Game On at the Library: From D&D to Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Library is Your Place for Gaming

This just in: games are hot. With an explosion of new board games for both kids and adults, a renewed interest in Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games thanks to 80’s nostalgia through such hit cult T.V. shows as Stranger Things and the establishment of videogame e-sports as a multi-billion dollar industry, America is in the middle of a gaming renaissance, and your local public library is the perfect place to join in the fun. Today we’ll talk about how you can find gaming programming at your library for ages six and up.

Last month over 1700 libraries around the world celebrated International Games Week, with events ranging from “learn to play” sessions for new and exciting board games as well as videogame tournaments featuring classic Nintendo titles such as Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as libraries and gaming are concerned. Just like movies, music and audiobooks, games are quickly becoming another important part of library collections- along with library staff who are more than happy to share their enthusiasm for gaming with the community.

1. Many libraries let you check out board games, video games or even ping-pong tables. New games may be fun, but they are not always cheap- libraries allow you to try before you buy. Other libraries will even circulate entire videogaming consoles or other accessories along with videogames. Also, some libraries will also offer other unusual gaming equipment, such as badminton nets, bocce balls or ping-pong tables! Did you know that many libraries are more than willing to add new kinds of materials- including gaming items- to their collections if a member of the library community simply asks them to? Never underestimate the power of asking.

2. Learn to play at the library with staff and the gaming community. Not only do libraries check out games, but they often sponsor events where you can play games at the library, meet other gamers in your library community, or learn how play new games with members of the library staff, your library community or partners from a local hobby shop, comic book store or Friendly Local Gaming Store. Although libraries increasingly offer their own gaming programming, they also partner with local gaming groups on Meetup or gaming-friendly businesses. Whereas game and hobby shops can often cater to certain age and demographic groups, the library is a great place for anyone to learn new things in an open and welcoming environment- including games.

3. Slay the dragon, save the world. Thanks to a fresh new edition of the game and a revival of all things 1980’s, Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D) has never been more popular. You can now find libraries sponsoring their own groups for D&D and other roleplaying games- or RPGs- such as Call of Cthulhu or Pathfinder, where players use their imagination and polyhedral dice to play the roles of warriors, wizards or countless other heroic possibilities. Many libraries also have copies of RPG rulebooks and adventures that you can check out, and if your library has a MakerSpace you can print out your own miniatures on a 3-D printer as well.

4. Explore virtual reality at your local public library. Long the pipe dream of science-fiction enthusiasts and frustrated gamers, virtual and augmented reality are now here in a variety of platforms and offerings. Having trouble making sense of what the difference is between VR and AR, or what hardware you need to use with what software? Many libraries have begun to invest in their own copies of Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and Playstation VR to help introduce their communities to the next generation of gaming, entertainment and computing. Another popular offering is Google Cardboard, which only needs a smartphone to deliver a powerful and memorable virtual reality experience.

5. Minigolf, Lazer Tag and LARPs? (Oh, my!) If you’re less of a sit-down gamer and more of an active player, libraries have gaming activities for you as well, ranging from miniature golf to Lazer Tag right in the library stacks. Some libraries have combined these gaming opportunities with their Maker programming- for example, libraries with miniature golf courses sometimes enlist the community to help design and create the various holes- while others use them as after-hours fundraising opportunities. Live-action roleplaying, or LARPing, has also become popular at libraries. Combining the imaginative action of a traditional roleplaying game with improvisational acting and crafting outfits, arms and armor, LARPing is a perfect library/makerspace activity.

6. Collectible Card Games. From Magic: The Gathering, which is still going strong after 20 years, or other new games such as Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, many libraries offer space or gaming programming for collectible card games as well. Speaking of Pokémon, although it is not nearly the universal phenomenon that it was a year ago, millions of people still play Pokémon GO, which has recently introduced new forms of play and different series of new legendary Pokémon to be caught. The best part? Chances are that your local public library is already a Pokéstop or Pokégym!

7. Don’t forget the classics. Chess and puzzles are still tremendously popular, and many libraries have chess clubs which offering chess instruction to various age groups, from elementary school and older. Also, rare is the public library where there isn’t at least one jigsaw puzzle being actively put together by members of the community. Libraries have always been actively encouraging these kinds of gaming, so it’s only natural that they are now branching out into supporting different kinds and formats of games.

8. Let’s Get Quizzical- Pub Quizzes and Library Trivia Nights. Trivia Nights aren’t just for your local watering hole. Many libraries either host their own trivia events or partner with local bars or eateries to offer a unique spin on the traditional trivia experience: one where library staff help research and write the questions! If you haven’t had the good fortune to experience a library pub quiz/trivia event, this is one thing you absolutely owe to yourself to try.

9. Do it for fun *and* do it for charity. Not only does cutting-edge medical research confirm that gaming is good for you, as even the simplest of games helps keep the brain agile and limber as it ages, but gaming itself can be leveraged for the greater good as well. Libraries have recently partnered with organizations such as Extra life, a charity that supports the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through sponsoring gaming marathons. Since 2008, Extra Life has been able to raise more than $30 million for sick and injured kids- part of this is thanks to library-sponsored gaming marathon events. The only thing more fun than beating your friends at Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers is helping out others in need while you play.

10. Good community partners make for great library programming. Many local gaming-friendly businesses assume that libraries will harm sales, but just as authors benefit from doing readings and signings at local public libraries, hobby shops, comic book shops and Friendly Local Game Stores should think of partnering with libraries as an opportunity to showcase gaming to a wider audience and provide an entry-point to new demographics of gamers.

So whether you’re a trivia maven looking for a challenge, a diehard board gamer looking for new players or a casual video gamer simply interested in what’s coming next, your local public library may have exactly what you’re looking for to get your game on. And even if they don’t, please don’t be afraid to ask, as you yourself might help start something special and get the library gaming ball rolling just by expressing interest.

EveryLibrary is the first nationwide political action committee for libraries. Find out more at facebook.com/everylibrary
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