Do video games have a place in modern day libraries?


It’s nothing new to see a pack of cards or chess board at your favourite library. In fact, as library workers, we are encouraged to increase user engagement and assist in community development through the use of more traditional games. However the world is changing, and as the years go on it’s getting harder and harder to win the ‘most popular destination’ vote using a pack of UNO cards (don't get us wrong - we love UNO!).

Of course the often heated debate then tends to drift to 21st century video games and the relevance they hold within the modern day library. 

Library workers usually feel fairly strongly one way or the other. Regardless of one's position on whether gaming is positive or negative, they are here to stay. In fact, they are increase exponentially, as gamification takes over many aspects of our lives. Here are some stats (Sources:  and that you may find interesting:

  • There has been, and continues to be a steady rise in the market growth of gamification, from $1.7 billion in 2015, to $2.8 billion in 2016, to a predicted $5.5 billion in 2018.
  • The steady rise in the market growth of gamification is not without reason. A study on the effectiveness of simulations and games on adult learners showed that participants scored:
    • 14% higher in skill-based assessments
    • 11% higher in terms of factual knowledge; and
    • 9% increase in retention rates.
  • According to;

    • 18% of modern day teachers use games for educational purposes on a daily basis.
    • 80% of learners said they would be more productive if their learning was more like a game.
    • 70% of teachers noted an increase in student engagement using educational video games.
    • 97% of children are playing some type of video games.
  • Demand is increasing:
    • 79% of employees and university students in a study said a game introduced into their learning environment would make them more productive;
    • 60% of today's workforce comprises of millenials who love the fun, transparency, and competition that they can achieve in a single social or serious game.

Gamification isn't all about fun. And it isn't all about technology either. Gamification has been shown to use 75% psychology, with 25% technology. Thus the focus of gamification shouldn't just be about the tech (which only really counts of 25% of the experience), but rather the psychology behind it - this can be super powerful.

So having gone through the stats, we thought we could now go through some points relating more specifically to libraries. 

Attracting different demographics.

Something that is sometimes quite difficult to master, video games will allow local libraries to engage and attract teens easier than ever before. Think of activities that could really spark their interest such as tournaments and competitions. However, don't discount other demographics. In the UK, 27% of UK gamers are in the 45 - 74 age group. Now we don't have the stats for Australia, but make sure we aren't making assumptions that will preclude other demographic groups from enjoying an activity which could provide them with genuine value.

Video game selection.

Remember that you’re in control. You and your team have the ability to select and feature non-violet games that develop young minds. We don't always need shooting zombies or axe-wielding trolls! Think of digital puzzles, touch-typing games, memory games & counting games. Games that highlight education will not only engage the smallest of library users but also keep mums and dads very happy. 

Also consider the numerous non-violent games that could engage teens and older users. Some of these can include exploration games such as Gone Home, Desert Golfing, Flower (a meditative experience/game), Minecraft, Fez, Journey (anecdotally one of the 'most beautiful games ever made'), Hohokum, Stardew Valley, The Witness, Lara Croft GO, and Firewatch, which is known for stunning art direction. This list has been compiled by Tim Mulkerin from Tech Insider, located at: . Check out the link for more info on each one. There are numerous other lists out there, that can expand on the options available to you and your library.

Also check out free adult educational games, such as those listed at the Center for Online Education: are games to learn how to code, games to learn how to speak a foreign language (or English for non-English speakers), Interactive Learning Challenges, and games that facilitate collaboration and team work etc. The list is endless.

Give the people what they want.

As a community based resource, sometimes it’s about giving the local community the resources they want (within the boundaries of what is appropriate). Regardless about whether gaming is our thing or not (and personally for me - it just isn't), the fact is, that there is an entire generation of customers who game regularly, and for whom gaming is as common as eating breakfast. Just because it isn't our thing, doesn't mean that it isn't an incredibly important and meaningful addition to your library for the generations and people (let's not just split users into generational demographics) who do value gaming. It's a steam train, it's coming right for us, and there is no stopping it. It's best we get on board, and get on board quickly before our communities fall behind.

It’s the Tech era.

High schools in the UK recently announced that they would be including digital coding into their 2017 computer science curriculum. Like points we made earlier, the digital age is here and we all better get used to it. Libraries needs to consider their digital strategy, and consider strongly if they are in fact holding back the development of their communities (children, teens, adults, seniors) by not featuring adequate tech and video games within the library for access. The point is to provide enough resources (and they don't have to be expensive), so that customers are empowered to take part in the digital economy, rather than fear it and withdraw from it.

Building life long skills. 

It's no secret that the children, young adults and even adults of today develop valuable skills from access to the right video games. Gaming can often help users develop teamwork, strategic planning, problem solving, decision making, forward thinking, literacy skills, spacial awareness skills, coordination skills, memory skills and organisational skills. However, the scope can go even further, when we consider the knowledge that can be learned.  According to GamesRadar (source:, you can learn about rocket science (think Apollo 13) in Kerbal Space Program, electrical engineering in Minecraft, programming through SpaceChem or Light Bot, typing through Fast Typer, dancing through Dance Central, fitness (like Yoga) through Wii Fit U, and even the running of a retail store through Recettear, etc. There is something for everybody, and it can often be free!

There is no clear answer or format to the challenge of an increasingly gamified environment. However, we hope to demonstrate that there are numerous positive attributes associated with video games and gamification in general, and that it is an important component in any 21st century library service. When in doubt - research, investigate, test, and measure. Oh, and importantly... have fun!


Share this with your friends and colleagues.