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2 to The five greatest warriors: games and reading, 12 to 24s@Your Public Library In Australia And New Zealand, Beenleigh 1 - 11 June 2010 Do the same appeal characteristics work for reading and games? This paper will explore the use of readers advisory skills to investigate how to suggest titles to people who play games might like to read, and games readers might like to play. This paper came from exploring games and reading in a range of library and museum contexts. I am interested in how games can be used in the provision of library services, especially as it relates to reference and information services. There is a local studies game out there, waiting to be designed. The ideas for this paper started when I was writing my paper last year for the Next chapters conference1 and thinking about using some online games for delivering library services for older readers, such as online reading groups. This idea came from seeing the large number of people who are already active in online games environments. Libraries do not necessarily need to start their own online spaces, but rather could hold online reading groups in places people are already using. It may mean that the reading group is spread across a large geographic area, or it may be made up of people who live in the one suburb. It does not matter. Online games provide an environment where people can easily interact, even people who may not be able to come to the library for a reading group, because of disability, family commitments or a whole range of other reasons. They may just like meeting in an online environment as it has its own challenges and opportunities. This is background for where the ideas for this paper started. There is often a snob factor towards people who play games, regardless of age. By some people it is seen as a phase you should grow out of. This is based on prejudice and often a lack of understanding about the basics of many games. This kind of idea is increasingly being challenged in academic study and areas of professional writing, for example in recent works by William Sims Bainbridge23, and by authors such as Tom Chatfield4, Byron Reeves and J Leighton Read5. Knowing what games people enjoy playing can help library staff suggest appropriate reading or plan programming of interest and relevance to their community of people who play games as well as read. This again is not age dependent. I realise this is a disruptive idea to raise in this
Next chapters: public libraries in Australia and New Zealand for older generations Sydney 1-2 May 2009
Bainbridge, William Sims The Warcraft civilization : social science in a virtual world, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2010 3 Online worlds : convergence of the real and the virtual / edited by William Sims Bainbridge, New York ; London : Springer, 2009 4 Chatfield, Tom Fun Inc. : why play is the 21st century's most serious business, London, Virgin, 2010
Reeves, Byron and , J. Leighton Read Total engagement : using games and virtual worlds to change the way people work and businesses compete, Boston, MA. : Harvard Business Press, c2009
context when so much of the other information is tightly tied to people of specific age groups, but the information in this paper is not tied to specific age groups and can be used very broadly. For example, take one person who plays table top role playing games, reads science fiction and fantasy, information about tabletop role playing games, medical research and some romance says The MMORPGs are pretty ways to feel like I'm accomplishing something without having to clean the house enough to have friends over, or having to stick to much of a schedule, most of the time. (Being a full-time childcare type person tends to mean that I'm at the beck and call of the health and well-being of a child. "Terribly sorry, have to drop group; the school nurse just called." Easier online!)6 Have you even thought to ask your local bridge players about why they like bridge and how that relates to their reading experiences? I would suggest that this could make a very interesting starting point for some readers advisory work as well as some library programming. Your local bridge players are hard core game players often spending between fifteen and thirty hours a week playing, yet most people would not think of them in this way. I am not suggesting that you need to discover full-on games advisory, but that you consider the appeal characteristics which apply. You do not need to play games, just as you do not need to read, but if you can try a few games and read outside your comfort zone you are likely to provide a service with a more effective client focus. It is not simply about focusing on the readers, it is about focusing on the players as well. Terminology In the USA, Canada and parts of Europe “gaming” is the term which is used to describe playing games. My preference is to use “playing games’ and “games”. These will be the terms used through this paper, unless I am quoting the words of others, then I will use whichever term they favour. What kind of games count? All kind of games count. They can be online, live action, role playing, in print, console, card, tabletop, board and other portable devices. Small scale, city wide, multiplayer, or single player. They may involve lots of running around, or sitting still. They can be played any time of the day or night. All sorts of games count when you are seeking to provide a better reading suggestion for someone who plays games, or when you are considering a games suggestion for a reader. Playing a multiplayer online game may give the same kind of social interaction as being in a reading group, or the games environment may be where the reading group is being held. How big is the games industry in Australia? The most recent Australian data showing the size of the games industry is from 2007. At end June 2007, there were 45 businesses in Australia involved in the provision of digital game development services. These businesses employed over 1,400 people and generated a total income of $136.9m which represented an average of $3m per business.7
