Videogame Evaluation

Prepared for: Prepared by: Date: ALA Emerging Leaders Program Team H: A. Colgoni, L. Levinsohn, C. O’Malley, A. Pearson, A. Sherman July 11, 2012

INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................................................... 4 MEMBERS ................................................................................................................................................................................. 4 MEMBER GUIDES..................................................................................................................................................................... 4 BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES ...................................................................................................................... 5 Objectives.....................................................................................................................................................................................5 Background ................................................................................................................................................................................5 Contents of this document ...................................................................................................................................................6 1. RECOMMENDED COMPONENTS OF VIDEOGAME REVIEWS FOR LIBRARIES ................................ 7 REVIEW COMPONENTS PART I: VIDEOGAME METADATA ............................................................................................... 7 Developer .................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Publisher ..................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Platform ....................................................................................................................................................................... 8 Reviewed On (Platform) ....................................................................................................................................... 9 Format .......................................................................................................................................................................... 9 ESRB Rating with Content Descriptors ........................................................................................................... 9 Genre ........................................................................................................................................................................... 10 Technical Requirements and Peripherals ................................................................................................... 10 Number of Players/Multiplayer ...................................................................................................................... 11 Retail Price/Ongoing Costs ................................................................................................................................ 11 REVIEW COMPONENTS PART II: BODY OF THE REVIEW ................................................................................................ 11 Game Plot/Narrative/Gameplay Summary ................................................................................................ 11 Artistic Merit and Design Features ................................................................................................................. 12 Bugs, Patches, and Polish.................................................................................................................................... 13 Educational Value .................................................................................................................................................. 14 Social Relevence ..................................................................................................................................................... 14 Portrayals of Negative Themes in Videogames ......................................................................................... 15


Game Difficulty, Mechanisms of Play, and Length of Play ..................................................................... 15 Does the Model of Game Distribution Make It Appropriate for Library Collection? ................. 16 Technical Knowledge for Setup and Installation/Other Technical Requirements ..................... 17 Library Programming .......................................................................................................................................... 17 2. GUIDE FOR REVIWERS .................................................................................................................................. 19 3. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTION OF VIDEOGAME REVIEWS ...................................... 20 4. AWARD............................................................................................................................................................... 21 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ..................................................................................................................................... 22 REFERENCES ......................................................................................................................................................... 23 APPENDIX I.: REVIEW PORTFOLIO ............................................................................................................... 25 APPENDIX II.: AWARD APPLICATION TEMPLATE ................................................................................... 62


The American Libraries Association (ALA) Emerging Leaders (EL) 2012 Team H was tasked by the newly formed Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) with exploring and establishing the groundwork for a systematic method for library videogame evaluation. The evaluation systems are comprised of videogame reviews and an annual videogame award. This project was sponsored by the GameRT.

EL 2012 Team H is comprised of the following members: Andrew Colgoni, Science Fluencies Librarian McMaster University Libraries, Hamilton, ON, Canada Lindsey Levinsohn, Youth Services Librarian Sandusky Library, Sandusky, OH Caris O'Malley, Teen Services Manager Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ Audrey Pearson, Vail Cataloging Librarian Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, Cambridge, MA Andrew Sherman, IT Coordinator Sump Memorial Library, Papillion, NE

Nicole Pagowsky (Primary), Instructional Services Librarian University of Arizona Libraries, Tucson, AZ Erik Bobilin, Supervising Librarian Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY J.P. Porcaro, Head of Acquisitions and Technological Discovery New Jersey City University Library, Jersey City, NJ ALA Staff Liaison Jenny Levine, Strategy Guide American Library Association, Chicago, IL


OBJECTIVES In 2011, the Games and Gaming Member Interest Group (MIG) tasked Emerging Leaders Team G with exploring the issues associated with creating a library videogame collection. Topics addressed included "circulation & access, selection & purchasing, weeding, and an ideal MARC record" (Bobilin et al., 2011). The group's report outlines ideas of what makes a "good" game and considerations for the development of a videogame collection development policy. The report also revealed a lack of library-specific reviews for videogames; the kind of short, pithy reviews that collection developers can quickly digest to make collection decisions. During the ALA Annual Conference 2011, the MIG (founded in 2008) gained approval from the ALA Council to become a formal roundtable, named the Games and Gaming Roundtable (Levine, 2011). One of the intentions of this newly formed group is to update the online library gaming toolkit. The work of the 2012 EL Team H builds upon the research done by the previous year's Team G, while also addressing the GameRT's need for toolkit content. Team H’s (2012) objective was to develop criteria against which to judge games and with creating a portfolio of videogame reviews based on those criteria. BACKGROUND Videogames fit into the strategic plans and visions of many different library institutions. Academic institutions like the University of Southern California offer advanced study in game design or programming, while others, like the University of California at Irvine, offer courses that discuss video theory and culture. As videogames become more widely accepted as an art form and are recognized as societally important, higher education institutions will increasingly offer coursework and programs of studies incorporating videogames, and the libraries at those institutions will need to develop gaming collections to support their academic mission, as well as for student enjoyment and entertainment. Public libraries have long been thought of as institutions that lend popular, entertainment-based materials and, in recent years, have made efforts to offer access to new technologies and services, such as loaning e-readers and digital audiobooks. As many libraries consider how to remain relevant to modern users, videogames offer a public library the opportunity not only to adapt to the changing entertainment outlets of society and desires of library constituents, but to also integrate the latest technology into programming. School libraries are looking particularly for videogames in a variety of formats that ultimately support their curriculum and enhance the learning experience of students. They also wish to balance the educational experience with game popularity and excitement that engages the student. As part of the collection development process, a library should create a collection development policy that will serve as a guide to the selection of materials based upon pre-determined criteria. 5

Several factors can contribute to determining whether or not a videogame is appropriate for different institutions, including, but not limited to, age appropriateness, genre, gaming console, and the needs of the community. It has been recommended that libraries set their own videogame collection development policy prior to collection launch. Having a policy specific to videogames allows the developer to adapt to a rapidly changing industry and associated patron needs (Bobilin et al., 2011). Depending on how the policy is constructed, it could allow for indicating factors to automatically include or exclude videogames from a collection. For instance, if a library chooses to use ESRB rating as a contributing factor for collection, and they have stated that they will not purchase any game with a “Mature” rating, a quick glance at a review with that rating will indicate that the game is not appropriate. The collection development policy may also state that a library will not purchase any games that fall under the genre of first-person shooter; therefore, game reviews that include that genre descriptor can help a library quickly judge appropriateness. Judging appropriateness can also be done through other direct means and observations – character or series recognition, movie or literature tie-in, or past gaming experiences. With an effective review, a selector will also be able to judge appropriateness based upon a brief overview of the subject matter and/or plot. Ultimately, each library will have differing guidelines on what makes a videogame appropriate for collections, lending, or programming. At present, there are no widely accepted criteria for reviewing videogames as they relate to libraries. This project proposes some critical and optional components of game reviews and serves as a starting point for discussing critically evaluating games for collections. CONTENTS OF THIS DOCUMENT In the first section of this document, Team H proposes the kind of information that should make up a videogame review meant for libraries, and offers justification and explanation for that proposal. Part 1 is split into two main sections, the first part dealing with the “metadata” surrounding videogames, that of author, publisher, platform, etc. Part 2 discusses the “body” of the review, where the game would be discussed and recommended for purchase (or not). Following this, Section 2 offers a summarized and condensed version of Section 1, meant for the review writers. Section 3 offers further recommendations about the implementation of these reviews in an online environment. The reviews themselves can be found in Appendix 1.


DEVELOPER Videogame developers are software developers who create games, adapt them to new consoles, or translate them to/from other languages. For all intents and purposes, the developer is the “author” of a game. A development studio might be a single individual or a team of any size, with some games being made by a team of hundreds. For games created by a large team, there is usually a director, who has a role not unlike that in cinema. There are also artists for characters, objects and the environment, designers (e.g. level designers), game testers, animators, voice actors, and many other roles. Many game publishers maintain development divisions, but they differ in that their primary objective is publishing games. A developer’s release history can be used as a fairly reliable measure of the quality of their new games. Although videogames are a fairly recent phenomenon, there are developers that are well established because they continued to release quality products over time. Examples of these developers include, but are not limited to, BioWare (Mass Effect), Activision (Call of Duty), Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft), and Bungie Studios (Halo). These developers consistently build upon their previous releases in the expansion of their catalogs. Worth noting, also, is the commercial success of a particular developer’s previous releases. Today, large-scale developers like BioWare (which is now owned by Electronic Arts) sink millions of dollars into game development. Large companies are able to afford a robust, specialized staff to push their games to the next level. These large developers often have the resources available to make significant advances in gaming technologies and create large, immersive worlds. Recently, the playing field has levelled out somewhat, allowing smaller, more agile developers the ability to create innovative games.
*This section is a synthesized summary of Bissell’s (2010) work, which is based largely upon industry interviews and informed game play.

PUBLISHER The publisher of a videogame may or may not be the same as the developer. Many publishers develop their own games, but game developers often work with a publisher for manufacturing, marketing, and advertising the game, as well as for general funding of the project. The level of involvement by a publisher in a game varies from game to game, but since many publishers provide the business capital for studios while the game is in development, they can have a measurable influence as far as setting milestone deadlines, and working with producers on the direction of the game.


