Last week, my daughter came home from school with a flyer for something called “International Games Day @ your library”. As an avid purveyor of anything gaming-related, my interest was immediately piqued and I set out to find out just what this was. Turns out International Games Day @ your library is an initiative run by volunteers, and is designed to reconnect communities through their libraries in terms of the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games.
Originating in 2007, the free event started as an idea to set a world record for the number of people simultaneously playing the same game. In 2012 this idea was expanded to be a worldwide event, raising awareness of games and gaming in libraries to publishers and the public. The day has been celebrated in a number of ways, with some libraries offering tournaments (Super Smash Bros, Minecraft hunger games, Mario Kart, etc.), while others offer learning experiences geared towards introducing people to something they may not have tried before. Regardless of each library’s unique offering, one thing remains constant – they all have a variety of games on offer designed to bring communities to share a fantastic experience.
For our International Games Day experience, we decided to visit the Dandenong Library. The reasons for this were twofold – first, it was the main library advertised on the flyer that Lily brought home, and second, it was the closest library to where we lived. To be honest, I’ve not visited a library in around 20 years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The library had a very open plan, with plenty of space for giant versions of games like Chess or Snakes and Ladders, with tables spread throughout offering around 20-30 different tabletop games. This year, Good Games partnered with Asmodee to sponsor the event, and had donated copies of Dixit, Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, and Timeline for people to try out. Games spread in complexity from simple magnetic fishing games or Tiddlywinks to more involved games like Magic: the Gathering. To encourage the educational aspects of the day, each game was accompanied by printouts of the rules and a brief history of the game.
Alongside this, a number of PCs, Macs, and tablets were setup so people could try out various video games. Some were standalone, some were multiplayer, but all were free to play. This year, the event was sponsored by YummyYummyTummy, who donated copies of Nomnoms: Math Universe and Nomnoms: Calcuquest to the event. Better still, they offered these games as free downloads for anyone who wished to grab them on the day – regardless of whether they were at a library or not.
Rather than running a competition, the Dandenong library chose to run tutorial sessions instead. Between 1 and 2pm they taught people how to play networked Minecraft (in creative mode) while 2-3pm saw them trying to teach Magic: The Gathering. Unfortunately, the crowd was mostly 6-10 year olds, so the intricacies of Magic were a bit beyond them; however, it was still a great offer and the Minecraft session was overrun with participants, so it evened out in the end.
To further encourage families to “make a day of it,” the library organised free face painting and giveaways. The face painting proved especially useful when doing the Minecraft sessions as, with only ten tablets on offer, it provided a fun distraction for those waiting their turn. Giveaways came in the form of decks of Animal Snap given to everyone who attended the event.
My only criticism of the event is that it was heavily geared towards children and those new to gaming. With plenty of room in the Dandenong library, it would have been nice to see some older gaming groups attending to play games more complex than Jenga or Coits. Something simple like Tokaido, Machi Koro, or Ticket to Ride would have been fantastic additions to the day and would have encouraged people to view gaming as something more than just “family games”. That said, there were games like Chess, Mah Jong, and Magic: The Gathering, so it wasn’t all entry-level gaming.
This attitude was very apparent, with families attending that resembled a crowd visiting a play centre (in which their kids play while they stare at their phone) rather than a day to play games with their family and friends. I don’t think this is a fault of the library or more a general perception of “gaming” as a hobby. Who knows? Maybe Another Dungeon can offer time and games next year to run a gaming room and introduce people to a variety of new games.
No matter which way you slice it, the International Games Day is a fantastic idea! It provides a unique way for libraries and their communities to join together and engage in a way only gaming can offer. With games of all types, it encourages the younger visitors to interact with a diverse group of peers, share their expertise with others, and develop new strategies for gaming and learning. It’s also a fun, free way for traditionally underprivileged groups to have fun in the library and interact with other members of the community.
International Games Day is held on the third Saturday in November each year. If you’d like to know more about International Games Day be sure to visit the website, check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter. If you’re unsure whether your local library participates give them a call of check the interactive map at the bottom of this page. For more information on the Australian Library and Information Association you can visit their website.