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 Australian Bureau of Statistics8515.0 - Digital Game Development Services, Australia, 2006-07, 8 April 2008 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mf/8515.0?OpenDocument#SUMMARY
Who plays games? The short answer is lots of people play games. The following are some overview statistics to highlight the diversity of people who play games and the size of the industry that is supported by them. According to Nielsen's survey [in the USA], 32.7 million people play social games daily. That is equal to newspaper readership and more than double the readership of magazines in the sample. Social games are polarizing, however, as over 50 percent said they never play them8. The global gaming industry is worth $40,000,000,000/year (That's $40 Billion!) or $1200/second spent on video games.9 38% of console gamers and 43% of PC gamers are women10 Entertainment Software Association [USA] purports the average age of a video game player is 35, and 49 percent of gamers are 19-49 years old.11 Last year [in 2008] the UK spent £4bn on games: more than DVD and music sales combined, more than four times cinema box office receipts.12 In 2008, 26 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999. 25% under 18 yrs, 49% 18-49yrs, 26% 50+ yrs13 Right now we spend three billion hours a week playing online games14 20 million players have spent 17 billion hours playing x-box live 15
%20OF%20FINDINGS [accessed 6 May 2010] 8 Social media use becomes pervasive AdWeek 15 April 2010 http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/digital/e3iceae27f23a68f24bb1b241b4695748c9 [accessed 20 April 2010] 9 MMO Future shock http://current.com/participate/vc2/92368016_mmo-future-shock.htm [accessed 20 April 2010] 10 Casserley, Meghan, Women and gaming, Forbes.com 25 March 2010 http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/25/women-gaming-video-forbes-woman-time-online.html [accessed 20 April 2010] 11 Hall, Linda, Video gaming captivates not only the young in years; it's becoming a family affair as moms and dads relive years of original video consoles, The daily record 28 February 2010 http://www.the-daily-record.com/news/article/4779117 [accessed 20 April 2010] 12 Stern, Edward, Gamers will inherit the virtual earth, Guardian.co.uk 25 October 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/25/computer-games-stigma-generation-internet [accessed] 13 Video Game Statistics http://www.grabstats.com/statcategorymain.asp?StatCatID=13 [accessed 23 June 2010]
Transcript for Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world http://dotsub.com/view/87e58675-24ba-408b-abbe-97718a3b17b5/viewTranscript/eng [accessed 21 May 2010] 15 Online gaming stats http://seriousgamesmarket.blogspot.com/2010/04/serious-metrics-for-onlinegames.html [accessed 22 May 2010]
These statistics are simply to provide an overview and to highlight the large numbers of people involved in playing a very wide range of games. Many of the people who play games could also be readers at your libraries. Points to watch for Do not make the mistake of thinking that because someone enjoys playing games that they will always want to read about them as part of a plot. They may, it is possible, but in all likelihood they will not as the experience of reading about games will not even closely mirror the act of playing. You need to delve and discover which games they like and why. A standard effective readers advisory interview should be able to deliver the information you require. Most of this information does not depend on the age of the person playing the games, so if you have a 60 year old person you will use much the same strategy as for a fifteen year old. They may even be playing the same games. Readers who play games will mostly enjoy reading material with the same appeal characteristics as the games they play. In the survey16 about reading and game playing which I did to provide information for this paper less than two percent of people played and read materials with different appeal characteristics. Note this is appeal characteristics rather than subject matter. It is not a one hundred percent correlation but is close and you can sort out the fine detail in a one-on-one readers advisory interview. The following description, provided in response to this survey captures this idea well. Fantasy for me provides an excellent canvas for expressing ones imagination and creativity, more so than other genres in my opinion. As a reader, each new series, each new book or short story is unique and bold, dripping with colour and life and although it can be said for all literature, it is especially true that each work of fantasy fiction is strongly unique in ways uncapturable in other genres. I feel this aspect of fantasy is intensified with RPG's [role playing games], as they not only give a storyteller the tools to create their own worlds but they make it a much more intense experience for those who choose to join that world. Where in a series such as Lord of the Rings, we all held our breath as characters brought an epic storyline to life, in a game of the same nature, we play those same stylised heroic characters and the fate of the world and it's inhabitants, no more or less real than in a traditional piece of literature, is in our hands.17 This description has a reader and a game player drawing out the points they like in both reading and playing, showing the similarity in the appeal. Another respondent described as follows Other people get their escape from TV whatever shows they watch, I find it more enjoyable to play games, Also I very much like the social aspect of gaming, you can't really watch TV with friends and have the same sort of interaction or experience.
Survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010
Also you get to be in control, when it comes to life and TV (never thought I would lump those two into the same category) you have little to no control there are no set rules when it comes to games there are a distinct set of rules that govern the game, even with games like cheat the point of the game and the rules support this.18 Serious games, readers advisory work and library programming “Serious games” is a term which is used to describe games which have a serious intent. These include flight simulation games which are used to train pilots to land in dozens of different airports, before they even leave the ground. The games may be used to train UPS drivers in more effective routes. Serious games seem to have taken over the area previously known as education games, with education games being a term which mostly refers to games relating to school based content for young children. There is a high military use of serious games for training for and use in conflict situations, for example United States military driving simulators to reduce deaths by vehicle accidents.19 Serious games can also encompass online games about Darfur20, or about climate change21, or how to be savvy with the media. These may be games you would consider including as part of programming relating to reading, if there were particular issues in mind. Games used to teach children maths22, a foreign language23 and so on. Serious games have a lot of possibilities for inclusion in library programming and for combining with reading. Survey results of people who read and play games Through the use of several e-mail lists I asked people who both read and play games to contact me to let me know what kind of things they like reading, and why, and what kind of games they like playing and why. I received responses to this survey from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and parts of Europe. I asked the questions of people who both read and play games as I wanted to see what the correlation in appeal was. Did people play games and read for similar reasons? Using the Nancy Pearl doorway descriptions24 the dominant doorways for the game players and readers who provided information to me are Character, Setting and Story, either separately or in different combinations. Language rates an occasional mention, but only in a very small number of responses. This highlights the importance of an effective readers advisory interview, asking about recent reads, viewings and games which the person enjoyed and why they enjoyed them, This will provide information about the why of the enjoyment to help suggest titles and authors which have relevant
ibid New arm simulators sharpen driving skills, Armed with science, 12 March 2010 http://science.dodlive.mil/2010/03/12/new-army-simulator-sharpens-driving-skills-interview/ [accessed 26 May 2010] 20 Darfur is dying http://www.darfurisdying.com/ [accessed 26 May 2010] 21 Climate challenge http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/climate_challenge/ [accessed 26 May 2010] 22 Coll maths 4 kids http://www.coolmath4kids.com/ [accessed 26 May 2010] 23 Language games http://www.languagegames.org/ [accessed 256 May 2010] 24 Doorways or appeal characteristics, Readers Advisory Services wiki http://readersadvisory.wetpaint.com/page/Doorways+or+appeal+charactertistics [accessed 26 May 2010]
appeal characteristics. You can tell when someone is describing something they have enjoyed, and this makes the work of library staff much more interesting. What did people read and play? Everything. This is broad but there were readers of all styles and genres who replied and people who play games in all formats. It was exciting to hear from such a broad spectrum of readers and players. It means that there can be no prejudices, because players of contract bridge were describing very similar reasons for enjoyment to players of massively multiple online games and players of other games as well. In the readers advisory interview it is important to ask about watching and playing practices, without sounding intrusive, as it • gives clues to interest – what did they like and why? • helps for reading suggestions for people who don’t read much • shows a broader understanding of library services for the client • makes the library staff person seem more connected • is likely to give a better outcome for the reader, viewer or player As one of the respondents to the survey said Coming back to game-play, reading and RA [readers advisory] I think they are integral to each other and that it is vital for RA staff to view a patrons ‘complete reading experience’ as influential in providing RA to that patron. I also think it is absolutely vital that RA staff stop considering game-play as the sole domain of the Youth and/or of young men. It isn’t, people of all ages play games and read – someone’s Grandma at the local nursing home may have access to a Wii to play ten pin bowls or do yoga and loves to read a good Thriller, she’s not an unusual case. My husband plays the Xbox360 (any/all game he can though he does prefer Halo, Tony Hawk and racing games) and also reads Patrick O’Brian’s “Master & Commander” series (all 20+ tiles) when he’s not reading fishing or motorbike mags that is. He also is not an unusual case.25 Nancy Pearl doorways “Appeal characteristics” is the jargon term for what a person enjoyed about a book, film, art work and so on. Nancy Pearl uses the term “doorways” as what ever is the area of most interest is the doorway into it. Other elements of interest may keep you reading or playing but there is one element which gets you reading or playing in the first place. Nancy Pearl uses character, language, setting and story as the doorways. To understand how the doorways work, it is helpful to think about them in relation to your own preferences as a starting point. To work out what are the appeal characteristics which are the most important for you, think about something you have read, watched or played recently, it can be fiction or non-fiction. What did you enjoy most about it and why? It can be helpful to think about a few things you have recently enjoyed as it will be easier to work out your preferences with slightly more information. The answer to these questions will provide your dominant appeal characteristic, or preferred doorway.