Some of the major publishers include Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Sega, and Capcom. It is important to include this information both for purchasing and searching purposes, but also because publisher names can carry clout with users. PLATFORM The videogame landscape is made up of multiple ‘platforms’, which are simply the devices that the videogames are run on. These might be ‘consoles’ (stand-alone videogame machines) that are designed to be attached directly to a television, a personal computer, or a mobile device. Historically, videogames were designed to be run on a single platform only (i.e., a game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System could only ever be played on that console). Now we find that many games are developed for multiple platforms at the same time. This is particularly true for the large-budget (so-called ‘triple A’) titles. It is important to list the platforms that a title is available on because, for the most part, individual games cannot be used on different systems. There are some exceptions to this rule (such as the prevalence of backward compatibility in later generations of systems produced by the same manufacturer) that should be noted in the review. Also important to note is the method of control the system employs. At present, there are three basic different types of game controls: traditional controls (stock PS3, Xbox 360 controllers), motion controls (Wii, PS3 Move controllers), and motion activated controls (Xbox Kinect). At present, the traditional controls are standard equipment, but a sensor or motion controller that does not come with the console should be mentioned explicitly. It should also be noted whether or not a game is the best fit for a specific system. Although some games are created for several platforms, they may not be well suited to each. For example, according to a study by Limperos et al. (2011), Madden Football (a common bestseller) is not optimal for Wii. A correlation was found between the differences in controllers and feelings of control (which translated into feelings of competence). The programming differences necessary for each platform can also make a significant difference. A good example of this is the Resident Evil series (native to PlayStation), which evolved from a game that allowed a player to move around the virtual world freely into a tightly controlled and linear rail shooter when it was adapted for the Wii. If possible, a reviewer should suggest an optimal platform for a specific game, which, more often than not, is going to be the native platform, as those were the controls it was intended to have. To summarize, any game cannot be used on any console, the control mechanism of each system has an impact on enjoyment of games, and there are sometimes notable differences in the same game as it is adapted to different platforms. Reviews should make note of the platform the game is available for and how suitable it is to that platform if it is native to another. Awkwardness of game controls should be noted.


REVIEWED ON (PLATFORM) It is worth noting that a game developed to be ‘multi-platform’ may run slightly differently on each platform. This might include technical differences, such as frame rate, graphical quality or method of game delivery (digital/disc/multi-disc), or may encompass features such as downloadable extra content or characters. As a result, the individual that purchases a game based on a particular review should be aware that their experience might differ slightly from the reviewer's based on the game being played on a different platform. FORMAT Modern videogames are released on a variety of media, and so the format of the game is an important consideration for the game collector. The console market is primarily driven by game distributed on physical media, namely, optical discs (e.g. DVD in the case of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Blu-ray for Sony’s PS3). There are also games released for these consoles that can only be obtained by downloading the game through the console’s interface, making them unsuitable for library lending, but perhaps still appropriate for in-library use. Portable devices (like the Nintendo 3DS, for example) tend to rely on mini cartridges, mini discs or small memory cards, and tend to rely less on digital downloads. Finally, the PC market is estimated to be about evenly split between digital downloads and physical media (Deleon, 2010). The more independent a game is (that is, those developers not attached to financing publisher), the more likely it is that the game will only be distributed through download. ESRB RATING WITH CONTENT DESCRIPTORS The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is a non-profit, self-directed board that provides broad age-based ratings, along with brief descriptions that support that rating. These ratings go onto the box and advertising associated with the game. A game is not required to have an ESRB rating, but almost all games do, and certainly major titles will. Rating categories include eC (early childhood, 3+) E (everyone, 6+), E10+ (everyone, 10+), T (teen, 13+), M (mature 17+) and Ao (adults only 18+). The rating on the ESRB website also includes a rating summary, which provides examples of the content descriptors. An example ESRB rating: Game title: Alan Wake; ESRB Rating: Teen; Content descriptors: Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence. Including the ESRB rating in the review provides a quick reference for the age-appropriateness of the game, as well as a basic notion of what elements in the game led to that rating.


GENRE Genre labels are descriptors that can provide a great deal of information about a game in a very short space. Genres can describe mode of game play, as in puzzle games or shooter games, the social aspect of the game, as in party games or massively-multiplayer online role-playing games, or the type of story or theme, as in fantasy games or horror games, as well as other game characteristics. Because of the brevity of reviews, genre descriptors are incredibly valuable in quickly conveying common game descriptions and conventions, and can save the reviewer space that can be better used for evaluation statements. Genre labels can also help a library evaluate the appropriateness of a game for their collections. Genre labels such as “shoot-’em-up” give a good indication of the level of violence present in games. These distinctions can also assist technical services workers in assigning accurate subject headings and appropriate labels, since it cannot be assumed that the people processing materials will be familiar with videogames. As Thomas, Orland, and Steinberg state (2007), game genres are ever changing, and often overlap. Therefore, the game reviewer should not be limited to a static list of genres, but should try to use genre terms that accurately reflect the game in question. Reviewers are encouraged to refer to p. 73 of The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual for guidance. Genres are to be used individually, like tags, rather than hierarchically, in order to provide the greatest taxonomic flexibility. While a hierarchical scheme may be effective for cataloging subject purposes, that is not the focus of reviews. By utilizing the tag aproach instead of the heirarchical, the reviewer opens the possibilities of a plurality of genres rather than restricting to a predetermined limited and controlled vocabulary. TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS AND PERIPHERALS The benefit of game consoles is that they remove the need to update and manage hardware, and peripherals, such as controllers, are guaranteed to work. However, some games have special requirements that go above and beyond the standard console and controller, without which the game is rendered unplayable. This can include, but is not limited to, special input devices like dance pads, microphones, balance boards, motion sensors, cameras, and guitars. Typically, these input devices are not compatible with a console beyond the one it was designed for. PC games can also have demanding device requirements (particularly to run at the highest display settings), such as a specific generation of graphics card or specific processor speed. These requirements are typically listed on the game’s packaging or website, and usually provide details for minimum, recommended and maximum settings. Many current games require Internet access to fully access all features, such as group gameplay. Many of these games also require online accounts for each player. This can be potentially problematic for in-library gaming, so it is worth noting.


NUMBER OF PLAYERS/MULTIPLAYER Videogames are no longer simply ‘one-player’ or ‘two-player’, as they were in the days of early consoles where a maximum of two controllers could be connected to a single console. Videogame developers have embraced the benefits that the Internet offers, and many games offer a ‘multiplayer’ component in addition to a so-called ‘campaign’ or offline mode. Additionally, some multiplayer games are co-operative in nature, where the players work together to achieve a common goal, while other multiplayer games are competitive. As a result of these many options, the multiplayer combinations can prove quite numerous, including ‘2-player offline co-op’, ‘4-player online co-op‘, ‘online head-to-head’, ‘online arena play’, etc. It is important to understand the number of players supported, and how, because it can affect how the game is used. A single-player, role-playing game like Skyrim is ultimately a solo experience, with little room for other players to participate beyond watching. A first-person shooter like Left4Dead was designed to be played co-operatively with four players, making the single-player experience less satisfying. Party games, meant for multiple players simultaneously in a fun, competitive environment, are well-liked by younger gamers. These distinctions can become important for library programming, or estimating circulation. RETAIL PRICE/ONGOING COSTS The cost of the game is obviously an important consideration for the collection developer on a limited budget. New games, at retail, tend to vary in price considerably: a new, top-tier title can cost $59, middle-tier $39 or $49, and indie titles $9 or $19. The price of games can drop substantially a few months after launch and sales (especially for downloaded games from online retailers) are frequent. Of course, with the current generation of consoles using disc-based media, games may be bought at a discount or used. Ongoing costs, or subscription costs are more frequently associated with PC games, and particularly to massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), although some console games also charge monthly subscription rates. Titles like World of Warcraft or The Old Republic have month-tomonth costs for online play. Others, trying different monetization schemes, are moving away from the subscription model and offering “Free to Play” MMORPGs (Ludgate, 2011). Some games that are free to play make money by selling virtual items that allow you advance faster. The game Tap Fish allows you to pay a fee to resurrect your fish when they die instead of having to start over with new fish.

GAME PLOT/NARRATIVE/GAMEPLAY SUMMARY Games can be very roughly divided into narrative and non-narrative types. Non-narrative games are those which make no attempt to tell a story. Typically in these games, the gameplay is the focus, and points are often used to reward gameplay (Majewski, 2003). Two older games that typify this 11

style are Tetris and Space Invaders. However, even in the latter game, some rudimentary narrative can be implied from the gameplay: a spaceship is the lone defense against an onslaught of alien invaders (Majewski, 2003). Non-narrative games are usually easier to jump in and play, since there is little background knowledge needed, other than the how to play the game. Games that focus on a narrative often reward the player with continued narrative (‘what happens next’), or the conclusion of the story (Majewski, 2003). Gameplay in narrative games needs to be enjoyable, but is also involved in furthering the story. Videogames that are successful are often continued narratively through sequels, where the next game has a direct connection the previous (the Mass Effect series is a good example of this). Narrative games, like books or movies that are driven by plot, do not work as well in short-bursts, but benefit from player immersion. In both narrative and non-narrative games, there is some form of gameplay. The gameplay is often captured to some degree in the genre description: first-person shooter, role-playing game, etc. The brief description that the genre type provides is usually not enough to capture the full gameplay experience. For example, Fallout 3 is a role-playing game, but also a first-person shooter (FPS). This description leaves out how the shooting aspect is quite different from a typical FPS, relying heavily on a paused, tactical style of shooting. A summary of a game, then, requires some description of the narrative, however rudimentary, and a description of the gameplay involved. ARTISTIC MERIT AND DESIGN FEATURES Sidestepping the whole argument of whether games are art, since there are compelling arguments for why some (if not all) games should be considered art (Smuts, 2005), this section discusses the nature of art within videogames, and the elements that might make up a discussion about artistic merit. In the early days of videogames (reaching back to the 70’s and 80’s), it was difficult to make a strong argument that videogames were art, particularly since the screen resolution was so low, and the ability to reproduce musical tones so rudimentary. However, even then, the same core themes of videogames existed: narrative, music, interactivity, design and illustration. The ability of the videogame to produce these elements has only improved in the intervening decades, which has increased the game designer’s ability to create robust narrative or design choices. Much as early cinema was derided as not having artistic value, yet in hindsight recognized as an important art form, videogames appear to be moving along a similar trajectory (Jenkins, n.d.). In this vein, a discussion of a videogame’s artistic merit can encompass a number of factors including story/narrative, sound design and music, art style and graphical quality and gameplay. a. Story, or narrative, is an important component of many modern videogames. Heavy Rain, for example, might be better described as an ‘interactive narrative’. b. Sound design and music are also very important. Sound can be used as a component of gameplay or as part of the atmosphere or mood. Soundtracks may be professionally composed or compiled from other sources.


