Video Games in Libraries Part 1: Libraries == Blockbuster?

guitar_hero_library_080218_mnLet’s face it, we’ve all went down to our local video rental place, whether it’s a Blockbuster or not, and been utterly disappointed when the game that we wanted wasn’t there. Darn kids getting all the good ones, some of us have to work! So you go home, sad… hoping that soon, someone will bring the game back, but no. It seems that every time you go there, it’s still checked out.

Let me suggest an alternative, the library. GASP! The library, am I crazy? Like a fox! Who would ever think that the place that houses dusty old books and even dustier old librarians would have games. Now, I’m not promising that your local library will have games. A lot do, but lets face it, games are expensive and libraries are poor. The whole reason you’re going to rent the game is because you didn’t want to spend the 60 bucks only to find out that Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad sucks, even though it does have Bikini in the title.

Why?

In the past few years, some libraries have started collecting video games in addition to books. Why? Well, in all reality, video games contain many of the same elements as a fiction book or even a non-fiction book in the case of many war games. There normally is a plot (with a ton of conflict), characters (your protagonist, antagonist, and more secondaries than you can shake a stick at). irony, symbolism, and the list goes on… Most libraries collect videos, dvds, and other AV resources. It’s not that big of a stretch to include video games.

Most of all, they’re trying to get an under represented group into the library, mainly teenage/YA males. They figure if they can get you into the library, that’s the first step. And the first step is always the hardest.
Note: A good library won’t pull the bait and switch, which I’ll talk about in my next article.

How and where can I sign up?

This part is pretty simple. Go to your local library and get a card. As long as you’re in their district, it won’t cost you anything… Unless you’re counting the taxes you paid. Some libraries do charge a nominal fee, but normally it’s like a buck. I think I can shell out a buck to have a video game for a week. That may save me fifty-nine if I find out I don’t like it. Another beautiful thing about libraries… Holds. Holds allow you to get in line for a game. If it isn’t there, place a hold and when you reach the top of the list, the game is yours.

Problems

Unfortunately, like every good idea, there are unforeseen problems. Probably one that everyone can relate to, especially now, is the fact that libraries are poor and video games are expensive. Normally, a library will only carry one copy of a video game. Maybe more if it is really popular. So… Blockbuster may win in that.

Another problem that affects both the library and the users is theft. DON’T STEAL THE FLIPPIN’ GAMES! The library may not be able to replace them or if enough happens, they may shut down the whole video game collection. Then no one would be happy. Most libraries combat this the same way the video game stores do. The discs aren’t actually in the box, they’re behind the desk. It does add a lot more work for both the librarian and the user, but currently it’s the most effective and cheapest way to keep the discs from walking off.

The Biggest Problem

Censorship. Yes, censorship. Let me tell you something, it’s against most librarians’ natures to censor anything. We’re here to provide you information. It’s up to you to decided if you want it or not. Libraries aren’t immune to censorship… or lawsuits. We get it all the time with books. Some group doesn’t like some of the themes, so they raise a big fuss and we may have to pull it off the shelf or risk losing our jobs or funding. This is now running over into video games. We see it all the time with our buddy Jack Thompson. You may find that you’re library doesn’t carry M games. Why? Because… we really like our jobs and as soon as we put a M game on the shelf, some kid would want to check it out. In most libraries, unless a parent has limited their child’s access, they CAN check anything out. This includes books like the pop-up Kama Sutra (bet you wanna find that book now). So if a kid brought us a M rated game, we’d have to check it out to them. That’s when you get the screaming parents coming in, demanding to know why you let little Timmy have Grand Theft Auto IV when he’s only 12. I would really have fight the urge to ask why they let little Timmy play it if they are so against it. But since I’m not a parent myself, I really can’t say much on the subject. Here is a lovely article on this subject. Click here to read it. I’d better stop this rant before it goes any further.

Is it worth it?

Hell, yeah! So the list of problems may seem pretty big… but in all reality, they are minor compared to the joy one feels when finding that game they’ve been longing for. Or the happiness of knowing that you didn’t waste 60 bucks on this ass awful game. Libraries aren’t going to be the next BlockBuster. First of all, normally competent people work there… ouch… that was mean. Sorry to anyone who works there. I’m sure that you are competent, now your boss many be another case. In reality, Libraries just don’t have the money to compete. Video Games, while an important part of culture, aren’t the main focus of libraries. But perhaps, if more gamers got off their duffs and visited the library, library directors would be willing to spend more. And who knows… you may find a book you like. Personally, I recommend Gears of War Aspho Fields

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~ by reluctant_gamer on August 13, 2009.

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