February 22, 2007

Libraries Check Out Games

by Nick Montfort · , 3:49 pm

I was delighted to read about two recent developments which involved one of my most beloved institutions, the library, working to preserve and provide access to one of my favorite forms of expressive, aesthetic media: the video game.

I learned from Jason R. Finley that UIUC’s undergrad library now offers video games. You can visit their gaming collection site, read all about their mission and use policies, and even suggest titles to buy. (I presume that suggestions from UIUC affiliates are weighted more highly.) The consoles listed are ones that are on the market today, but the library also boasts “a selection of retro/vintage games for use in-library only (including NES, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, etc.).”

And, in the UK, Loughborough University in Leicestershire is advertising a full-time studentship (Ph.D.) in the preservation of computer games, “To investigate perceptions of the cultural, educational and social value of games amongst researchers and preservation institutions; To assess if and how computer games are currently being preserved and identify any barriers to preservation, if appropriate; To identify possible approaches to overcoming barriers to preservation, if appropriate.” Deadline is March 14.

UC Santa Cruz also has console/game kits as part of the library’s circuulating collection, too, as I heard long before these two news items.

6 Responses to “Libraries Check Out Games”

  1. josemanuel Says:

    I wonder when they will do that here in Spain. And I’m not only talking about the “videogames in libraries” part, but also about the affiliates one. Getting money from videogaming companies in exchange for advertising their products could give a boost to scientific research. And if their conditions are unnaceptable, you can always say that at least you tried.

  2. Jason Finley Says:

    What a totally excellent blog you guys have going here!
    To clarify my institution’s completely cumbersome acronym: UIUC = University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    I’m thinking of games to suggest to the library for acquisition, so if anyone has any ideas, do let me know. As nick suggests, since I’m a UIUC grad student (cognitive psychology) and might conceivably directly use the collection, my recommendations might carry a little extra weight.
    cheers dudes,
    (PS-”dudes” is gender-inclusive in my usage)

  3. daveshepard Says:

    Brilliant idea.

    One thing I’d like to see, whether or not either of these institutions is the place for it, is a source code library to supplement these games. Google Code Search is nice but limited and not exactly user-friendly.

  4. Jim Whitehead Says:

    At UCSC, we’ve been thinking about the best way to build out our collection of computer games. The current plan is to focus on specific game genres, and go for depth in specific genres, as opposed to, say, breadth across a specific console or platform. Due to student interest, we will likely “go deep” on RPGs and platform games first, possibly also tossing in sports games. I want to stay away from FPS’s for awhile, as I wouldn’t want to get slammed for excessive game violence in the collection early on. Perhaps a second wave of titles.

    When we acquire titles in a genre, the focus will first be on important titles from a design history perspective, and then go for breadth within the genre. By my estimates, libraries can achieve reasonable coverage of a genre for $1,000-$3,000 in acquisitions, depending on genre, whether the library goes for expensive rare titles, etc.

    Students at UCSC have been very enthusiastic about the library collection, and have been using it regularly during my course this quarter (an intro to game design course).

  5. mark Says:

    Jim: If you don’t mind me asking, how are you relating your game-genre focus to the need for systems for them to run on? I agree that from a game-design point of view concentrating in game genres rather than breadth of games on a few systems has advantages, but the obvious advantage of a breath-on-a-few-platforms approach is that, well, you only need to own and maintain those few platforms. Are you going to buy platforms as the need for a game on them arises, or try to limit to a smallish number of platforms as much as possible? If you let people start putting down a wishlist of important games in a genre without considering the platforms they run on, I could imagine you quickly getting up to needing a good dozen platforms… and that’ll quickly blow through that $1k-$3k budget just by itself. Kind of related to that: Do you plan to cover computer and arcade games as well, or stick to console systems for now?

    (I ask all this mainly because preservation of obsolete hardware and software is a perennial interest of mine, so I’m curious how people are approaching it.)

  6. michael Says:

    Mark, I can chime in here. Jim just successfully pulled in a curriculum development grant to expand the library game collection – so we’re working with more than a 3k budget. Currently, we have a selection of classic consoles that stay in the library in the classic console game lab – those games must be played in the library. The classic console lab currently includes: NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, Xbox, GameCube. The lending collection (check-out-able consoles) includes 5 each of: NES, N64, PS2. Obviously, the distinction between the lending collection and console lab is not simply one of classic vs. contemporary (since we have NES and N64 in the lending collection). This is currently more a matter of which games we (currently Jim) are assigning in our big Freshman game design course (which is partly a reflection of which games are seminal examples of different genres/approaches). Both the console lab and the lending collection will expand over time.

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