c. Games often have different and distinct art styles. Borderlands, a first-person shooter, had a cell-shaded style, which mimics the thick lines of comic books. Bastion or Braid, both indie titles, have a rich watercolor look about them. Other games are in stark black and white, like Limbo, or nostalgic pixilation, like Minecraft. Of course, there are a great many games that aim for photo-realism, or something close to it. Graphical ‘quality’ is somewhat tethered to the hardware running the game. For this reason, the personal computer, with its upgradable graphics card, tends to be capable of running at higher resolution with greater detail. With ever emerging technology, there is increased freedom and flexibility for game designers to choose how they want to use graphics, which in turn allows the developers to be more creative and have more control over the art and design. d. Outside of these more traditional art forms, artistry in videogames can come from the game play itself. How the player controls the avatar/character or how the game character interacts with the game world can have an elegance or artistry. How the game levels are designed, and how that influences the player’s interaction with it can also form the basis of art (e.g. Portal’s complex level design is matched with its innovative ‘warping’ technique, leading to elegant solutions). Tavinor (2009) argues that gameplay “engages” players similar to other kinds of art, and thus deserves the same kind of critical analysis. There has been an emergence of the videogame that is born fully formed as an art piece. These games may rely heavily on one particular art form (e.g. narrative) at the expense of others (e.g. gameplay or graphical quality). One example is Passage, a low-resolution game that allows the player to move through their character’s life in the span of five minutes. The art in this case comes from the designer’s intent to share a particular feeling or emotion through a specifically designed videogame activity. Obviously, the nature of art in games is both complex and subjective. Nonetheless, recognizing the “Art” within and of games is an important part their gaining recognition as a legitimate art form. Additionally, the artistry of games becomes important in academic libraries, special collections, and archives, where selection may be for research purposes or for long-term preservation. BUGS, PATCHES, AND POLISH Historically (in this case, pre-2000), videogames for consoles were shipped as a completely finished product since there was no way to alter the game after it had shipped. As a result, games needed to undergo rigorous quality assurance and testing to ensure that there were no bugs that could alter the playability of the game in a significant way (particularly the kind of glitches that would make the game unplayable, so-called ‘game-ending’ bugs). On the personal computer and on modern consoles (which include hard-drives and connect to the Internet), developers can now send out ‘patches’ that can repair any errors in the game that might have been missed during play-testing. As a result, some games are released without rigorous testing, leading to situations where some players might describe the game as unfinished or buggy. There are many reasons why this might happen, which has to do with the complexity of the game, and the money and time available for testing. This is not to imply that all games have bugs, or that 13

most games are not thoroughly tested. Rather, the videogame reviewer should simply be aware that such bugs exist, and in rare circumstances can affect the overall gameplay experience. For example, depending on the quantity of the bugs, or what elements of the game they affect, the game could be rendered more or less unplayable, at worst. If a game requires substantial patching, or if there is a possibility that the game might not be patched, this can affect the desire to purchase a game, or the buyer may wish to delay purchase until the bugs are patched. EDUCATIONAL VALUE The educational value of games is relevant from both a development/gameplay perspective as well as a logistical perspective for libraries. Videogames provide a platform for learning unlike any other. These games are often highly adaptive, keeping players challenged, but not with so much difficulty that they become discouraged. In good games, players are constantly playing at the edge of their abilities (McGonigal, 2011). The games progressively get more difficult as the player acclimates to the rules of the game. The learning of in-game rules and using those rules to build upon base knowledge is one of the ways that videogames facilitate active learning. This is in direct contrast to traditional classroom education, which requires students to passively learn by absorbing information as it is written or told to them (Springer, 2011). One of the ways good games are judged is by their ability to teach the player how to play without any sort of written instructions, such as a manual (McGonigal, 2011). Manley and Whitaker (2011) found that integrating active videogames (such as Wii) into the learning environment led to increases in critical analysis ability, attention, and enjoyment. This study built upon the core idea of constructivism, as initially theorized by Jean Piaget, which suggests that humans expand their knowledge base through a combination of experience and ideas. This information would be especially useful to school libraries that have to justify expenditures and work with limited budgets. When funds are low, selectors have to find materials that will entice students and support the curriculum (Johns, 2011). Games are slowly being integrated into school environments and becoming more widely accepted. It is essential for school libraries to keep pace with information literacy instruction (Levine, 2006). If the educational value of a game can be ascertained from a review, it would make the selection process much easier for those expected to support game-inclusive curricula. SOCIAL RELEVENCE Videogames often portray men as hyper-aggressive and violent, and women as lithe, thin, and sexual (Dill, 2007). Dill’s 2007 study suggests that videogames contribute to the gender socialization of young people. This is supported by Martin and Ruble’s (2004) claim that children’s concept of gender is a culmination of ideas gathered from their surroundings. Embodying these ideals as set forth in games can potentially have a negative impact on development (Dill says that aggressive males typically have lower intellect and portrayals of women can perpetuate sexism). In


some library environments, it may be in everyone’s best interest to select games that, even if they do not represent a positive social view, don’t perpetuate harmful, negative stereotypes. Racism is also a very serious issue in gaming today. In the very popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft (WoW), there is a very strong anti-Chinese sentiment amongst players (Nakamura, 2009). WoW has spawned a number of real-life entrepreneurs in countries like China and Korea to create virtual goods that can be sold for real world money. Many players view this as a form of cheating, which has resulted in a form of racial discrimination inside the game (Nakamura, 2009). There are also games like Far Cry 2, as noted by Tom Bissell (2010), that properly portray racial minorities as they really exist. That particular game, for example, takes place in war torn Africa, and its people are neither glamorized, nor dehumanized. Games reflect the world we live in. If sought out, it is easy to find instances of savage violence, racism, and sexism. Conversely, it is easy to find more positive instances–such as the character building mechanism in Nintendo Wii. Instead of being stuck with the stock white, male character, users get to create their own avatars of varying gender, race, and physical features. It is worth noting if a game is of particular social import, be it for positive or negative reasons. PORTRAYALS OF NEGATIVE THEMES IN VIDEOGAMES Videogames battle prejudice because of the violence and sexuality they can portray. For many games, violence is integral for the game play, such as shooter and fighting games. Bissell (2010) cites a statement by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1982 that blamed videogames for “aberrations in childhood behavior.’” The idea that violence and sexuality in videogames can be harmful to children has been around for a long time, and that is something that libraries will need to contend with when creating videogame collections. Negative comments such as this can overshadow evidence of positive videogame influence, such as improved hand-eye coordination in gamers. Videogames can be challenged in libraries just like any other materials, and with increased game collections, we may expect games to be challenged even more. The reviewer should carefully consider what audiences may or may not be appropriate for a game and note whether violence is of a realistic or cartoon nature, and the relative severity of violence. GAME DIFFICULTY, MECHANISMS OF PLAY, AND LENGTH OF PLAY Each game presents a combination of variables that contribute to the overall user experience of challenge. Some gamers appreciate an extreme challenge, while others would rather enjoy the experience of playing the game without the negative feedback of the ‘game over’. Somewhere in the middle is the fine balance between challenge and frustration. As Bennett (2007) describes in ‘The Difficulty Arc’, developers straddle a fine line when they aim to make their game challenging without being frustrating. Game mechanics such as those that allow the user to save anywhere or offer well thought-out ‘checkpoints’ can soften the frustration of what would otherwise be a game over screen. 15

One of the biggest modifiers of the challenge experience is the (static) difficulty setting. This is usually a software option chosen by the player at some point during the initial start of play. Standard difficulty levels are easy, medium and hard, though some games offer a ‘harder than hard’ difficulty level, which may be unlocked after a single playthrough. The difficulty setting usually affects how the non-player characters (NPCs) are able to interact with the player. At harder difficulties, NPCs may be faster, smarter, or have better aim in shooting games. It may also affect how much ‘damage’ a player can take before the game ends. Another contributor to game challenge is the mechanism of play. For example, two-dimensional fighting games (e.g. Street Fighter series) require knowledge of button codes to execute special fighting moves, as well as the dexterity to produce the combination of button presses. Feil and Scattergood (2002; as described in Bostan and Öğüt, 2009) suggest that videogames offer different kinds of challenges: time (working against the clock), dexterity (requiring hand-eye coordination), endurance (out-lasting the computer), memory/knowledge, cleverness/logic (puzzle solving), and resource control (which require managing a finite number of resources to achieve game goals). Games may involve a number of these challenges to accomplish game goals, such as with roleplaying games (Bostan and Öğüt, 2009). Any game that a player is just learning has a ‘curve’, which describes how quickly or slowly a player can figure out and master the rules of play. Many modern games introduce game mechanics and rules through an initial tutorial level, which allows players to skip the instruction manual and get right into the game. There may be games that expect some prior knowledge or ramp up difficulty quite quickly though. Bekker et al. (2005) describe a successful game as one that is easy to learn but hard to master, which considers both initial and extended use of the game. Finally, the length of the game may contribute to the overall challenge of the game. Game length is important for other reasons, as well, since some game buyers take into account the length of play when they are purchasing a game. For example, does a game that takes 50 hours to play have more value than a game that takes 12 hours? This will vary, depending on the gamer, and the quality of the experience within that time. Overall, the nature of the challenge and the length of the game contribute to the enjoyability of the game, and may also affect ultimate use. An extremely challenging game like Ninja Gaiden may not be enjoyable for many players, even if it were age appropriate. Games that lack challenge may prove boring for the majority of players, though it may be more appropriate for a novice or younger gamer. A game that is very long (requiring 20-50 hours to complete) may not mesh with library systems that have limited length loans (Bobilin et al., 2011). These factors can contribute to a library choosing a game for their collection. DOES THE MODEL OF GAME DISTRIBUTION MAKE IT APPROPRIATE FOR LIBRARY COLLECTION? While console games have dominated the marketplace for the majority of gaming history, there is no reason to think this will always be the case. Consoles are very well-integrated to the Internet, which introduces the potential for a change in delivery model. Already, there are retail-quality 16