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010
Please keep in mind that both appeal characteristics and doorways are library jargon and should never be used with readers or people who play games. They are a handy short hand for library staff to think about things but they are not terms to baffle readers with. They are there to help you provide a better readers advisory service to your clients. The following descriptions have been based upon my Next Chapters paper. Many people like a combination of the doorways, but one or two will usually be dominant, and one of them may be really unimportant to the reader as well. Also there are quite a few books which can be approached through all four doorways for example books by JRR Tolkien, Neal Stephenson, Jane Austen and much non-fiction. Quite a few games also cross all the elements as well. The key though is why a specific reader or player is reading or playing, rather than looking at a broader picture. Just because a book, game or dvd has all four appeal characteristics does not mean they will be equally important to each person reading watching playing. Each person has their unique mix and weighting and this is critical for suggestions for further reading. There is also no ranking of doorways, none of them are ‘superior’ to the others, none of them are better. They are just different. It is not a narrow way to view reading as each reader, and player, will have their own definition for what fits their doorway/s. Each of the doorways work for fiction as well as non-fiction and games. They also work for film and dvds. The doorways character People will describe the experience of reading in terms of the characters they are reading about – the characters of novels will sound like they are real people. The reader may not necessarily like the person or the character, but they will want to find out more about them • In fiction the works will often have a character’s name in the title, for nonfiction it will often be biographies or autobiographies. It may also include celebrity chefs (think of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay). Many crime and mystery novels will have strong character doorways as will some science fiction and fantasy. This is more likely to happen in series novels using the same detectives, and multipart science fiction and fantasy works. Family sagas can also have dominant character doorways as you need to know who has married whom. Romance is a genre which is almost totally character dominant (as you know that the man and woman will end up together). For romance you need to explore further into the character – what roles the men have (vampire, farmer, fireman, doctor…) and if it is a believable match. Biography and autobiography also usually feature here. One person describing the appeal of games based on character With games – I like “trivia” and knowledge based games and games that are “fun” and that get people to interact with each other (mentally & physically) without too much intellectual strain. I also like games that finish within an hour.26
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010
This description also highlights character as a reading appeal characteristic with some language elements Autobiographies of good communicators (comedians, some politicians, some POW stories, women overcoming obstacles, and those that illustrate cultures and beliefs and social structures of other groups - I like to experience 'the other' - to walk in someone else's shoes - and I love it if it is well written even more!! I also love Jane Austen, modern crime and thriller (not too graphic) and any fiction that grabs me - either beautifully written or fast paced so I lose track of time ( and forget the worldly troubles for a while...) And I love reading childrens books aloud to children.27 Another reader describes her reading as chewing gum for the eyes – chick lit – Marion Keyes, Candice Bushnell – contrast to work as work is very intense and needs less intense reading – characters as the focus of the reading , likes hanging out with characters through the process of the novels28 The following description includes setting and character The stand-out game for me would be World of Warcraft, a MMPORG [massively multiplayer online roleplaying game], which I've been playing for nearly 5 years. It's very addictive, despite having to pay to play. I think the reason I like playing it is because it has a fantasy setting, the game gives you a sense of achievement when you obtain levels and certain items and equipment, but also because of the interaction you can have with other player . I have made a few online friends through it too. A lot of my free time is spent playing WoW. It's a bit unusual, but another favourite that I haven't played much of, but I watch someone play, is a playstation game called Uncharted. I absolutely love watching the story of the game unfold as my sister plays. The story, characters, script which has quite a bit of humour and graphics are also amazing. I also play things like SingStar and Buzz with friends, mostly because they are just a lot of fun with other people.29 language People who read primarily for language will describe the writing, or their enjoyment of the writing as part of the experience, they may describe the books as being poetic, powerful or using powerful language. People may also describe their reading as being emotional, or having moving ideas or language • most likely to be award winners (as most writing awards target literary fiction which is more likely to have language as a doorway) • how steamy (for romance) or how gory (for crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror) will also be characteristics associated with language.
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid 29 ibid
This description brings together a range of influences and ties them together as a language doorway Once all is said and done though, of all the doorways Nancy Pearl mentions, my favourite of all is Language. Here I read Jasper Fforde, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Shakespeare, Dean Koontz, John Connolly, JRR Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, David Eddings, Raymond Feist, and pretty much any other Fantasy / Sci-Fi author you can think of. I haven’t mentioned Fantasy or Science Fiction before because as I started to think about it, this is really where my love of the Language doorway fits best. How else do you create an alien world if not by words? Again this is probably where Halo and Scrabble fit best. One is set in a futuristic alien world; the other takes a random selection of letters and says “here, create a word (world) from these” – it’s all about the language. For me to have Language as my preferred doorway makes perfect sense. I think the English language is pretty cool… It’s more than just the use of the correct words in the correct manner and as best suits the situation, but also the sound of those words as they are read aloud. Why else would V’s soliloquy in ‘V for Vendetta’ be so engaging and gorgeous to experience? Why else would the death song in The 13th Warrior be so heartfelt? I can mark the line from when I stopped reading mysteries (spy, thriller) as a child and started reading Fantasy and then later Science Fiction. At 15 a friend loaned me Lord of the Rings. 