22 – Gaming


Get Your Game On

Games are big business these days, having graduated from being the hobby of the young and the geeky to being a favoured pastime for large segments of the populace. It’s a pastime they’re willing to spend money on too – industry turnover is estimated at several billion dollars and is rising year by year.

The average age of gamers in Australia is 30 (and this is expect to hit 36 by 2014) and, these adult gamers have been playing video games for 11 years. 88% of Australian homes have a device for playing computer or video games. Of the 68% of Australians that play computer or video games, 46% are female, and half play daily or every other day, for an average of one hour. You can find more statistics and analysis of the Australian gaming population here, if you’re interested.

Gaming in Libraries:

It’s these sort of statistics that have been behind the push in recent years to introduce a greater level of gaming in libraries.  The push has been mainly focused on public and school libraries, where it tends to be easier to justify the expenditure of time and money, as it’s more overtly keeping with the aims of these types of library.  Academic libraries have been slower to adopt; often gaming programs are only run as gimmicks, or in student common areas and learning commons as de-stress tools.  And it may well be that this is the best course of action.  Some, however, go ahead and write their own – educational – games in an attempt to make things like information literacy and learning how to reference seem less like homework.

Types of Games:

Video games are an incredibly diverse form of media.  In addition to the narrative genres common to film and literature – romance, horror, thriller, fantasy, period, etc. – games are also classified by their platform (console [often further broken down by brand], PC, mobile, handheld are a few), player number and relationship (single-player or multiplayer, co-operative or competitive), perspective (first or third person, isometric, etc) and by gameplay mechanics. I’m only going to touch on the broad gameplay categories here (the definitions below are by and large, taken from MobyGames), as each genre has countless subgenres:

Any game where action (movement, quick thinking, reflexes, etc.) is the main focus of gameplay.

Denotes any game where the emphasis is based on experiencing a story through the manipulation of one or more user-controlled characters and the environment they exist in. Gameplay mechanics emphasize decision over action.

Role-playing games (RPGs) are a common sub-genre of all adventure games, as are the classic Sierra “Quest” series of games. Text adventures (Interactive Fiction) are also, by definition, adventure games.

Denotes a game specifically designed to educate the player in an area. Usually intended for younger children, educational games offer a fun, indirect way to practice “non-fun” subjects like spelling, math, history, etc.

Racing / Driving:
Any game that involves using a motorized vehicle to move faster than an opponent to reach a specified goal or beat a specified time. Usually racing games use cars, but motorcycle, powerboat, and flight/space racing games also exist.

Role-Playing (RPG):
Denotes any game for which character development is the main driving gameplay mechanic. Typically one or more characters are created and shaped by the player, then embark on a series of encounters that increase the inventory, wealth, or combat statistics of said character(s). Traditional RPGs are turn-based and in a fantasy setting (Rogue-like games, The Bard’s Tale, Wizardry, Pool of Radiance, etc.) but many fit into either different settings like space, or post-apocalypse (Wasteland, Fallout, etc.) or are real-time instead of turn-based (Diablo, Nox, etc.) or even a combination of real-time and turn-based (later Final Fantasy games, Anachronox, etc.)

A game where objective is to match, by body movements or pressing buttons, a pattern or rhythm provided by the game.  This is a genre that has only relatively recently become mainstream in the West, and includes games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero.

Models real-life situations and/or variables. Strategy wargames mimicking historic battles are simulations; so are racing games that allow you to adjust tire pressure, spoiler drag, etc. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator and Maxis’ Sim City are probably the most well-known game in the realistic simulation genre, where accuracy and depth are the primary goals, while games like the hugely popular the Sims franchise are a more light-hearted take on the genre.

Any sporting activity. Examples: Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Soccer are the most popular sports games.

Gameplay emphasis is on thinking, rationalizing, theorizing, problem-solving, etc.–in other words, “using your brain”. Examples: Chess games are strategy games, as are real-time war simulations like Command and Conquer.

Virtual Worlds and the MMORPG

Games are increasingly played over the internet as a means of social interaction, and nowhere is this seen more than in the rise of the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game – MMORPG.  MMORPGs are a form of virtual world – that is, a persistent or semi-persistent digital environment that allows users to interact with it via an avatar of some description. Some virtual worlds, like Second Life, will allow you to, not only interact with, but change the environment and create new content for it; others, such as the Playstation 3’s Home may just exist to allow users to chat with each other and share media in an online space.

In library circles, the most famous and be-all and end-all of virtual worlds tends to be Second Life,  a situation your practically perfect programmer strongly disagrees with for reasons she will elaborate to you – at considerable length – should you ask .  Outside of our hallowed circles, the biggest virtual world is World of Warcraft (WoW), an MMORPG with over 10million subscribers.  WoW is set on the fantasy world of Azeroth where players pick one of two factions and explores the landscape, completes quests, fights monsters and sometimes even other players.  Another MMORPG of note is Eve Online, a game that claims to have had over 45,000 people playing at once and is famous for its in-depth economy and open-ended gameplay.  Set in space, the game, unlike WoW, has little in the way of inbuilt plot or quests, instead relying on players to create the story.  So far, it’s been a tale of lies, deception, lage-scale theft, blackmail, betrayal, fortunes won and lost, industrial espionage and incredible space battles as competing corporations comprised of thousands of players fight each other for control of valuable assets and sections of space.

To Complete Thing 22:

Play some games and blog about it!  (If you’re getting strange looks from your co-workers, you may want to print out this sign). You might like to try:

  • Addicting Games: a massive list of games from pretty much every genre mentioned above and more.
  • ASU Information Literacy Game: You’d better get all of these right!
  • Facebook has hundreds of games – some better than others.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: a humourous turn-based RPG that parodies many fantasy tropes.
  • PopCap Games: won’t work at work, but PopCap’s selection of incredibly addicting games is well worth a go at home.  It’s worth noting for the sake of this program that the Bookworm series is a great example of how to make an educational game fun.
  • Puzzle Pirates: an MMORPG where you play as a pirate, working with friends to solve puzzles and make money.
  • Runescape: a fantasy MMORPG, and the world’s most popular free MMO.
  • SimCity Classic: the game that started the Sim genre.  Build and manage a city, from balancing budgets to assigning zoning permission to building roads.  More fun and addictive than you’d think.

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