games that are being released as exclusively downloadable releases with no physical counterpart. An example of this recent trend is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare for Xbox 360, a positivelyreviewed game available only through the Xbox Games Marketplace. If other forms of media distribution are any indication, it can be anticipated that more and more games will be available in this model, which may impact their lendability in a library setting. In addition, some popular games, such as World of Warcraft, require a subscription to access their full functionality. With these subscriptions come ongoing costs that are typically tied to a single account, which makes them not only unlendable but also poses challenges for in-house use. Along these same lines, there are some PC games that, due to embedded digital rights management (DRM) technologies, have a limit to the number of times they can be installed on a computer. The original 2008 PC release of the popular game Mass Effect, for example, could only be activated three times after purchase (Breckon, 2008). TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE FOR SETUP AND INSTALLATION/OTHER TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS After the hardware has been initially setup, which includes hooking consoles up to TVs, connecting to the Internet, etc., there is usually little adjustment that needs to happen. Consoles are designed to be ‘plug-and-play’, where playing a game is as easy as putting a game disc in and pressing start. PC games tend to be a little more involved because each computer is different, and the game needs to be installed to the hard drive of the computer. In the case of older games that were meant to run on a previous operating system, it might require the installation of additional software to get the game to run smoothly. For modern games, there may be incompatibilities with certain graphics cards or firmware/software updates required to run the game efficiently. Where technical expertise is most often required, however, is the setup of specific kinds of multiplayer games. More and more, online multiplayer games are streamlined, requiring little technical knowledge – it is simply a matter of connecting to the multiplayer section of the game and playing. However, the running and hosting of local game tournaments or game parties using a private network and game server may require certain technical expertise and the installation of additional software. Additionally, online play might be limited by the speed of the available Internet connection. These factors can go toward how well the game will fit into library programming. LIBRARY PROGRAMMING In library programming, it is essential for everyone attending to participate. Some games lend themselves to this better than others, depending on the types of programs being hosted. There are a few questions that can help one determine if a game is good for programming: CAN IT BE USED IN A GROUP SETTING? Tournaments can be set up in a variety of different ways. They can center on a single console with constantly rotating players, or on multiple consoles with several players 17

competing head-to-head. These types of programs are ideal because they ensure that everyone gets to play, and they can be large-scale social events that would have been hard for the players to organize on their own (Saxon, 2007). For some games, free play is a viable option. If the program is offered often, is small, and is mostly unstructured, it can pay off to let users just play in designated time slots (Saxon, 2007). Libraries can also create game discussion groups (similar to already existing book discussion groups) and use specific games as catalyst for discussion (Saxon, 2007). These discussion groups can be formed out of regular groups of gamers and can direct focus on different issues in gaming (Danforth, 2011). This type of program widens the possibilities of applicable games, and, as a bonus, librarians are already familiar with this format. DOES IT SUPPORT/ENHANCE EXISTING LIBRARY PROGRAMMING? Games can be used to successfully enhance programs that are already happening in the library. For example, if a library has a newsletter, it may be relevant to invite users to write reviews of games for the publication (Saxon, 2007). IS IT APPROPRIATE FOR THE AUDIENCE? Videogame content ranges from being acceptable for all ages to only being acceptable for mature audiences (ages 17 and up). It is important to determine which games are appropriate for different types of programs. Some games, like popular first-person shooters, may not be appropriate for all children. It should be noted that just because a game isn’t appropriate for children, it doesn’t necessary eliminate it from being a good choice for a library program, since library staff can restrict programs to specific ages or require signed parental permission forms (Levine, 2006). DOES THE GAME SUPPORT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT? Community gaming events correlate with higher levels of civic engagement (Lenhart, 2008). Videogame programming allows for experienced players to help novice users in a supportive environment that discourages antisocial behavior (Levine, 2009). Games with higher requisite skill levels can be successfully used in programming if community gaming “experts” are available to help others understand game play. For example, the game Rock Band features its own proprietary controller that may be unfamiliar to some users. The foreign control mechanism is the perfect excuse to get players talking to and guiding one another. The structure of the library program allows users to work together and work through their differences in a supportive and positive environment (Levine, 2009).


Reviewers are expected to have some prior knowledge of the genre and console of the videogame they are reviewing in order to be able to make informed appraisals within the videogame canon. Many librarians who use these reviews will not be familiar with videogames; therefore, the reviewer should have a general audience in mind, including selectors that range from the experienced to those that have no knowledge of videogames. Within the space of 175-300 words, the game review needs to provide a description of the game and critical evaluation of its value to libraries. Each review must state the name of the game developer, publisher, the platform it was played on for the review, as well as any other platforms on which it is available, the format the game is available on (i.e., optical disc, cartridge, digital download), the ESRB rating with content descriptors, and any genre labels that apply (a standard list of genre labels can be found on page 73 of the Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual). State whether a game has any special technical requirements or necessary peripheral accessories, and how many players it supports and was designed to be played by. For example, this metadata, once compiled, may look like: Developed by: Ubisoft Paris | Published by: Ubisoft Available for: Wii, Xbox 360 Kinect, Playstation 3 | Reviewed on: Wii Format: Optical disc Rated: Everyone 10+ (Lyrics) Genre: Music, Rhythm, Health & Fitness No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer (up to 8 players) Each review should include a one-sentence summary of the game and overall evaluation. Give a brief description of the gameplay and/or narrative, as well as the overall artistic appeal and game design, especially if notable. Also comment on the game difficulty when warranted and length of time it takes to play the game. Make note of bugs only if they greatly impede gameplay. Keep in mind the broader social aspects of gaming as well, including: educational value; social relevance; portrayal of negative stereotypes; and violence, sexuality, and/or drug use. Point out if the game seems well suited for library programming. Reviewers should avoid making sweeping statements like, “This is the best role-playing game of all time.” Rather, try to point out specific positive and negative points. Reviews are bound to have some subjectivity on the part of the reviewer, but we expect reviewers to make a concerted effort to review games in the context of how they pertain to libraries. In the end, the review should answer two questions: is the game any good, and should libraries purchase it.


EL2012 Team H's recommendations for the online implementation of the GameRT's review database are: • • • Unlike print media, videogames are audiovisual, so the online reviews should reflect that by including game art and videos. Direct the reader, via hypertext, to useful information like the game’s website, related games, etc. Use multiple categorizations for users to find reviews. We recommend:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Most recent review by default Alphabetical by title Year published Game Platform (e.g. Xbox 360) Genre

Consider using an open licensing system, such as Creative Commons, on the reviews, so that non-commercial entities can re-use them. For example, a library might want to excerpt some of the review for use in their library catalogue, or when featuring a new purchase Videogames tend to drop in price a few months after launch, as demand subsides. We suggest including a mechanism to pull a ‘live’ current retail price. Recognizing that not all collection developers are gamers, consider including a glossary for videogame jargon. While reviews of the newest games are desirable, reviewers should also be able to write reviews of older games. Patrons may have older gaming systems, and librarians building collections will not limit themselves only to games from the current year. There should be editorial control over the reviews before they are published. While it is preferable that the review authors create as much of the review as they are able, an editor or editors should make sure that the review content is in line with expectations, that the metadata for the review is accurate, and that terminology is consistent. Determine if the reviews can have embedded metadata that can be easily extracted by users to be included in their catalogues. One possibility is COinS, but there may be others.

• • •


ALA has a long tradition of formally recognizing quality books through a variety of awards. For example, the John Newbery Medal has been awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" since 1922; the Caldecott Medal has been awarded by the same association "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children" since 1937. Both medals are recognized as prestigious honors, and bring widespread notice to the books to which they are awarded. More recently, ALA has established awards for library materials in non-book formats. The Odyssey Award was established jointly by the ALSC and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in 2008 to recognize "the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States." The Video Round Table (VRT) has also established Notable Videos for Adults, consisting of "a list of 15 outstanding programs released on video within the past two years and suitable for all libraries serving adults." As evidenced by previously established book and media awards, awards play a valuable role in library collection development and marketing. It makes sense that the GameRT should establish an award to recognize valuable videogame contributions, thereby encouraging libraries to collect those games, and creating a pathway for libraries to be recognized as arbiters of taste and as valuable consumers by the videogame industry. The larger question at stake is what a GameRT videogame award would actually be awarding. EL 2012 Team H was unable to come to a definite consensus of what the award would be; rather, this seems to be an issue that should be discussed and voted on more widely by the entire GameRT. EL 2012 Team H brainstormed several scenarios that would be worth pursing: 1) Award for the best videogame of the year 2) Award for best independent videogame of the year 3) Award for best videogame of the year for a specific age range, such as best videogame for kids, or best videogame for young adults. This could be done in partnership with YALSA or ALSC 4) A list of the best videogames, modeled on YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults 5) Award for a specific videogame achievement, such as best level design or best art 6) Award for a videogame genre, such as best role-playing game, or best puzzle game In addition, issues that will need to be addressed include how to fund the award, how to assemble a group of judges, what physical form the award might take, and the possibility of naming the award.