36 hours later after no sleep at all I finished it (thankfully it was a weekend) after that I simply could not get enough Fantasy fiction though at that time the only games I played were school sports as there was nothing available online or pc based that I could access (aside from the occasional game of Pac-Man at a friend’s house). So in that sense game play and reading had little in common. Science Fiction came later when a friend loaned me The Amtrak Wars and The Stainless Steel Rat. Both genres introduced me to series – I was hooked (though I did give up on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time –patience has never been one of my virtues).30 This description brings together language and character appeal The games I play most often are Scrabble, Mah Jong, Trivial Pursuit & other quiz question games, Pictionary and occasionally children's board & card games. I like the world play in Scrabble, the tactile nature of Mah Jong, answering questions (I'm a librarian !), having fun and lots of laughs, and enjoying my immediate family's and my nieces' and nephews' company.31 This is another description combining language and character doorways World of Warcraft is my main game a.t.m. I like it because there are different opportunities in the game, such as PvP [player versus player] and PvE [player versus environment]. Also I like to play it as my teenage sons play with me. In the past I played more RP [role playing] games, such as free text role playing in groups on Yahoo and the likes. For me it's like improvised theater in text form, with participants from all over the World, and it's fascinating to learn to know them, as well as it's fascinating to learn about myself from the role playing.32 setting
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid 32 ibid
This has readers describing the location as important, often in terms of details about daily life wherever or whenever. Readers will talk about the place (rather than the people). This will be a cross genre appeal characteristic, for example some people will only enjoy historical crime novels (perhaps only ones featuring actual historic characters in a fictional setting, or only romances set in the middle ages or earlier, or only biographies by French people). • some works written about other times and other places, whether historical or imagined (speculative fiction) will include setting as a important doorway • with speculative fiction there are also setting preferences. Some people may only like fantasy set in recognisable locations (such as Seam William’s works set in South Australia) The following comments illustrate these points I like to watch cricket but I’m not that keen a player. Watching cricket is about sitting in a chair in the shade drinking good coffee and reading the paper or a book so it’s purely recreational for me, and not so much about the game as about the excuse to sit back and forget about the housework for a while - definitely a Setting game.33 This reader combines setting and character in their preferences I've found that I mostly read for character experiences, although the setting can also be very important for me. For example, I tend to enjoy fantasy novels and the ways they create alternate worlds and realities. I also really loved The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which provides rich, detailed descriptions of the foreign countries the characters travel through. I also read horror fiction like Stephen King, Richard Matheson and classic horror like Dracula and Frankenstein. I like reading both fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction books.34 Another reader and player describes his preference for setting as a way entering into the book or game Fantasy: Ian Irvine, Anne Bishop, Kylie Chan, J.K Rowling I enjoy reading fantasy novels as they can offer new experiences, and different ways of looking at things. I like "escaping" to a new world every time I open a book. Science Fiction: Ian Irvine, Dan Brown, and a book called "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. I enjoy reading science fiction as I like to be, simply, scared. It is important to me to be exposed to worlds which have been corrupted by science and technology, or those that are based only upon science, never culture. When presented with these worlds and the issues within them, I am forced to reflect on how science is impacting society. Non-Fiction: Revolves around science and also likes
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid
Games with a semi-science basis, such as Bioshock, or a degree of history, such as Assassin's Creed (which also has science) are genres I enjoy as I have an interest in those areas.35 story These can be fiction or non-fiction. This doorway will include action and thrillers as well as slower moving works. Some of these works will not be strong in the language doorway. Readers will have preferences about what the story should include (crime must be solved, how did the couple meet) • most likely to be ‘the books which could not be put down” as people keep reading to see what happens in the story • story points which resonate The following is how one reader describes this I particularly like complex works of imaginative fiction. Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, Anathem, The Baroque Cycle) is a great example --- large, complicated plots with a great deal of eye-opening mental gymnastics. To a lesser extent, I see the same appeal factors in Alistair Reynolds and China Mieville. A strong secondary appeal factor is what I call the "oh sh#t" factor --- plots which turn and twist in frightening and unexpected ways. Authors that fall into this category include George R. R. Martin (Song of Fire and Ice saga), Greg Rucka (with the Atticus Kodiak books), and Naoki Urasawa's Monster series (18 manga volumes).36 One reader described her reading as story and character, with a hint of setting The main thing I like in my books is a sense of other. That means I primarily read fantasy, but I'll do almost anything with a good story and characters. I read almost equally for plot and character, with a slight emphasis toward the former, but will make exceptions if the prose is enticing enough. My reading is shamelessly escapist, which is why I want something obviously fiction—rather than narrative non-fiction or realistic fiction—but I demand realism in all other aspects. I like humorous, dark and disturbing, thoughtprovoking, and intense novels, and if you can get them all in the same book, I'm as happy as can be. I'm partial to elements of absurdism, adore subtle satire, and am terribly weak to well-done angst, and regard reading as a prime mode of catharsis. and her game playing shows more a character orientation What I like about games is what I like about reading, it's the chance to sink myself into someone else's life and experience, just in a different manner. With a book, you can really get inside a character's head and know them from the inside out. With a game, you can get inside a character's body and direct their actions. Even if the story is entirely linear with no actual input from the player as to the outcome, you are still immersed in the role and feel the effects, and well-designed gameplay can heighten that immeasurably.
