TechSource's Symposium on Gaming and Libraries might be the best conference I've ever been too. Seriously.
The amount of energy and enthusiasm for not just gaming but for learning, for expanding the role of the library in our patron's lives and for the role of the library in society is inspiring. People at this conference wanted to learn and to share and I loved it.
And there was good food.
I have pages and pages of notes and comments to go through over the next few days (I will never attend a conference like this without my laptop again) but a few things stuck out:
1. Come Out and Play. This concept of Big Games was shared byGreg Trefry, manifested in this festival he started that turns New York City into a giant game board! Greg came out and riled up librarians to re-envision our spaces and remember that there is such a thing as physical space to play in too. What a relief! What I got from his preachings was to involve people, use your local space in ways that are silly and surprising to educate. Get up, get out, move. I love it. It reminds me of the glorious days of summer sleep away camp. And that is quite a wonderful memory to start developing library games from.
2. Jim Gee spoke about using principals of gaming in our educational methods. What I most appreciated about this lecture was his call for us to understanding the complexities of both gaming and learning and to recognize the inherent connectedness between them. It was a fascinating talk and one that reads some time in the head to really articulate. More on it in a later post.
3. Second Life. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, and a lot of them are quite mixed. But if there is anything I learned from this conference it is that games are going to played, whether we like them or not. I think the issue I have with building spaces in Second Life is that I'm not sure there is any true purpose in it other than to be cool. And I am all for that. But at least at smaller institutions like myself, I cannot validate spending valuable time and money in Second Life when we have a first time coping with our first life. I am intrigued by it and curious how other libraries will develop it over the next few months/years, but I am certain that for both practical and philosophical reasons, Second Life is not on my plate.
4. Liz Lawley gave a phenomenal speech to close up the conference that really put it together for me. She essentially said that whether we like games or not, whether we play them or not, our patrons do. And if we don't start providing a space for them to play, resources to support play, and even more importantly, resources to evaluating games (as we do for evaluating books, journals, dvds, and all of our other resources) than we, essentially, are not doing our jobs. Her example was if you google "recommended books for kids", we get a slew of reputable, credible organizations (NYPL, ALA, PBS, etc) helping us figure out what to suggest and why. Now, substitute books for games. No such similar guidance. Great example, no. While, as an academic librarian, I have a slightly different role in my patrons' lives, I think her point is compelling.
And that's just it, this conference made a very compelling argument for the role of games in libraries and in education in general in a variety of shapes and sizes. It also points out how much gaming is already a part of our daily lives, it's just that we often don't realize that we are playing. But this conference expanded my definition of "gaming" and I feel all the more enriched because of it. I am looking forward to sifting through more of my notes and parsing more of the experience with my thoughts on our ever-changing profession.