To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Video Games in the Library?
Date: Feb 2009

One of the other hats I wear is that of a Commissioner of the Oakland Public Library. I thought that some of you might like to know what is going on in your local libraries. The sacred book temples have evolved to include services like internet access, Wi-Fi, e-books and yes, video games.

Libraries are interested in attracting teens - getting kids hooked on reading, and so they provide a clean, well lighted and noisy place for them. Teen rooms are filled with snacks, cushions on the floor, manga, posters, comic books and a crowd playing and watching Guitar Hero. There is Rock Band for the more affluent libraries; some older versions of Dance Dance, Sing Star, mostly for girls, and racing games from Mario Kart toBurnout. The most common platform is the PS2, next the PC and most desired but not the most available - the Wii.

There is a real problem with budgeting sufficient funds. Occasionally a teen will bring in his own Wii. There is some push to having kids bring in their own DS (most have them) and use the libraries WiFi for cooperative play. Works only for games that allow more than one player per game chip. Both these methods work well in having the teens themselves responsible for the games and the equipment. And yes, there is a high rate of loss of games that are loaned out.

If you look at the games that are played in the library, it becomes obvious that it is the social interaction that the library is aiming for. Competitions become an event and are exceedingly well attended, kids bringing in friends. Hanging around and watching players is an activity in itself. While there is intense competition, it is heartening to see an expert player teaching a beginner.

This activity is not on the radar of the game industry - otherwise there would be donations of games and equipment to the underfunded library systems. I don't think that video games in the library result in very many lost sales, but I do think that it makes gamers.