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid
…Shadow of the Colossus: This is a beautiful, heart-breaking game of staggering genius and ingenuity. The story as you are given: a young man (the character you play) brings the body of a woman to a temple and agrees to slay sixteen Colossi in order to bring her back to life. Who these people are, why he's doing this, how he knew this forgotten god might help, these things are all left to the player's interpretation. You set out on a seemingly impossible task with a sword that can guide you to the next target, a bow, and a loyal horse to carry you through a barren, beautiful landscape…37 Another person describes his playing Role-playing games are by far my favourite type: Final Fantasy (esp. VII and VIII); Vagrant story (one of the best RPGs I've played), Ico. A developing story line mixed with puzzles is what holds my attention. The fighting I wouldn't miss if it wasn't there; I don't play fighting games without a story.38 A note about character and games In the information obtained during the survey many of the participants described character as an appeal characteristic for playing in quite a different way to how they described it for reading. A very common appeal characteristic for games is who you play them with. This still fits as an appeal characteristic or doorway because it is critical. A few people commented that they did not like it when other players, or themselves, became over competitive during a game. Do not underestimate the social element of much game playing. It is a direct tie to the character doorway and it very important. The following comments from survey participants highlight this The main object of games for me is the interaction with other people. I’d much rather play cards with people than on my computer. In fact, I’d rather play anything at all with someone else – what I play doesn’t really matter. (Only things I don’t care for are Chess and Monopoly. Even then, if the others were keen, I would.) Board games I particularly enjoy are Carcassone, Cranium, Shadows over Camelot. I like them because there is or can be a cooperative aspect…My enjoyment of any board games depends on the attitude of the people I am playing with. I don't like a cut throat attitude. World of Warcraft, Mystery Case Files, Sims, RPGs such as Command and Conquer/Warcraft/Starcraft….Mostly I like them because I have almost complete control over how they will turn out, WoW I like for the social element as well as the fact that I can elect to play solo or play collaboratively. My preferred guilty pleasure in gaming is without a doubt World of Warcraft….. I really like the social aspect of it; I used to play with my cousin and met a lot of his friends through the game and we started to hang out in summer, having BBQ's in someones garden or in winter, just bringing all our laptops to someones place and play together.
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid
I play strategy boardgames with the University Gaming Group. Among my favourites are the fantasy adventure-themed games, such as Runebound; the horror-themed games, such as Last Night on Earth, and a number of Chtulhuthemed games I love playing snap with my six year old daughter because she tries to cheat and sometimes I let her.39 I like interactive DVD games such as the 'Spicks & Specks' game, where you can play with a group of people and have a laugh. Contract Bridge… now actively playing again at a club and online five times per week. Chinese checkers is the weekly game we play with my grandmother, who recently had a series of strokes and although she can't communicate very well, she still plays a mean game of Chinese checkers. I have played the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game in a number of different incarnations for about 13 years now. I was introduced to it by a teacher at high school and have been playing it ever since. I enjoy the teamwork and critical thinking that it encourages as well as the fun of writing my own stories and sharing them with my friends. I am what's known as a Game Master of Dungeons and Dragons, which means that I host the games and run them for groups of anywhere from 4 to 12 people at any one time. My son got the 39 Clues board-game for Christmas and I quite enjoy that – you’re given clues about a place (anywhere in the world) and you have to work out where it is in order to move on to the next clue and obtain a key… Playing these games for me is about spending time with my children and helping them solve the puzzles – so I guess the doorway here for me is Character and perhaps Setting (family & physical space)40 These are just a small sample of the comments linking playing games with other people to the character doorway. What if I have not even heard about the game/s they are talking about? • say so and, ask for more information – you are listening for appeal characteristics • think about - do you know the plot or subject matter of every book or dvd in your library? • keep a positive, non-judemental attitude, don’t sound old fashioned unless you can pull it off in a quirky retro way • remember you want to encourage people into your library and not make them feel embarrassed about playing games • don’t be prejudiced
Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010 ibid
don’t try to sound trendy – unless you can really pull it off remember that the chat with the reader is all about them, not you and your tastes
But what does this really mean in the library? To give an example of how this translates into real library readers advisory services I will work through some examples. Assassins Creed 241 is a third person action adventure mostly set in the fifteenth century. Much of the action takes place in Venice. It has very beautiful graphics. If someone likes playing Assassins Creed 2 the doorways to this game are • story • character • setting You need to acertain which are the most important for each player and reader to accurately suggest something that a player of Assassins Creed 2 would like to read. It is likely they will enjoy fast-paced stories with a strong narrative or stories with well described and fully realised settings. There is a wide range of reading possibilities out of this title. People may want to follow up on the history, science, art or politics of the period, they may be seeking a fast paced story (Matthew Reilly may be a good suggestion), or looking for engagement with a character. You need to ask the right questions so that