Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

The Gaming Generation

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

The Gaming Generation

Article excerpt

The Impact of Games & Gamers

When we examine traditionally underserved populations in libraries, near, if not at, the top of the list are teenage males. It's not that librarians don't try, but we do not connect with them, or seem to be able to consistently provide services they value, in ways we do with other groups (parents, seniors, business owners, or others). Through story-time programs, collection development, arts and crafts, lap-sit programs, and homework support, we do a good job of serving the needs of younger children, and we do a good job of serving patrons when they reach parenthood (again with story-time programs, collection development, lap-sit programs, homework support, and lifelong-learning programmatic elements). And we also know how to serve seniors fairly well with collection development, program offerings, and lifelong-learning elements.

The group that libraries seem to lose is the teenagers--specifically the boys. As librarians, we then have to hope they will come back as parents, business owners, lifelong learners, or seniors. But what connections and relationships have we built with them to support that hope?

As you will see in this report's case studies, gaming offers libraries an excellent opportunity to reach these users--which is a good thing because there are a lot of them. Taken as a whole, both male and female, the gaming generation represents some ninety million people, up to about the age of thirty-five. Around that age, we start to see very definitive drop-off levels in game playing and of knowledge about video games.

That "ninety million" figure is particularly significant, because it represents a generation larger than the baby boomers. All we need to do is think about the impact the seventy-seven million boomers had on society to realize that a group that is ten million stronger will surely be a similarly significant force. The far end of the age spectrum of gamers has now been in the workforce for a few years, and as Beck and Wade note in Got Game, they are already having an impact. For the most part, they share specific characteristics that define them as a generation and also mark them as very different from other demographic groups.

In order to determine these characteristics and understand how they might affect the business world as ninety-million people enter it in waves, Beck and Wade commissioned a survey of 2,500 men and women in the United States in order to determine "whether the experience of gaming and growing up surrounded by games, changes attitudes, expectations, and abilities related to business. And the answer is a resounding yes." (1) Based on their research, they offer the following lessons gamers learn as they grow up playing games:

The Individual's Role

* You're the star. You are the center of attention of every game, unlike, say, Little League, where most kids will never be the star.

* You're the boss. The world is very responsive to you.

* You're the customer, and the customer is always right. Like shopping, the whole experience is designed for your satisfaction and entertainment; the opponents are tough, but never too tough.

* You're an expert. You have the experience of getting really, really good ... early and often.

* You're a tough guy. You can experience all sorts of crashes, suffering, and death--and it doesn't hurt.

How the World Works

* There's always an answer. You might be frustrated for a while, you might even never find it, but you know it's there.

* Everything is possible. You see yourself or other players consistently do amazing things....

* The world is a logical, human-friendly place. Games are basically fair. Events may be random but not inexplicable....

* Trial-and-error is almost always the best plan. It's the only way to advance in most games, even if you ultimately break down and buy a strategy guide or copy others on the really hard parts. …

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