         Nicole Pagowski & Erik Bobilin, Project Mentors JP Porcaro, Chair, GameRT Jenny Levine, Staff Mentor ALA Emerging Leaders support staff Jennifer Green for editing John Fink and Joe Giammarco for review contributions Heather McCormack, Library Journal Keir Graff, Booklist Online Fran Graf & Carolyn Wilcox, CHOICE Reviews


Bekker, M., Barendregt, W., Crombeen, S. and Biesheuvel, M. (2004): Evaluating Usability and Challenge during Initial and Extended Use of Children's Computer Games, Proceedings of the HCI04 Conference on People and Computers XVIII 2004. pp. 331-346. Bennett, C. (2007). The difficulty arc: How frustration ruins the gameplay experience. Retrieved from Bissell, T. (2010). Extra lives: Why video games matter. New York, NY: Pantheon. Bobilin, E, Johnson, A., Kosturski, K., Lu, J. and Pagowsky, N. (2011). Videogame Collection Development: Issues and Best Practices. Bobilin, E. and Pagowsky, N. (2011). American Libraries Magazine. Bostan, B. & Öğüt, S. (2009). Game challenges and difficulty levels: Lessons learned from RPGs. ISAGA2009 Conference, Singapore. Breckon, N. (2008). Electronic Arts responds to copy protection outcry, removes 10-day SecuROM check for the troops. Shack News. Retrieved from Danforth, L. (2011). Gaming: Let’s talk. Library Journal, September, 48. Deleon, N. (2010). NPD now tracks PC game digital downloads, finds that they make up nearly 50 percent of all sales. TechCrunch. Retrieved from on 12 June 2012 Dill, K. P. (2007). Video game characters and the socialization of gender roles: Young people’s perceptions mirror sexist media depictions. Sex Roles, 57(11/12), 851-864. Feil, J., & Scattergood, M. (2005). Beginning Game Level Design, Muska and Lipman/Premier-Trade. Ivory, J.D. & Kalyanaraman, S. (2007). The effects of technological advancement and violent content in video games on players’ feelings of presence, involvement, physiological arousal, and aggression. Journal of Communication, 57(3), 532-555. Johns, S. (2011). Your school needs a frugal librarian!. Library Media Connection, 29(4), 26. Lenhart, A. (2008). Teens, video games, and civics. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 5-6. Levine, J. (2006). School libraries. Library Technology Reports, 42(5), 31-37. Levine, J. (2006). Case studies: Public libraries. Library Technology Reports, September - October, 45-55. 23

Levine, J. (2011, June 27). GameRT gets approval. Retrieved from Levine, J. (2009). Libraries, videogames, and civic engagement. Library Technology Reports, July, 1118. Limperos, A.M., Schmierbach, M.G., Kegerise, A.D., & Dardis, F.E. (2011). Gaming across different consoles: Exploring the influence of control scheme on game-player enjoyment. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(6), 345-350. Ludgate, S. (2011, August 16). The F-words of MMOs: free-to-play. Retrieved from Majewski, J. (2003). Theorizing video game narrative. Master’s Thesis, Bond University. Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. (2004). Children’s search for gender cues: Cognitive perspectives on gender development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(2), 67–70. McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. London: Jonathan Cape. Nakamura, L. (2009). Don't hate the player, hate the game: The racialization of labor in World of Warcraft. Critical Studies In Media Communication, 26(2), 128-144. Saxon, B. (2007). All thumbs isn’t a bad thing: Video game programs @ your library®. Young Adult Library Service, Winter, 31-33. Tavinor, G. (2009). The art of videogames. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Thomas, D., Orland, K., & Steinberg, S. (2007). The videogame style guide and reference manual. United States: Power Play.



Dwarf Fortress (2006)
June 11, 2012 by John Fink Developed by: Tarn Adams | Published by: Bay 12 Games Available for: Linux, Mac, PC | Reviewed on: Linux Format: Digital download Genre: Simulation, role-playing No. of players: Single-player Dwarf Fortress (originally released in 2006, but continues to be developed) is a complex ASCIIbased game, somewhat of a cross between a Roguelike and SimCity. Although a mode closely resembling a traditional roguelike exists, the bulk of Dwarf Fortress is a world building simulation. Despite the primitive appearing graphics, Dwarf Fortress has a from-scratch procedural terrain generation system, a combat system including detailed damage modeling to limbs and organs, and a world populated by massive arrays of potential enemies and trading partners. The unofficial slogan of Dwarf Fortress is “Losing is Fun!” There is no end goal other than survival, and on a great enough timeline, chances of survival drop to zero. Between the start of the game and the end, the usual gameplay revolves around taking a small colony of dwarves, constructing a fortress for them, and building enough workshops, mushroom farms, beehives, screw presses, magma forges, and distilleries to keep them happy. Keeping dwarves happy is surprisingly difficult, as each dwarf in the game has their own personality, likes and dislikes, skillset, and basic needs. They can fall in love, get married, have children, get depressed, go into murderous rages and wipe out their fellows, and commandeer workshops to build strange artifacts that may very well be useless. How the fortress is built is largely up to the player; one could, say, build a single tunnel from the surface straight down to the magma core, or make a series of caves just below.


A New York Times article called Dwarf Fortress “perhaps the most complex video game ever made”, and to say the game has a steep learning curve would be a serious understatement. The interface calls to mind word processor software from the 1980s, and the lack of a goal and the tendency for dwarves to be wiped out due to rampaging demons or goblin hordes may discourage some players. However, fans of similarly seemingly-purposeless games such as Minecraft may feel right at home with the open world pilotless concept and like Minecraft; players have done astonishing and wonderful things with the game. Dwarf Fortress is free. While simple graphically, it may require a more recent computer if large worlds with a lot of history are generated. It’s definitely not a casual or pick up and play game, but investing time in it can yield some pretty delightful payoffs.


Super Scribblenauts (2010)
June 9, 2012 by Audrey Pearson

Developed by: 5th Cell | Published by: WB Games Available for: Nintendo DS Format: Nintendo DS Game Card Rated: Everyone 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief) Genre: Puzzle, Action No. of players: Single-player Current retail price ( $17.07 Super Scribblenauts is the sequel to the puzzle game Scribblenauts, in which players help main character Maxwell use his magic notebook to navigate a series of puzzles in order to gain “Starites.” Starites populate the game with additional levels, in the shapes of constellations. There are ten total levels, each made up of about 12 puzzles, with the addition of two bonus levels, for a total of about 120 puzzles. Gameplay involves players typing words in order to generate objects, then using Maxwell to carry out tasks involving the objects for an emergent experience. SUPER SCRIBBLENAUTS allows (and sometimes requires) adjectives to be used, whereas SCRIBBLENAUTS only allowed for nouns. The result is a more complex and varied experience, with even more game-solving possibilities. SUPER SCRIBBLENAUTS employs an impressive vocabulary of objects, so nearly any solution a player can think of is possible. The puzzles range from being too easy to very difficult to solve, although most fall in the middle of the spectrum. Hints are included in each puzzle, but some hand the player a solution while others are very little help at all. Some puzzles require actions that are not intuitive, and the hints could have been better written for many of these. Additionally, the artificial


intelligence of some characters does not always react the way players will wish, making some levels needlessly more difficult. Although SUPER SCRIBBLENAUTS has finite levels, the game is potentially infinite, and is limited only by the player’s imagination to think of new solutions. While the Nintendo DS platform makes this unsuitable for library programming, the problem solving skills and creativity required makes this a great videogame collection choice for older children and teens, and since the game responds directly to the player’s imagination, the game will have wide appeal to all ages.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)
June 4, 2012 by Joe Giammarco

Developed by: Eidos Montreal | Published by: Square Enix Available for: PC, Mac OS, Microsoft Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 | Reviewed on: PC Format: Optical disc (All), Digital download (PC, Mac OS) Rated: M for Mature (Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol) Genre: Action Role-Playing Game, First-Person Shooter No. of players: Single-player Current retail price ( $22.29
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR) is a prequel to the critically-acclaimed action RPG DEUS EX (2000). It strives to capture the spirit of its predecessor

for the current generation of games, and largely succeeds. Adam Jensen, head of security for Sarif Industries, is critically injured when cyborg mercenaries attack the company’s head office and kill lead scientist and Jensen’s ex-lover, Megan Reed. Jensen’s employer, cybernetics pioneer and transhumanist evangelist David Sarif, has much of Adam’s body replaced with biomechanical Augmentations to save his life. Jensen, now half-man, half-machine, returns to work investigating new threats to Sarif Industries, slowly uncovering a conspiracy involving the populist anti-Augmentation movement, national governments, private military contractors and multinational corporations. DX:HR hearkens back to older role-playing games, in that the player generally has multiple gameplay options to overcome challenges. This gives the game a fair bit of replay value. You might take the direct approach and gun down enemy guards in your path, or you might prefer to use all non-lethal attacks instead, or avoid confrontation through stealth or by turning security robots and 29

turrets against their masters with computer hacking. By progressing through the game, the player can unlock new Augmentations of their choice, improving their abilities in stealth, hacking, accessing hidden paths, or surviving combat. A few key conversations with non-player characters test the player’s ability to read body language and motive. Unfortunately, this gameplay freedom is periodically interrupted by the much-maligned boss fights, which seem to have been dropped in from a very different game. Defeating the bosses involves none of the careful skills you’ve developed over the course of the game, and may be a source of frustration for many players. The game’s dystopian cyberpunk setting shows great care in its art design and many of the characters are well-written and voice-acted. The plot is a byzantine conspiracy theory plot connected to the original DEUS EX’s philosophical perspectives, but after a promising beginning the ending is a bit weak. DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION is a worthy successor to a much-praised franchise, and encourages careful, thoughtful approaches to gameplay and features many well-written characters in interesting moral quandaries. It is highly recommended for libraries that collect Mature-rated games and seek titles that actually live up to the spirit of that label.