you can help the reader/player to the right material. It may be a combination of the above. One of the survey respondents tied Matthew Reilly’s novels and Halo, a science fiction based game together based on appeal Moving on from classic Mysteries we come to those action-packed thriller / mysteries by the likes of Clive Cussler and Matthew Reilly – the rise of the underdog (eg, ‘Hover Car Racer’), the success of the smarter man (NUMA). There’s always some mystery to solve but it’s also about characters exploring their heroic capabilities – whether they believe they have them or not – eg, Reilly’s ‘Contest’… I guess this is where ‘Halo’ would come in – the pitting of one genetically engineered warrior against the odds of an invading alien force. It’s about story and character, a little about setting, though the telling of the tale in between action sequences and game-play is perhaps what keeps me drawn to Halo – it satisfies the deep hunger for classic story-telling using language and imagery. Again the music helps, you know when the bad guys are coming because the music changes, you know when a sequence is about to end because the music plays, you want the story sequences to keep going because the music is expansive and consuming and operatic. [sigh] An aside to this is the fact that as a result of playing Halo I now actively seek out the related Halo fiction which is available42 From this description story and character are the appeal characteristics. Yet again Matthew Reilly is a possible author to suggest reading. Hard, or technology based,
Assassins creed 2 http://assassinscreed.uk.ubi.com/brotherhood/ [accessed 26 May 2010] Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010
science fiction may also be of interest including writers like Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter and John E Stith. There may also be interest in science writing, and possibly some adventure writers like Robert Louis Stephenson or John Buchan. This description of fantasy reading and playing provides its own challenges, and it may be that you are learning from the reader I read fantasy books, specifically a pseudo-genre known as high fantasy, penned by authors such as David Eddings and Sarah Brightman. I have always had a keen interest in the works of fantasy writers and was lead to them by friends and co-workers with similar interests. I enjoy reading fantasy books as it sparks my imagination and gives great material for the games I play and the stories I write myself… I guess a small part of me reads and plays fantasy games for escapism. Whether they are honest with you or not, most readers of the genre are attracted by the vivid worlds and unique experiences provided in fantasy writing and I think that this is intensified in Role Playing Games of the fantasy genre, as they allow one an interactive experience in a whole new world, effectively casting themselves in new roles they may never get a chance to play in real life…for me provides an excellent canvas for expressing ones imagination and creativity, more so than other genres in my opinion. As a reader, each new series, each new book or short story is unique and bold, dripping with colour and life and although it can be said for all literature, it is especially true that each work of fantasy fiction is strongly unique in ways uncapturable in other genres. I feel this aspect of fantasy is intensified with RPG's, as they not only give a storyteller the tools to create their own worlds but they make it a much more intense experience for those who choose to join that world. Where in a series such as Lord of the Rings, we all held our breath as characters bought an epic storyline to life, in a game of the same nature, we play those same stylised heroic characters and the fate of the world and it's inhabitants, no more or less real than in a traditional piece of literature, is in our hands. 43 This person is very much describing setting and language as the appeal for both reading and playing. Key here is being able to provide complete series, so series entries are critical in the cataloguing of titles, as is the ability to replace missing parts of series, or obtain them in interlibrary loan. As a contrast A general guideline - the more people die, the more I like it. I read for escapism primarily, and I like strong protagonists, suspense, and a high body count (of course!). As for the War novels and biographies, the heroism and helplessness of the situations resonate with me. …I also love games that make me laugh - Order of the Stick, Munchkin, Apples for Apples and Fluxx are good examples of this.44
ibid Comment received in survey about reading and game playing January to April 2010
This reader and player has identified the importance of character and setting. In your readers advisory interview with this person you would need to check on what mood they were in so that you could most effectively suggest a match for them. You may be suggesting titles like the Hunger games or authors like George RR Martin and Mark Chadburn for their body count. Non-fiction may also be a strong possibility for an area of interest, reading about modern, or ancient wars, plagues and destruction. This reader and game player has story as her dominant doorway, but also with a significant character focus as well I like games with a deep storyline that don't require a lot of hand-eye coordination. The latter restriction means that I can't play shooters, which means I miss out on some spectacular stories (Mass Effect, for instance). I enjoy tabletop Dungeons and Dragons and console video games, primarily RPGs. What I like about games is what I like about reading, it's the chance to sink myself into someone else's life and experience, just in a different manner. With a book, you can really get inside a character's head and know them from the inside out. With a game, you can get inside a character's body and direct their actions. Even if the story is entirely linear with no actual input from the player as to the outcome, you are still immersed in the role and feel the effects, and well-designed gameplay can heighten that immeasurably… Shadow of the Colossus: This is a beautiful, heart-breaking game of staggering genius and ingenuity. The story as you are given: a young man (the character you play) brings the body of a woman to a temple and agrees to slay sixteen Colossi in order to bring her back to life. Who these people are, why he's doing this, how he knew this forgotten god might help, these things are