A Gaming Connection

“You play Minecraft at work?” Sometimes my friends get jealous, so I explain: “Yeah, I play Minecraft at work, but I’m usually running around the lab helping people, and there’s more to it than just playing the game – it’s about building community.” Playing Minecraft at the library is a way to get kids in the door and create connections. That I’m a fan of Minecraft outside of work serves as another layer of common ground.

I’ve been playing Minecraft in our computer lab with groups of kids and teens for about two years now. We’ve done a lot of different things with the game: free play, adventure maps, working together to survive, player vs. player battles, redstone circuits, pixel art.  At times we’ve played every other week, sometimes once a month, sometimes once over the summer. I’ve gotten to know my Minecraft kids pretty well. I know that they are creative and knowledgeable about the details of the game.  I know who loves to explore, who is a fearless monster fighter, who can give me a porkchop when my food meter is low, and who knows how to build a shelter where no zombie will ever find us. And they know me this way as well. They know I probably have a secret shelter hidden somewhere, that if they need a place to hide they can come in, and that my avatar is probably standing there doing nothing because I left myself logged in while I got up to help someone at their computer.

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2013 Technology Trend: Ramped-Up Gaming

Full confessions: I’m terrible at video games. I lack the hand/eye coordination needed to work magic with the controllers. But I like to watch gamers. I know I need more practice, and I think that I would love gaming if I didn’t get so frustrated. It’s a vicious cycle.

Gaming in the library seems to come in cycles. First there was the DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and Guitar Hero, big spectacles that could be as much to watch as to play. Librarians raved about those parties. Then there was the Wii games – specifically, sports with teens (and also with seniors). Once a niche event, National Gaming Day has expanded and evolved into International Games Day.

This year Minecraft programs have swept through libraries around the country, but the Darien Library in Connecticut took it to the next level, scaling up to make the gaming experience even better. They host a county-wide server. Continue reading 2013 Technology Trend: Ramped-Up Gaming

App of the Week: Plants vs. Zombies 2

pvz2Title: Plants vs. Zombies 2
Cost:‘ Free, with in-app purchase options
Platform: iOS (so far)


The original Plants vs. Zombies was one of my first app reviews for this blog.’ ‘ Over the past couple of years the game has gained ‘ popularity; it has plush toys, cosplayers, and tons of accolades.’  The strength of this franchise is in its world building.’  All of the details of design, music, and comical backstory, come together to create a consistent look and feel. In the world of this game, an army of plants is obviously the best way to defend your home from zombies.’  A sequel was only a matter of time.

Time, as it turns out, is the theme of the sequel, the full title of which reads: Plants vs. Zombies 2 “It’s about time.” Crazy Dave, your neighbor and zombie fighting mentor, has found himself a time machine and gotten you lost in time and space in pursuit of the experience of eating a recently consumed taco again. You find yourself traveling through Ancient Egypt, Pirate Seas, and the Wild West, each decorated in typical Plants vs. Zombies style and populated by thematically appropriate zombies with thematically appropriate powers of destruction. But not to worry, you have plants: some old some new, and all with exciting power-ups.








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YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Anime Fest

This was our third Annual Anime Fest. Our goal when planning this program was to expose the teens to aspects of Japanese culture featured in the manga and anime in our collection, as well as to get them talking about their favorite anime and manga. The teens are geektastic in their exuberance for anime and manga, but they often don’t have friends who share their passion. We bring these people together, and the results are so fun to witness. In previous years we’ve learned samurai moves from a kendo instructor, made mochi (a Japanese dessert), listened to Japanese pop music, and created kokeshi dolls.

713 Teen AnimeFest

Our event features several staple activities every year. They include eating with chopsticks, dressing in yukatas (summer kimonos), watching anime (this year we watched Legend of the Millennium Dragon), and playing Naruto Wii.


We then bring in a few new elements to keep it fresh. Continue reading YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Anime Fest

YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Spy Games

Across all age groups,’ spies seem to be universally loved, so we split this program into two sessions, one for kids and one for teens. Some adults did stop by and were encouraged to try the different stations as well.

This program was highly inspired by Rachel Moani’s Spy Training Academy program at Lacey Timberland Library.

713 Spy Games

For the program, we created Spy Games cards so everyone could assume an identity and check off every station they completed. All of the spy games are actually Secret Service code names for presidential family members or presidential nominee family members. Continue reading YA Programming Behind the Scenes: Spy Games

App of the Week: The Nightjar

Nightjar LogoTitle: The Nightjar
Cost: $4.99
Platform: iOS

The Nightjar is a game unlike any other I have ever played. It is set on a spaceship that has experienced a catastrophic failure and is slowly drifting into a black hole. Alone on the ship in the pitch black, you (known as “The Passenger”) must try to navigate through this darkened environment on the basis of nothing more than the sounds around you. You are guided by two voices, one is the voice of the ship’s computer and the other is the voice of a man who says he is part of the team on the way to rescue you. But, who should you trust? And, how long will you be alone? Continue reading App of the Week: The Nightjar

Rethinking What We Do: Rated M for Mature

An Emotional Goodbye

I am writing this article as an open letter. We are censoring what video games we provide people, but we are not stopping their consumption. We are shooting ourselves in the foot to avoid an argument, and it will hurt. Plus we are compromising our own integrity to avoid an argument. It is time to supply our public with access to M rated games.

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App of the Week: Dots

dots app logoTitle: Dots: A Game About Connecting
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free (in app purchases available)

Here’s what I’ve seen recently on Twitter about Dots:

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Connect, Create, Collaborate…Craft! A Teen Tech Week Post Mortem: Minecraft in the Library




I’ve wanted to host a Minecraft program at my library ever since I began working there last August.’  I mentioned the idea to our teens and quickly saw that there was a captive audience for it. ‘ Minecraft is the epitome of this year’s YALSA presidential theme; with this game you can connect with your teen patrons, encourage them to collaborate, and create amazing things within the game! When Teen Tech Week came along, it felt like the perfect opportunity to test out a Minecraft program.

Working in a small library with limited resources, I knew there would be obstacles to overcome.’  We have eight public computers that are positioned directly in the center of the library and do not have a separate room for a teen space.’  Our lack of computers limited the number of potential participants right from the start since I knew I wouldn’t be able to use all of the computers. We also share a network with the other libraries in our consortium so I knew that hosting a server would be complicated.

I was also worried that my Minecraft skills were not up to par. I know a lot about the game, but I have to confess that I don’t really play….at all.’  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to monitor the players in a way that would work for everyone.’  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to help players who got stuck.’  I worried that something would go wrong with the game, and I wouldn’t be able to fix it.

Even with all these obstacles, without a budget, and without much technical know-how, I was able to pull off a successful Minecraft program at my public library…and you can, too!

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App of the Week: Invisibility 3D

Name: Invisibility 3D
Platform: iOS
Cost:‘ $o.99

Augmented reality remains one of the less-explored frontiers in mobile computing. Apps like Layar, HistoryPin, and WhatWasThere have combined geolocation capabilities with external databases to link data to places, but the enriched experiences they provide are sometimes too cumbersome to become second-nature.

At this spring’s SXSW Interactive, Levity Novelty introduced Invisibility 3D, a gaming app that uses a mindbending overlay of real and virtual worlds to great effect. The game itself is rather simple, using your device as a sort of paddle to sink a projected ball in a projected hole. But the object and its target are overlaid on whatever surface you designate, and the device’s camera makes the rest of your environment remains visible just behind the game field.
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