Kinect Sports (2010)
May 23, 2012 by Andrew Sherman

Developed by: Rare | Published by: Microsoft Game Studios Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 Format: Optical Disc Rated: Everyone 10+ (mild cartoon violence) Genre: Sports, Mini-Games No. of players: 1-4 players & Party Play Special Requirements: Xbox Kinect camera accessory Current retail price ( $19.96
KINECT SPORTS is multi-sport game that is controlled by the body motion of

the player. The game boasts multiple modes of play: Main Event mode allows timed gameplay focused on a specific sport with up to two players; Party Play mode rotates through quick matches in six events, and allows for large groups to play as two teams; Mini Game mode presents variations on the Main Events in time trial and survival modes for up to four players, and is a mode for players to practice and sharpen their skills. Players can also challenge the computer or online opponents via Xbox LIVE. Party Play mode may work well for libraries that want to make use of a Kinect in programming by allowing a large group to participate. KINECT SPORTS has a good representation of popular sports—the game includes soccer, bowling, track and field, boxing, beach volleyball, and table tennis. Plenty of open space is needed to play (9’x9’ minimum recommended) as gameplay requires quite a bit of movement. The motions required for each sport do a good job of emulating that of an actual player, and exaggerated movement tends to get the best results when playing, resulting in higher player exertion. For example, high pumping of the knees when running makes the avatar move faster in track and field running. The Kinect does a good job of reading the players’ motions, and standard Xbox controllers 31

are unnecessary since even startup can be accomplished with the Kinect. The graphics are a pleasant combination of cartoon characters paired with realistic sports venues. However, while the visuals are good, the sound can become annoying over time due to the repetitive catch phrases made by announcers. Overall, though, KINECT SPORTS promises to be popular because of its broad appeal, both for general circulation and library programming possibilities.


Dance Central (2010)
May 23, 2012 by Andrew Sherman

Developed by: Harmonix Music Systems | Published by: MTV Games Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 Format: Optical disc Rated: T for Teen (Lyrics) Genre: Dance, Music, Fitness No. of players: 1-2 Special Requirements: Xbox Kinect camera accessory Current retail price ( $15.47
Dance Central is a dance/exercise game where the player earns points by

mimicking the motions of the on-screen dancer. The game has three modes. Break It Down is a practice mode to learn the dance moves. Perform It is a solo mode to score points or workout (tracks calorie burned and elapsed time). Dance Battle allows two players to take turns attempting to outscore the other. There are three skill levels. With the Kinect motion sensor, there is no “dance mat” that the earlier versions of dance games like DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION required. All menu navigation can be done with body movement so the Xbox controllers are not necessary. You will need an open space of at least 6’ wide by 10’ deep to play. The kids at after-school gaming in my library like to dance along with the one playing so I advise having as much room as possible so everyone can dance along. The graphics are very good with comic book style animated dancers dressed in “club” fashions on stage in a dance club. The game does an excellent job of incorporating, arm and leg movements and body position into the game and makes for good exercise. Having water available for the players as they take breaks from dancing is recommended. The Break It Down practice mode makes very good


use of visual and verbal instructions to learn the dance moves and the player can slow or speed up the movement while learning the moves. Once a dance is over, the players can view pictures of themselves dancing from the Photo feature. The music is very good with 30 popular songs performed by the original artists. It has a good mix of classic and modern dance club songs from the Commodores’ “Brick House” to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”. The Teen rating is because of the suggestive lyrics of some of the songs. The initial setup can be lengthy since the players have to pick out their dancers, music, mode and skill level. I’ve had to hurry the kids in after-school gaming along in the selection of their dancer and music. As the player’s skill level advances, harder dance routines will be unlocked. Additional music and dance moves can be purchased and downloaded through an Xbox LIVE account via Internet access.


Mario Party 5 (2003)
May 23, 2012 by Andrew Sherman

Developed and published by: Nintendo Available for: Nintendo GameCube Format: Optical Disc Rated: E for Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence) Genre: Board Game, Mini-games No. of players: 1-4 players Current retail price ( $95.95
Mario Party 5 is a 3D video board game. It supports 1-4 players for offline

play. To begin play in Party mode, the players select a Mario series character and one of seven themed game boards. They then choose the skill level and number of turns the game will last. The objective is to move around the game board by rolling a die and collect coins and stars. The player with the most stars at the end of the game is the winner. Players spend coins to buy items from capsules to aid in them in attaining stars and players can also buy stars. Players can also steal coins and stars from other players. As you move around the game board, you will be engaged in mini-games against the other players to win additional coins. There are 70 mini-games and they vary widely in content and format, as well as two extra modes in addition to the multi-player Party mode. Story mode is for a single player where the player must complete five smaller game boards by taking all the coins from the Koopa Kids and then defeat Bowser in a final mini-game. There is also a Super Duel mode where players construct vehicles by buying parts with points earned playing the mini-games and race them in combat against each other.


Like other Super Mario games, the graphics for MARIO PARTY 5 are kept simple to ensure good game performance and playability. The colorful games boards and mini-games are diverse and imaginative. The game can be long playing like a board game or players can choose just to play the mini-games for quick play. The game has been most popular with the younger elementary students at my library who like to just play the mini-games during after-school gaming.


New Super Mario Bros. (2009)
May 23, 2012 by Lindsey Levinsohn

Developed and Published by: Nintendo Available for: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii | Reviewed on: Wii Format: Optical Disc Rated: E for Everyone (Comic Mischief) Genre: Action, Adventure No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer (up to 4 players) Current retail price ( $43.72 New Super Mario Bros. is reminiscent of the original Mario games and retains the original’s sidescrolling game play. The plot is also very similar to earlier versions; players must beat different levels and worlds as they try to recapture Princess Peach from her evil kidnappers, Bowser and his children. The game has a total nine worlds and 88 levels, and while the game is made for all types of players, NEW SUPER MARIO BROS is more difficult than previous incarnations. Background worlds are viewed in 2D, but some characters and objects are 3D, resulting in a 2.5D game. Single-player mode is standard play, and the game supports up to four players; however, once in multi-player mode, the game changes slightly. If one or more of the players do not keep up with the lead player, the view pans out and the player(s) will be forced to move faster or risk losing a life—the game will only advance when all players have caught up with one another. Players begin with five lives in reserve, and if they lose a life during level play, they will re-emerge in a bubble, and the remaining player(s) must pop the bubble to free them. To help advance play, most levels have a mid-point flag that will allow the player to return to that spot should they lose a life after that point. Additional items can help game-play, including the traditional growth mushroom, lightning star, as well as new items like the ice flower that allows 37

you to freeze enemies, and a mushroom that gives you the ability to fly. As always, players collect as many coins as possible. One hundred coins equal an extra life. The introduction of new Mario games keeps the franchise in the spotlight, and the cast of characters still remains videogame icons. Because of its popularity and notoriety, NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. is a must have for any library’s videogame collection.


LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (2010)
May 7, 2012 by Lindsey Levinsohn

Developed by: Traveller’s Tales | Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 | Reviewed on: Wii Format: Optical disc (Xbox 360, Wii, PS3), DS Game Card Rated: Everyone 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor) Genre: Action, Adventure No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer Current retail price ( $16.12 The widely released, multi-platform, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 brings J.K. Rowling’s beloved world to life in videogame format, with a LEGO twist! It is a traditional adventure game based heavily on the plot line from Harry Potter’s first four years at Hogwarts. Like other LEGO video games, players are brought into a fantasy world where almost every character, item, and setting is made up of LEGO pieces. Players have the ability to take on the persona of favorite characters including Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, as well as other minor ones that can be unlocked. They will make their way through famous locales like Privet Drive and Hogwarts, and even drop into classrooms, The Leaky Cauldron, and Gringotts Bank. The game is primarily designed for two-players as they will team up to take on the challenges that Harry and his pals face in the first four books of the series. Along the way, players will collect LEGO bits and learn how to cast spells, make potions, fly, discover bonus levels, and solve puzzles to help advance gameplay. The collected bits will allow users to purchase additional costumes, spells, and magical items back in Diagon Alley. 39

Fans of the Harry Potter series will enjoy the game’s attention to detail, entertaining animation, and near spot on storyline. Inaccuracy in targeting and some buggy patches will slightly hinder gameplay, but for anyone looking to replicate the Harry Potter experience, this game works well. For libraries trying to expand their video game offerings, this game, like any other LEGO video game, is a must have.