all left to the player's interpretation. You set out on a seemingly impossible task with a sword that can guide you to the next target, a bow, and a loyal horse to carry you through a barren, beautiful landscape… This is a fantastic game. It's immersive, empathetic, starkly gorgeous to behold, and wrenches at you emotionally to the point of tears. I'm not ashamed to admit that I bought a PS3 solely for the fact that the next game released by this company will be a PS3 exclusive.45 This reader wants to really go deep into a game or reading, requires a strong story, engaging characters to interact with, and a well designed and described setting. She is happy with ambiguity and does not require resolution. She also is happy to have a strong emotional investment in the game or reading. From her description long novels, or games, or multi-part novels and games are acceptable and she is prepared to wait. With a reader like this you could suggest complex histories and some biographies as well as well as works of fantasy. It may be possible that some science fiction in the space opera sub genre may also be of interest. With the game Darfur is dying46 the appeal characteristics are character, as you select a person and try and collect water and setting as there is a strong sense of the constraints. This could be an effective game to use as part of programming in a library, and tying in with non-fiction about the history of Sudan, particularly biographies. Depending on the age group you are working with you could tie in either
ibid Darfur is dying http://www.darfurisdying.com/ [accessed 26 May 2010]
stories or non-fiction accounts of other African wars such as Black hawk down by Mark Bowden47 or even go further afield by a discussion of Graeme Greene’s The quiet American48. To take it from a game perspective, someone who likes Tulipmania 163749 which has the players taking the roles of investors in a volatile tulip market and has the appeal characteristics of character, both from the other player and from roleplaying, and story as you participate in telling it. You could suggest some of the many non-fiction titles about tulips, their growth and history, but you could also suggest other books about economic intrigue, stock markets or thrillers. These are just some examples to highlight the link between games and reading, and the relevance of using both areas of appeal when seeking to help people with their reading and playing preferences. They also show that if you have someone coming to your library to play games, but not reading that you can use the game doorway/s to connect the player to reading. Library catalogues Make your catalogue work for you. It is a very important dataset for each library service. Having even brief descriptions of all works may help in being able to source material via your catalogue for doorways. Some of this material is already available via Trove50, and Librarything51, however you could consider encouraging your readers to add reviews or tags to the catalogue, if you have that capacity in your library management system. This would be a way of adding information which would help you. Tagging is now available on Trove, so people could focus on the national database. Perhaps over time it will be possible to download tags from Trove directly to your library management system so that combined with subject headings there. You could even be more radical and add lots of subject headings and descriptions to Trove to help others with this as well. We can’t outsource our expertise in this area. Our library cataloguers are the champion taggers, even if they don’t describe themselves this way.
Relevant library programming You may want to run game-themed events in your library, and that is one possible way of using this information of appeal characteristics. This will be effective for some people. You may also want to think about how you already promote events in your library. Could you do this in ways which highlight relevant doorways without describing them in that way? Think about how you promote existing library
Bowden, Mark, Black hawk down Trove reference http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/7217000? q=black+hawk+down&c=book [accessed 26 May 2010] 48 Greene, Grahame The quiet American Trove reference http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/6054796? q=quiet+american&c=book [accessed 26 May 2010] 49 Tulipmania 1637 http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/33732/tulipmania-1637 [accessed 27 May 2010] 50 Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/ [accessed 22 May 2010] 51 Librarything http://www.librarything.com/ [accessed 22 May 2010]
programming. Are there ways you could appeal to people who play games of all ages? And yes you may want to tailor this for specific events. You may want to have games sessions as part of author events, or as part of reading group discussions. There are many possibilities for use and the development of serious games as part of library programming, but that would be another paper. Where to now? Read and play. Encourage others to read and play. Discuss with others what you are learning through reading and playing to help with readers advisory work. We could claim #readandplay and tweet or blog about this. This would be a way of continuing and expanding this discussion, and a prompt to keep thinking about library services in these areas. Encourage others not to be prejudiced about people who read and play games. There are a lot of us out there and our numbers are growing rather than declining. There is a small section on the Readers Advisory wiki52 which has childrens and some young adult games sorted by appeal characteristics. This is a starting point. Join the wiki, become a writer and help to add content in this area. Try playing a few games, see what you like, and just as importantly what you don’t. The key point: talk with your readers and those who play games. Find out what are their connection points with games and books. It could be an interesting time to raise questions of format for the reading as well. Find out if you have any staff with specialist knowledge in this area. Do you know who plays games amongst your staff? If you don’t, why don’t you know this? This really is just an extension of readers advisory work, but you have to remember to ask the questions in a way which show that you want to hear the answers.
Readers Advisory wiki http://readersadvisory.wetpaint.com/page/Games+and+reading [accessed 21 May 2010]