Post-Class Post: Games

I wasn’t in class this week, but I hear that there was a lengthy discussion about whether or not video games are appropriate for learning. I wish I had been there, because I would liked to mention this:

People tend to forget that us librarians have tried gaming before. And gotten burned big time. Recently. Librarians continue to publish about reference desks in Second Life, the augmented reality game where players build online environments and have online lives. There was particular emphasis for librarians about building reference desks in Second Life for use. I find this especially interesting because in some ways it is almost the opposite of adapting. Rather than evolving their reference scenario, librarians instead just built their physical environments in game.

If you haven’t heard of Second Life, that’s part of the problem. I first heard of Second Life in a library context and never heard of it outside of it. The digital environments librarian built continue, in my opinion, to be mostly for other librarians.

This is not to say that there is anything essentially wrong with librarians gaming. That is not the point. The point is that librarians often didn’t ask their users before spending thousands of working hours building these islands. There wasn’t as market for these services.

The big question for me as librarian when looking at gaming services is this: what’s the outcome we are looking to accomplish? I think that incentive-centered design like added levels and competition is something that libraries can adopt in many different environments, including digital environments. Librarian often I think feel unnecessarily timid about using incentives other than pizza or the joy of doing something well. Getting a high score or better than your friends are very powerful influences.

In terms of librarians developing their own games, I like the idea but I think we’re not there yet. Librarians should add more “gaming” design to their other environments before they try both online game development and incentives like epic wins. For example, I’ve been thinking about using the physical trading rooms over in the Kresge Business Library for information literacy sessions. That’s taking the one-shot workshop and “gaming” it.

Photo taken without permission from:


About Ilana the Librarian

I am an aspiring librarian at the University of Michigan.
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3 Responses to Post-Class Post: Games

  1. Kristin says:

    I know Valibrarian Gregg in your screenshot in “real” life! How do you feel about ALA’s announcement closing Info Island in Second Life? Your observation that those reference desks mostly served other librarians reminds me of the study showing that most comments on library Facebook pages are made by … people who work at the library!

    • I personally have always thought ALA national’s enthusiasm for Second Life has always been a little bit embarrassing. I don’t mean to say people aren’t doing interesting work, it’s just so out of touch with just about anything going on in libraries that it is sort of tragic.
      I had also seen that article. I think there’s a lot of potential for libraries to “second life” again in social media, especially facebook and twitter. Twitter especially as it the market just isn’t there currently for academic librarians. Old people like us use twitter, not students : )

  2. Second Life is one of those weird things that crops up in my life at unexpected times… especially my academic life (I’ve never had an account or done more than run through a preview, though). My university offered Second Life tours for prospective students for a while (they might still), and it was very popular because the kind of student who applies to Case Western is more plugged-in than your average teenager. A friend even taught a week of class via second life (it was a media-studies type class), and it was a huge hit. I’ve run into ‘try our Second Life reference desk!’ ads at a few libraries, and seen people try to organize academic conferences in it as well. I don’t think it was just the ALA… everyone on the academic/information side of life got really excited about it for a while.

    The problem might be that everything else I’ve ever read (okay, mostly on Gawker) about Second Life involves people having illicit affairs on it and then telling their real life significant others “it doesn’t count because it’s not real.” So… it’s not a useless platform, it’s just that the most dedicated users are a select and very strange group who aren’t particularly interested in all the cool stuff libraries and universities can put up there.

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