Rhythm Heaven Fever (2012)
April 30, 2012 by Audrey Pearson

Developed by: Nintendo, TNX | Published by: Nintendo Available for: Nintendo Wii Format: Optical Disc Rated: E for Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence) Genre: Music, Rhythm, Mini-Games No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer (up to 2 players) Current retail price ( $29.96 Rhythm Heaven Fever is a lively selection of over 50 rhythm mini-games appropriate for all ages and skill levels. Each mini-game presents a different humorous cartoon scenario in which players learn how to tap in rhythm to accomplish various tasks, such as kicking balls away from gophers or catching pieces of candy while swatting away spiders. The games are bright and eyecatching, with touches of amusing absurdity. Original music accompanies each game, helping players feel the necessary cues. The challenge of RHYTHM HEAVEN FEVER is to press either the A button or the A + B combination on the Wii remote in precise time with the prompts given. Players need to be able to react to changes in tempo, rhythmic complexity, or simply react quickly to the patterns. The games seem deceptively easy, but each can be quite difficult to master. After each set of four games is passed, the player must face the game remix, a challenge that combines the previous set of mini-games for a much tougher experience. The game doesn’t allow for the adjustment of difficulty level, and mini-games become progressively more complex as you unlock them. Some games can be quite difficult to pass, and you must either 41

pass a game to continue or play and fail enough times that the game gives you the option to unlock the next game. Another disappointment is that the games must be unlocked in single-player mode before allowing two-player mode. Still, there are enough games and extras to keep a player interested in playing for many hours. RHYTHM HEAVEN FEVER is both entertaining and challenging, and a game that belongs in library Wii collections.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
April 29, 2012 by Andrew Colgoni

Developed and Published by: Bethesda Softworks Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PC | Reviewed on: PC Format: Optical Disc (Xbox 360, PS3, PC), Digital Download (PC) Rated: M for Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol) Genre: First-person Role-playing game No. of players: Single-player Current retail price ( $53.53 In the fifth installment of the long-running Elder Scrolls series, the setting is the cold Nordic climes of the province of Skyrim. Like its predecessors OBLIVION and MORROWIND, Skyrim is set in a massive open world, freely explorable by the player. While the main plot revolves around understanding why dragons have returned to Skyrim (and why your character, the ‘dragon born’, has returned at the same time), there is nothing preventing players from making their own story, or never following the main quest line. The game world is rich and detailed, with towns and cities, caverns and dungeons, populated with people getting on with their lives, and creatures bent on your destruction. All of the nonplayer characters are fully voiced, adding to the immersiveness. Along with the main story, there are well-realized side-stories associated with guilds and factions in the world, adding dozens of hours of gameplay. The gameplay mechanic is relatively unchanged from previous iterations. The world is viewed from the first-person perspective, and the player can equip armor, items, weapons and magic, depending on how they wish to play the game. As the player levels up, they can invest points into skills which include improvements to armor, smithing, weapons, magic, bartering, and so on. The leveling


system has been simplified in SKYRIM (compared to OBLIVION), which will allow more novice RPG players to “get” the game quite quickly. SKYRIM contains (literally) hundreds of hours of gameplay, and an incredibly immersive world, filled with secrets, that begs to be explored. PC players can modify their experience with content created by other players, further adding to the game’s richness (official downloadable content is due later in 2012). SKYRIM offers an incredibly deep and rewarding experience; it is the best RPG to come out in 2011, and is deserving of “instant classic” status.


Ghostbusters: the video game (2009)
April 26, 2012 by Caris O'Malley

Developed by: Red Fly, Inc. | Published by: Atari Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony Playstation Portable, Nintendo DS, PC | Reviewed on: Wii Format: Optical disc (consoles), Digital download (PC) Rated: Everyone 10+ (Comic mischief, fantasy violence) Genre: Action-Adventure, Movie tie-in, Third-person Shooter No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer Current retail price ( $8.29
GHOSTBUSTERS: THE VIDEO GAME is a movie tie-in game, in which the team of famed paranormal

investigators works together to defeat the biggest ghostly menace of their careers. Chronologically, the game takes place two years after the events of the Ghostbusters II film. Fans of the film will find a lot of enjoyment in character reprisals (Slimer, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) and celebrity cameos, including all of the cast members of the original film. Gameplay is primarily point and shoot, with gamers playing as a new recruit learning the ghostbusting ropes. Players earn payment for capturing paranormal entities and insurance claims for the destruction of property. In essence, the more damage done, the better off a player is. The setting is visually stunning, though it suffers from some repetitive moments. The game features the soundtrack from the original film, which is a nice touch. For beginning players, there will be a learning curve when adjusting to control mechanism, which uses every available button, motion, and joystick on the Wii remote and its tethered Nunchuck (15+ controls), not to mention the fairly busy on-screen menus and notifications. Gameplay is brief, 45

totaling about five hours from the start of the narrative to its end (for a player of moderate skill) and there are no mini-games. This game would be excellent for public library programs involving the GHOSTBUSTERS films or for game development curriculums looking for exemplary film-togame translations.


Kinect Adventures! (2010)
April 26, 2012 by Lindsey Levinsohn

Developed by: Good Science Studio | Published by: Microsoft Game Studios Release Date: November 4, 2010 Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 Format: Optical disc Rated: E for Everyone (Comic Mischief, Lyrics) Genre: Adventure, Sports No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer Special Requirements: Xbox Kinect camera accessory Current retail price ( $11.47 This adventure game requires the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor to monitor body movements, allowing players full-body character control, without the need for a hand controller. Each mini-game supports instant toggle between single and multiplayer participation, while also supporting Xbox LIVE multiplayer gaming. The five mini-games put players in various locales such as rushing rivers, outer space, and underwater. The basic game objective involves collecting pins throughout each scenario, the more pins collected, the more medals awarded, which advance the player’s score. The well-developed graphics can be enjoyed in mini-games like “River Rush”, which puts players into rafts as they make their way down a winding, raucous river. Players must jump to avoid obstacles, step side to side to stay on course, while collecting as many pins as possible. Dexterity will be tested in “20,000 Leaks” as players are placed in an underwater glass cube, and must rush to


plug holes made in the cube by sea life. Another game favorite is “Rally Ball”, which tests players’ speed and reflexes as they use their limbs to hit balls at targets. At the end of each round, players are shown “Photo Moments” taken using Kinect’s built-in RGB camera, which players have the ability to save to a personalized account at or upload them to social media sites. Unlike typical adventure games, KINECT ADVENTURES! lacks a storyline, allowing for free game play, helping to serve as an introduction to interactive gaming. KINECT ADVENTURES! can become monotonous after prolonged periods of play, and may not be preferred for gamers that enjoy a complex plot. Because the game comes standard with most Kinect purchases, it is not a necessity for a library’s lending collection, but is a very suitable, low-cost, accompaniment to video game library programming for all ages.


Rocksmith (2012)
April 25, 2012 by Caris O'Malley

Developed and Published by: Ubisoft Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 | Reviewed on: Xbox 360 Format: Optical Disc Rated: T for Teen (Lyrics, Mild Cartoon Violence) Genre: Rhythm, Music No. of players: Single-player Special Requirements: Guitar with ¼” output jack Current retail price ( $54.02
Rocksmith is a music game in the vein of Rock Band that is notable for its

unique controller: any real, electric guitar. The game comes with a cord that has a USB output on one side (for insertion into a gaming console) and a standard ¼-inch guitar jack on the other side. The hyper-intuitive game teaches players more than fifty different rock songs, constantly adjusting the difficulty of each song based on the player’s real-time performance. If a player is having trouble with the opening riff of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” for example, the game will dial itself back to a more simplified version of the song until the player demonstrates enough proficiency to raise the difficulty. Like Guitar Hero, ROCKSMITH guides players through a simulated rock ‘n’ roll career. The playlist is varied, but focuses heavily on the work of indie bands. Gameplay is fairly straightforward: before each song, the player is guided through the tuning process and then the song starts—the individual notes and chords delivered in a manner reminiscent of guitar tablature. Though it takes a little while to get acclimated to the presentation, the notation is easily understood, with each string color-coded.


The glaring flaw in this game is the split-second delay that occurs between the note being played on the instrument and it registering on-screen. However, beginning players will likely not notice it and experienced players will be able to adapt to it. The delay effect can be minimized (though not eliminated) through calibrations in the game’s settings. ROCKSMITH has the potential to teach a player who has never touched a guitar before the intricacies of the instrument in a fun and addicting way. For that reason alone, it will be an essential title for many libraries.


Mass Effect 3 (2012)
April 23, 2012 by Andrew Colgoni

Developed by: Bioware | Published by: Electronic Arts Available for: PC, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 | Reviewed on: Xbox 360 Format: Optical Disc Rated: M for Mature (Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence) Genre: Third-Person Shooter, Action Role-Playing Game No. of players: Single-player Campaign | Online Multiplayer (four player) Current retail price ( $29.99
Mass Effect 3 (ME3) is the culmination of the MASS EFFECT trilogy, in which the

main protagonist, Commander Shepard, attempts to save the galaxy from the encroaching Reaper threat. The main plot involves Shepard travelling the galaxy to recruit alien races to join forces with the human race against their mutual enemy. Gameplay, like the previous iterations, consists of third-person, cover-based shooting with the RPG-like ability to upgrade armor, weapons and skills. Players engage in conversation and decision-making as Shepard, effectively determining how conflicts are decided, and which factions join you in the final battles. The decisions that Shepard makes have ‘weight’ as they lead to in-game consequences, including the survival of your friends and squad mates. Long-time MASS EFFECT players will be satisfied to meet and interact with most of the characters they encountered in previous games. If a player chooses to import their save file from a previous game, they will find that many decisions from those play throughs will affect what happens in ME3. A single play through of the single-player campaign may take 30 hours or more. The multiplayer aspect of the game is distinct from the campaign, and involves cooperative play with other online players against waves of enemies (local co-op play is not supported). Overall, the gameplay and


graphics of ME3 are improved over the first two in the trilogy, and the narrative throughout most of the game is nuanced and engaging. Many gamers have complained the ending was unsatisfying and did not effectively resolve all of the decisions that led to it; Bioware is in the process of developing additional content that will add explanation to the ending. MASS EFFECT 3 is a MOSTLY fitting conclusion to the series, effectively bringing closure to many of the game’s relationships and diplomatic challenges, while lacking a satisfactory ending. Though not recommended for first-time entry into the series, ME3 is certainly worthwhile for fans of the series.


