Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gaming at JCL

I'd have to say, from a scale from 1-10, the gaming pilot program at JCL a 8.5 out of 10. It was good to see the teenagers having a good time, an excellent display of library technology and knowledge from the younger staff members, and to show to upper management that this gaming thing wasn't so bad after all. With that, here comes a detailed overview.

The pros:
  • The tech crew did an excellent job prepping the room for when I arrived at 8am. I was expecting to unload TVs, run cords all over the room, and troubleshoot some audio/video problems. Turns out the techies new their stuff from some LAN parties and had started setup over the weekend.
  • Registration had a few hiccups, but it worked well. 15 minutes before the tournament was going to begin, we had some no-shows, so we opened the floor to anyone who was hanging out. An excellent move by the organizers part, and it kept people hanging out for more.
  • Food. Excellent. Plenty of tasty carbonated beverages and water, cookies, pretzels, chips, twizzlers, and Pizza for lunch.
  • The Game: Need for Speed: Most Wanted is an excellent choice because it displays the diversity of the gaming industry. The single player portion of the game has out outrunning the police in pursuit of regaining your car, and side missions and mini-games have you running around performing property damage. We didn't do any of those games. We did straight heads up racing, no violence, no car damage...just living up our dreams of flying down the street at 0-180mph.
  • Organization: Kudos to the techies for selecting decent cars that were used. Each round consisted of competitors using the same cars on the same track. The further you got in the bracket, the faster the cars got and the more difficult the track got. Worked out very well, the bottom brackets had a gap as wide as 2 minutes between finishes, while the upper tier literally got to under a second.
  • Timing: Timing went well, everything started and stopped on time. I'll admit I was impressed when we started because we had 1.5 hours from opening the doors to begining the first round, but that allows time for the press to come in and come out, let parents and kids get comfortable and quiet, and got in some practicing for each of the competitors. Each of them got to race at least twice before actually beginning the tournament. I myself wouldn't have planned on that, but I'll be sure to make it a reccomendation from now on.
  • Prizes: Top eight got a free gaming magazine of their choice; 3rd, 2nd, 1st each got a gift certificate to GameStop stores, valued at $50, $100, and $150 bucks. Quite the prize if you ask me. Thanks to the Johnson County Library Foundation for collecting the funds for the prizes.
  • Interaction: Which is probably the best part of things like this to me. Overheard two kids who said they went to the same school but had never talked before, other people talking about wanting to do more computers/gaming design in high school and college, couple actually talking car lingo, talk about compairing X-box/PS2/X-box 360/GameCube, some others talking about *gasp* books they read and websites they visit while at the library, one asking me in detail what a Training Specialist (my job title, I decided to wear my nametag for a little bit o' library promo) does at the library, and other general babble going on.
  • One our our elite Youth Services staff was quick like ninja and snagged some gaming magazines from the Young Adult area and had them on display, with a sign that said "Yes, these are available for checkout" and we had one or two takers who looked at them, disappeared for a couple minutes, then came back with checkout receipts in hand.
  • Allowing 30+ kids, 3-5 parents, and 5 staff to do completely fun at the library from 9am - 3pmish...priceless.
  • Self Regulation: In the 1.5 practice times, two of the "monitors" (one of which, was myself), only had to pop a couple kids of the X-box's to let the other players have a turn, after that, once they completed a race, they automatically got up and let a couple others sit down and have a turn. No fighting, no whining, no complaining, and no fussing. Teenagers...playing games...and they were acting like adults. Amazing isn't it?
  • Shaking hands: After nearly every game, opponants got up and shook hands or at least offered a "high five" to each other.
  • Signup: Kids came in packs, which is great. One hears about it, and pulls in 3 more with them. Priceless.
Like I said in the beginning, a VERY succession pilot for an even larger planned event during spring break and/or during the summer. The County Librarian stepped in a time or two, the head of our IT department was around for most of the day, both associate directors for our libraries was in attendance, as well as the head of the Library Foundation and various staff members from around the system to take a peek to see what was going on.

