bar” activity

call it a “family” tournament and the teens will stay away in droves, but families will come (that way the teens won't dominate games against younger kids or adults) ;-)

saw a steady 40% growth rate throughout the season, from tournament to tournament; word-of-mouth spread via the kids themselves; some kids even called friends from the tournaments to tell them they *had* to come see what was going on!

kids continually want the stakes raised, so “seasons” are best ("just like on reality TV shows, except AADL didn't do a clip show one week before the final event")

program school breaks intensively; AADL did 4 tournaments in 5 days – 2 open plays, a DDR tourney, and a Mario tourney

during open play, the kids will even organize their own tournaments and will do their own color commentary (the color commentary on the DVD is priceless!)

25–30% of the kids coming to the tournaments have never been to the library before, even in the AADL community that has a 70% cardholder rate

AADL plans to add enhanced services for cardholders, like letting them track their stats online!

by doing a tourney at “the neutral zone”, an independent teen center outside of the library, they reached a whole new audience, some of whom started coming to the library for the tournaments

the idea of holding “seasons” is not different from what we’re already doing - storytimes already run in 8–week sessions

during school breaks, AADL schedules tournaments during the day, rather than at night

median age of participants is probably 15

they’ll have 20–25 kids pacing outside waiting to get in, trying to bribe them to open the doors early

they're doing a pre-season exhibition tournament before season 2 starts!

every round will be televised live in season 2

they're going to add Super Smash Brothers and Madden 2005 “2–minute drill” events, as well as Monkey Ball and some others

every championship round will be a different, unannounced game, often ones that you can’t fit a whole tournament around

AADL is working on promoting tournaments at pre-shows in movie theaters (that’s where your audience is, and they’re paying more attention to that than to TV ads)

they're also adding “Clans” in season 2 because the kids wanted to do this – letting them form 4–person clans, but when they win an event individually, they also earn points for their clan
— the final tournament will include a round for the 4 best clans to compete for something like 4 iPod Shuffles; kids get to create their own icons, they’ll have clan chat rooms, etc.

tournaments have run about an hour; did 4 1-hour tourneys a day in season 1, will do 5 in season 2

some of the biggest demand now is for adult Mario Kart tournaments, especially for college kids and 30–year olds

at one point, they had a prize for the person that brought the most new people the next day

AADL doesn’t limit gaming on their internet stations at all; lots of kids are playing Runescape

small libraries could each buy two stations and then several libraries could combine their equipment for regional tournaments

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