Just Dance 3 (2011)
April 22, 2012 · by Audrey Pearson

Developed by: Ubisoft Paris | Published by: Ubisoft Available for: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 | Reviewed on: Wii Format: Optical Disc Rated: Everyone 10+ (Lyrics) Genre: Music, Rhythm, Health & Fitness No. of players: Single-player, Multiplayer (up to 8 players) Current retail price ( $27.85 An upbeat and energetic dancing game perfect for exercise or parties, Just Dance 3 is the latest in the popular JUST DANCE game series. Players mirror routines set to popular music to score points, badges, and unlock extras. Graphics are bright, and each song features unique characters set in scenarios that reflect both the music and the choreography for a unified thematic experience. Lyrics are also available onscreen for players to sing along with the music if they wish. JUST DANCE 3 features a range of songs to fit various tastes, including pop, rock, oldies, and world music selections, and most are performed by the original artists, although some are covers. Additional songs are available through download. All songs are edited to be free of profanity. While the Wii control requirements are minimal (players must press the A button to navigate menus), physical mobility is required to play. The Wii system only reads the players’ right hands, so the level of movement and dancing exertion is up to the player. Due to the physical nature of the game-play, marathon gaming sessions are unlikely unless taking turns with multiple players. Various shuffle modes are available, including non-stop shuffle, the Just Sweat mode for fitness


motivation, and Player Dance Crew mode, which includes individual choreography for up to four simultaneous players. The “Hold My Hand” feature allows up to eight players to dance in duets, sharing up to four Wii remotes. The use of the Wii remote to track movement creates a very different dancing experience from earlier dancing games such as DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION, and allows for wider freedom of movement and choreography. JUST DANCE 3 is likely to circulate widely in a public library, and is also an excellent choice for library programming, such as dance parties.


Fez (2012)
April 22, 2012 by Andrew Colgoni

Developed and Published by: Polytron Corporation Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 Format: Digital download (via Xbox LIVE Arcade) Rated: E for Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence) Genre: Platform, Puzzle No. of players: Single-player In FEZ, from indie developer Polytron Corporation (a two-person team, though you wouldn’t guess it), you play as the 2D-character Gomez as he discovers there is a third dimension to his world, previously hidden. FEZ has a delightfully nostalgic 8-bit (pixel art) style and a similarly retro platform gameplay mechanic. Unlike the Super Mario games, however, there is no stomping on enemies, no power-ups, nor can your character die — if you fall off the edge, you re-materialize right where you were before. None of this is to say that FEZ is an easy game. While you only ever navigate in a two-dimensional plane, you possess the ability to rotate the entire world to see all of its “sides”. This adds deceptive complexity to the simple gameplay. Much of the challenge comes from figuring out how to climb up the many towers in the game, rotating them to find a clear path up each side (it is worth watching a video of the game in action to get a better sense of this world-rotating mechanic). Additional challenge comes from puzzles littered throughout the world. Many involve figuring out how to access a certain location, while others involve interpreting clues in the world. Know a budding cryptographer? There’s a whole alphabet and numerical system to solve here.


The one frustration that this game has is moving around the world map. The world of FEZ is quite large, and with a limited amount of warp portals to move you around, a certain amount of slow backtracking is required. For a game designed in pixels, the art is wonderfully realized, full of color, mood and atmosphere. The synthesized soundtrack complements the art style, being both reminiscent of much older games and fresh and modern all at once. Put all these things together and you have a really wonderful take on the age-old platform game, one full of new ideas and plenty of secrets, too.


Zombies, Run! (2012)
April 22, 2012 by Caris O'Malley

Developed and Published by: Six to Start Available for: iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad (iOS 5 or later) | Reviewed on: iPod Touch Format: Digital download (via iTunes) Rated: 12+ (Violence, Strong Language, Mild Sexual Content) Genre: First-Person RPG, Action-Adventure, Health & Fitness No. of players: Single-player Zombies, Run! is an immersive exercise game that drops players into the middle of zombie-infested England. You are Runner 5, a one-time soldier who, due to questionable circumstances, now acts as a messenger for a colony of survivors fighting for their lives against the undead in this postapocalyptic world. The game was designed to use the iOS device’s internal GPS sensors to track runners in real time, using players’ true speed and stamina as the vehicle determinant of game progress: if you are not able to run long enough and fast enough, you will die. At present, there are thirty missions (with more planned) that take players through the area surrounding the compound and develop the storyline. Game progress is delivered exclusively through an audio feed, though it does make use of a graphical user interface. Headphones or speakers of some kind are suggested. The game’s compatibility with the iPod Touch feels like an afterthought. Because the device lacks GPS capability, it relies on an experimental feature, which uses the iPod’s accelerometer (the function that allows the screen to reposition itself) like a pedometer to gauge players’ progress. Unfortunately, this mode isn’t compatible with one of the most compelling aspects of the gameoutrunning zombies. Instead, players can progress through the game, but the experience is more like listening to an audiobook told in the second-person.


The game is violent and emotionally intense, leading to engaging and immersive play that makes running more enjoyable. The tight scripting almost makes up for the accelerometer drawbacks, but this game is better suited to devices with GPS capability.


Journey (2012)
April 22, 2012 by Andrew Colgoni

Developed by: thatgamecompany | Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Available for: PlayStation 3 Format: Digital download (via PlayStation Store) Rated: E for Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence) Genre: Third-Person Adventure No. of players: Single-player Journey, as the title would imply, is a quiet meditation on the process of travelling, moving forward to an unknown goal. This wordless adventure game is set mostly in the dusty dunes of an unnamed desert (and other bleak locales), as your robed character walks, glides, and slides through the sand. You start out with only a little guidance on how to proceed, but eventually find out the main modes of interaction and the means of solving the simple puzzles before you. There is no fighting or talking in JOURNEY, just movement and sound. When the game begins, you are a solitary wanderer, but in a unique twist, you meet another player that may join you on the journey. This partner, who is another online player, is unknown to you, and cannot communicate with you beyond a series of musical tones that you can both produce. The soundtrack is spare and haunting, which complements the glowing, open landscape. This is the third PS3-exclusive digital download title from indie developer thatgamecompany, preceded by the artful Flower and FLOW. JOURNEY is a remarkable title, commendable for the way it strips traditional gameplay to its bare essentials, and makes mood and feeling the central themes. Highly recommended.


Mario Kart: Double Dash (2003)
April 21, 2012 by Andrew Sherman

Developed and Published by: Nintendo Available for: Nintendo GameCube Format: Optical disc Rated: E for Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence) Genre: Racing No. of players: 1-4 players (split screen); up to 16 players through connected consoles. Current retail price ( $58.99
MARIO KART: DOUBLE DASH is a go-kart driving/racing/battle game.

It supports 1-4 simultaneous players with no online Internet capability. Single player/kart mode allows players to play either Grand Prix, in which he/she is pitted against eight other computercontrolled characters, or Time Trial, a race as a single cart for the fastest time on a track. Multiple players/karts race against only other players or can play in a Battle mode. In Battle, players throw bombs to delay one another while trying to capture all the balloons. Selection of kart “size” sets the difficulty level. The smaller karts go slower and handle better; the larger karts go faster but don’t handle as well and require the player to master “drifting” to make it through turns at speed. Driving is done from an above and behind view for each kart with a map that shows the position of the players on the track. The object is to win the races and score enough points to win the series’ cups. On the race courses, drivers can sideswipe other karts and run over “mystery boxes” to arm themselves and their passengers with different objects that can be thrown on the track or at other karts to slow other players down. The effects the objects release are specific to the characters the


players have chosen to ride their cart. Some of the objects make the player’s cart momentarily invulnerable to the objects thrown by other players. Like other Super Mario games, the graphics for MARIO KART: DOUBLE DASH are kept simple to ensure good game performance and playability. The colorful race courses and the features and obstacles on them are diverse and imaginative. The game is easy to learn and is good for both quick and long game play for users of all ages. Because of the wide-array of group play features; this game would be a good choice for community game nights and other library programming.


The following represents how the award application might look. All suggestions are for template purposes only, and the award criteria will need further development by the GameRT before an actual award application can be written.
History of the Award [recap history] Selection Committee The award will be selected by a committee of nine appointed members, and one Committee Chair who is selected by election. Election will be done through ALA's spring election; those appointed will be done so by the American Library Association's GameRT (Games and Gaming Roundtable). To become the elected chair of the Committee, interested parties should submit their names to the ALA election committee to be put on the ballot. Parties interested in being a part of the general Videogame Award selection committee shall send in a letter of interest to the GameRT's Videogame Award committee. Prospective members will only be considered if they are current ALA and GameRT members, as well as have video game knowledge. Eligibility Terms The award will be given out annually to the developer of the distinguished game with the largest contribution to videogaming. The game must be in English and developed during the preceding year (January 1st – December 31st). There are to be no limitations as to the developer’s country of origin. Nor will there be limitations on game subject matter, ESRB rating, or platform compatibility, as long as it has been produced as original work. Honor games may also be named if there are additional games that are truly distinguished. A game may only be submitted once and cannot be reconsidered the following year. Definitions 1.) “Largest contribution to videogaming in the library” implies that the committee shall consider all genres and formats of videogames. 2.) “Most distinguished” is defined as a. Individually distinct b. Successful within the boundaries defined by the videogame field and genre c. Most appropriate to broad library collection development and programming needs 3.) Developer may include co-developers. 4.) “Original work is defined as a game that was created by the developer and no one else. The game can include original retellings of traditional storylines, provided they are the developer’s own


words. 5.) “In English” means that the committee will only consider games developed in English, but does not limit the contextual use of words and phrases in another language where appropriate in game play. Criteria 1.) Identifying “the distinguished game with the largest contribution to videogaming in the library”: a. Committee members will consider the following: i. Character development. ii. Plot/narrative development. iii. Artistic merit and design features. iv. Mechanisms of play. b. While each game has a contribution to videogaming, committee members must make their decision primarily based upon the considerations previously presented. 2.) Popularity is not a factor to be considered when selecting an award winning game. Independent / Self-published Games Video games developed by an independent videogame developer or that are self-published are eligible for the award as long as they meet all of the eligibility terms. Games are only eligible in their first year of publication. If a self-published game is later republished, the game will not be reconsidered at later publication. Developer Guidelines

[to be developed] Submission Process [to be developed]