Now, some of the cons...sorry folks, ya gotta have them
  • Pacing: While the timing was good, the pacing was off. We'd have 8 people playing, and when they finished, there was about 5-10 minutes of dead time before the next 8 got up to play. Granted we were having issues changing the bracket at the last minute due to no shows, but it could have been worked on to keep the flow going. It was like learning how to use a stick shift for the first time...the first couple times you kill the car, but after a couple of shifts, things get moving.
  • Bracket: We had the 4 TVs and a digital projector, but they were all displaying the games. I think we should have had an old school huge posted up that showed the bracket so everyone could see how the bracket was fleshing out, not hiding it on a laptop where only the organizers can see. Even if it's just lines and markers, seeing is believing.
  • Using names: Competitors each got a bracelet with a number on it, and that's what was used to call opponants to the different stations. The initial registration by phone or on site should have included a "Nickname" that could have been used. Then they could have used their own names if they wanted to; Paul, Dustin, Steve, or some gaming nickname they always use AstroCrash, Megabit, SeeYa, etc. (as long as they were PG-13!).
  • Filling in the dead space. Most of the eliminated competitors hung out while everyone else was racing, so there were some poeple whole played once or twice, then just sat and hung out. While that's cool and all, why not offer up some other forms of entertainment, as low tech as cards (playing cards or gaming cards), or going as high tech as hooking up a DDR.
  • Trusting the competitors. We had a monitor for each of the TVs, and it wasn't really neccessary, though I'll admit it was nice helping out all day long. The participants can self regulate themselves if you let them, and as long as it was a fair race, they'll admit who won, who lost, and write down their own race times and turn them into the score keeper. Just the same, you want to have a couple on hand.
  • The Em-cee for the event. I learned a long time ago from LAN parties numbering 50+ participants that you can't run the show and share what's going on at the same time. Our em-cee would have been excellent if she had been fed information instead of having to fish for it from the bracket keeper, and she could have hopped up now and again and talked about what was going on with the competitors. And I'll say this again, any em-cee who wears a shirt "I'm Blogging This" is going to be cool no matter what she says, but with this being a pilot program, we only have room for improvement.
  • More estrogyn dominant individuals...but I won't be the first to admit this is an gaming trend in general because guys buy more games, play more games, and have no problems throwing away the cash for the latest and greatest. There are a lot of elite gamers out there, some afraid to comeout and admit they're good at a guy thing, and some just have other interests when it comes to video games. I've know several gamers (in fact, my wife is playing Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds not 10 feet away from me), but a lot of women have to be coaxed into the "Dark Side" so to speak. It's difficult to find a gender neutral game that everyone agrees to play on. DDR is an excellent example, girls love to dance, so DDR is very popular with them...how many High School boys LOVE to go out and jump onto the dance floor? It'll be difficult to find a game that can work both playing fields and have distinct measurable outcomes.
  • Having the head librarian with a paper checkered flag was a little on the corney side, and I'm sure a couple of teenagers thought it was a little corney. But, with the teenage crowd, anyone who gets up there and does a little mini speech is going to be thought of as a little corney as well. We might have to have a couple of young Youth Services staff talk to senior management in how to communicate to the target audience, it might help get the message across to the kids that we want them to come in, have a good time, and to keep coming in time and time again.
That's all I've got now, and it took me over an hour to type all this up between IMs and talking with the Mrs about Jedi/Bounty Hunter powers in her Galactice Battle grounds...but this whole post got me anxious to do some racing of my own, so I'm going to fire up the PS2 and do a little Gran Turismo 4 action. After all, I know I'll never be able to own this, but driving it in a video game is close enough for me.


Degolar said...

Thanks for the detailed update. Missing it is the one thing I regret about being on vacation this week.

scott said...

Sounds fun. Wish I could have been there to cheer and heckle.

scott said...

And, if there's one thing I've learned from this, it's that Dr. Carleton used to have LAN parties at Pitt State! :D

ic-tim said...

Great post ... great event ... great library ... and it's all because of the the great people in the organization and whom we serve!

Erica Reynolds said...

Ah...really good review of the event and fantastic suggestions for the future! Awesome! I'm really excited to see how the Spring Break tournament turns out...