This past weekend I spent some time in Seattle, Washington. The purpose of my visit was the PAX Prime Convention, brainchild of Penny Arcade giants Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. PAX is, at heart, a gamer convention. Specifically, the convention is an amalgamation of video and table-top gamers as well as PC programing and media (and booth babes, but that is a post for a different blog). The convention spanned half a dozen buildings and the expo hall packed to capacity (we were continuously accidentaly violating fire code). The convention lasted three days and showcased multitude of panels for the unique “types” of gamers in attendance. One of my favorites took place on Saturday night; “Books and Video Games: Will their Mutual Enmity Burn Forever?”

The panel was unique for PAX in that everyone queued without being herded like cattle, respectfully asked questions, and didn’t push or shove to meet the authors at the end of the panel. We all took turns like good little literati. I won’t berate the “aspiring authors” for punishing the rest of us in their attempt to get published, but will simply say the panel was prepared to brush them off gracefully. On that panel were author Peter Orullian, Evan Narcisse, “professional nerd for hire,” sci-fi and horror author Mark Laidlaw, and Jeff Ryan, author of Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America. Moderating was Lev Grossman, Times book reviewer and avid gamer.

The gentlemen discussed a variety of topics, including “what do gamers like to read” and “what games do readers like to play?” There are many very real connections between gaming and literary communities, despite the popular misconception that “gamer’s don’t read!” and vice versa.  The panel also addressed the writing issues within video games (don’t get me started) and the problems portraying video games in literature. Two books stood out as particularly adept demonstrations of games in books: Snowcrash and Ender’s Game. Of course, there are also video games with exceptional stories. At one point during the panel Greg Lossman exclaimed “Holy *expletive,* Portal 2 is the best novel I’ve read this year!”

Something in particular resonated with me as I was sitting in the first row, chuckling at gamer jokes. As the discussion progressed I notice that everyone in the room was operating under the assumption that the only crossover between readers and gamers was the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Hadn’t I just picked up Ann Rand’s Atlas Shrugged? Wasn’t one of the best books I’d read this year The Fall by Albert Camus? Who says that an avid gamer (RPG girl, myself) can’t enjoy a little French Existentialist literature?

Then I considered the larger issue: how do we as librarians handle this? We have begun to carry movies, video games, all sort of multimedia and multimedia resources in our libraries. I think many of us can attest to the high demand for these types of materials. The younger generations are quickly growing into potential patrons and the older generations are adopting smart phones as quickly as the rest of us. What are we doing to serve these demographics? Are we capitalizing on the crossover between demographics, like gamer and reader? Isn’t the e-book enthusiast just as important as the page-turner? Libraries are houses of knowledge and guidance regardless of information format. What are we doing to ensure we are serving our patrons to the best of our abilities?

One thought on “Books & Video Games: Will Their Mutual Enmity Burn Forever?

  1. Great post, Taylor. I think you’re right that a lot of librarians stereotype what certain people read. Oftentimes it is right on, and other times we are way off! I’m really interested in what you find in your research on this topic.

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