book review

Everyone Plays at the Libary
Creating Great Gaming Experiences for All Ages

By Scott Nicholson (2010)

These days libraries are so much more than just a dusty collection of books. They are growing into media and social hubs sharing information and social experiences alike. For some it is obvious that games are part of this development. After all, games are a medium, and can be used to convey all sorts of information. In fact, games combine information and social experiences quite naturally. Sadly, not many members of your typically library staff are experienced gamers, let alone experts on the medium. Libraries risk missing out on a wonderful opportunity to rejuvenate their public function. Enter Scott Nicholson’s wonderful book on creating great gaming experience in libraries.

Scott Nicholson, for those who do not know him, is an authority in both worlds of gaming and libraries. As an associate professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University in the state of New York, Nicholson knows his way around libraries. As the host of the popular internet board game show ‘Board Games with Scott’ he is a respected critic and reviewer of games. His book Everyone Plays at the Library seeps with the combined wisdom of these two diverse disciplines.

The book is structured into three parts. In the first part Nicholson discusses gaming in libraries from a conceptual perspective. Why should we put games in libraries in the first place, and what sort of experience would work best? In the second part he goes in depth into the five gaming archetypes that he developed in the first part: knowledge gaming, strategy gaming, action gaming, narrative gaming and social gaming. For each archetype he suggests suitable games. In the third part is filled with practical advice on how to put the gaming experience together.

Now, if you are already familiar with games yourself, this book might not teach you much about games you did not already know. However, it might change how you look at creating game experiences. For, to me, that is the true core of this book. Sure, Nicholson does talk about the games and gaming quite a bit, and for someone not familiar with games this is vital information. After all, the target audience for this book is librarians who want to get up to speed running game events in libraries. But I think even the most savvy gamer can learn a thing or two from this book on how to host the game experience. Nicholson embeds games at the heart of a social media experience that ties in with other functions of the library. He stresses experience that catering for a wider gaming audience than your typical adolescent boy. These are all important steps towards reaching out with games a way that is vastly different from your average trade show. Although Nicholson’s focus is on gaming in libraries, I do hope that his book can inspire a wider variety of cultural institutions and festivals to seriously look into gaming. For I think it is vital these gaming experiences eventually lead to a better educated gaming audiences, who would have a more refined appreciation for a wider variety of games. Anyone within and without the gaming industry benefits from the awareness of this ultimately, social quality of games to bind, educate and entertain. Ah, the world would look so much better when everyone in the cultural field and game industry has read this book.