Seeing an ad for the ALA National Gaming day I jumped into action and got the greenlight to explore a night of gaming at our small academic library. We wouldn't make the date for the ALA National Gaming day, but I wanted to try to throw a gaming night in our library. The first step was to poll the students for a response. I made a graphic out of a screenshot from Gears of War and posted it to a protected campus forum. This would be the first gaming night of our library's history, though I did hear a rumor that they used to have a Dungeons and Dragons games at night a couple decades ago (so maybe the 2nd one, but the 1st video game night).
The Hard Part
Next, we had to plan for this event. I asked the students to RSVP, because we needed a number in order to provide power and network. I sent invites to the students who responded to my forum post first, thinking they should get first dibs. The responses now came in slowly, much slower than the inital feedback. Actually, up until the day of the event I only had 19 students sign up for the event. I was starting to get nervous, but I still felt that we would get a good number of drop-ins. With a week to go until the event I sent out a system wide email about the event and posted flyers around the library. With that email I received a few more sign-ups. I posted to the library Facebook page and get some more attention.
While the numbers were relatively low, we were still going ahead. With the help of the IT department we began to draw out the areas of the library that we would use for the various console gamers and PC gamers. We used the entire side of our library that had newly constructed booth seating, not unlike you would find in a diner. There was already live network ports that the PC gamers could plug into along the side of the booths.
We had three long tables dedicated to the Xbox 360 crowd (the majority of those students that signed up). We dragged out a network switches for each table and had a lot of power strips and network cables so students could just plug in and go.
We used another area for the Playstation players and installed a network switch for them as well. We had 3 collaboration study rooms equipped with 46" LCD TVs on the walls that we installed a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox 360 with Kinect in. This would allow the more casual gamer to try out different systems. What wasn't surprising is that the students decided to unplug those consoles pretty quickly to plug in their own. *Note: if planning your own Library Gaming Night try to collect as many monitors as you can. While students don't have any problems bringing them from their dorms, many of the students stated that the TV in their dorm was owned by their roomate and did not feel right unplugging it and bringing it down to the library.
Even though only 19 students formally signed up for the game night (and many were early to the library waiting to set-up) we had at one point over 40 students gaming in the library and a pretty constant headcount of 30+. While that may not seem like a huge number of students, consider that our FTE is just over 1000 with most students heading home on a Friday afternoon. We did receive interest from community members but felt for our first gaming event we would limit it only to our students, staff, and faculty. All in all, the gaming night was a great success.
What to Plan For
Refreshments. We bought 4-5 12 packs of sodas and purchased snacks and candy that was not too messy. Around 9:30pm we ordered around 15 pizzas. Everything was consumed quickly, making it an easy clean up.
Network and power. I suggest trying to get hard numbers on how many gamers there will be and where they will set-up to game (and then add 25% more). Each gamer needs to plug in at least 2 things (console/computer and monitor) and most will need a network connection to play multiplayer games. Some students were able to play on their campus Wi-Fi accounts. Network and power is all the gamer really needs to get started.
Library. We hosted the event after regular closing hours. Set up started at 3pm and went till 5pm, some took a break to go eat dinner, and then everyone played up until midnight. Get help on moving furniture, tables, and chairs. Drag out big trashcans and recycle bins for cans.
Prizes. We were fortunate enough to receive a new copy of a newly released Xbox 360 game from a vendor of ours. We raffled this game off during the event. We simply issued small pieces of paper with a number on it and drew a number out of a clear container. Even though the gamer did not own a Xbox, he was happy to win the game and I presume went the next day to the game shop to trade it in for something he did want. We were lucky to be able to raffle off a $60 video game, but it made the event even more exciting for the students.
Fun. It is a lot of fun to see monitors set up throughout the library and see the students cut loose in a normally quiet place set aside for studying. I am very grateful to a campus fraternity for helping organize the various tournaments the students participated in as well as pormoting the event. This was a great chance for the many gamers to come together on campus.
It was very gratuifying to give the students space and network access, and watch them organize themselves they way they wanted to. I feel the very same about new equipment that we place in the library, just put it out there, and the students will use it.
We constructed three glassed study rooms recently all with large monitors on the walls and just left VGA cables on the desks, within a few days we saw large groups of students in the rooms, connecting their laptops to monitors to rehearse presentations- no signs or instructions needed- they will figure it out.
While many may argue that video games are not academic nor a library a place to play Halo, I would say that campus events that bring people of a community together for fun is a worthy cause. This event was an outreach for the library, a social event for campus gamers, and a learning experience for admistrators and faculty.
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