Into the Blogosphere | The Gaming Life

Communication tools for gamers and librarians

Blogs are often defined as online journals in which writers share information, opinions, and personal experiences. But blogs have a much greater potential than this definition implies. They are tools that can be used to communicate not only with family members and friends, but with millions of people around the world. In the past few years, the popularity of personal and professional blogs has skyrocketed, and gaming blogs are thriving—adding to the diversity of video gaming content that can be found online. In a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (pewinternet.org), "Teens, Video Games, and Civics," and released in September 2008, 97 percent of the 1,100 boys and girls ages 12-17 surveyed play computer, Web, portable, or console games. According to the study, "more than a third of gamers read Web sites, reviews, or discussions related to games they play. Another 12 percent of gaming teens contribute to these sites, write reviews, and participate in discussions about games they play." Gaming blogs serve an important purpose for young people, librarians, and parents. Blogs help adults understand what teens are talking about and allow them to suggest outlets for teens who want to discuss game play with others or review games. Gaming blogs also help you understand the subculture around gaming and how to better serve gamers, and often provide ideas for library displays and updates to programs. According to the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) social networking toolkit for librarians, "Teens & Social Networking in School & Public Libraries: A Toolkit for Librarians & Library Workers" (ila.org/netsafe/SocialNetworkingToolkit.pdf), social networking technologies such as blogs "give teens meaningful ways to use and improve writing skills." Since gaming is so diverse, the gaming blogosphere can be confusing. Bloggers come from different backgrounds and offer a variety of perspectives and experience with games. Journalists tend to focus on gaming news, while fans reflect upon their favorite games. Every popular game has its own subculture that includes podcasts, blogs, videos, and other fan-created content of varying quality. The best way to keep up with the games teens play is to ask them what gaming blogs and Web sites they write for or read. Subscribe to the blogs, and find out if any local newspapers and nearby high schools have gaming or technology blogs. Library Blogs about Gaming After you've checked out the blogs and Web sites your teens are using, visit the American Library Association's (ALA) gaming in libraries blog at gaming.ala.org/news. The site is still being developed, but links to podcasts edited by library gaming enthusiast Scott Nicholson, with contributors like Jenny Levine, Eli Neiburger, Kelly Czarnecki, Beth Gallaway, Jason Puckett, and Chris Harris have been recorded each month since April 2008. These podcasts feature some of the strongest advocates for gaming in school, public, and academic libraries. Also, subscribe to Library Gamer (librarygamer.wordpress.com), a blog by Brian Mayer, a library technology specialist for a school library system in Western New York State. It doesn't update regularly, but his few posts highlight the correlation between AASL standards and games, the importance of gaming in libraries, and recommended board games for schools. General Gaming Blogs General gaming blogs focus primarily on electronic games and their culture. Subscribe to a few of them—it's a good place to start. These blogs can give you ideas for programs, displays, or additions to your collection. Just keep in mind that these authors only represent a small portion of the gaming community. If you work mostly with middle school students, check out 1up.com, the online supplement to Electronic Gaming Monthly, a popular magazine. It focuses on teen friendly games. For an older crowd, consider Joystiq (joystiq.com), written primarily for adults, which covers the hottest electronic games and the subculture around them. Also, check out Kotaku (kotaku.com), Joystiq's rival, which focuses on electronic gaming news worldwide. For those interested in game design, visit gamasutra.com. Teen Culture and Gaming There are also a few worthwhile Web sites that provide general information about teens and tweens. Ypulse (ypulse.com), founded by journalist Anastasia Goodstein, is one of the best sources for keeping up to date with all forms of youth media. "It provides news, commentary, and resources about commercial media for teens, entertainment for teens, technology used by teens, the news media's desire to attract teens, marketing and advertising and non-profit youth media." While the site is designed as a blog, readers can also subscribe to receive a daily email that includes news articles and blog posts about teens and media, including gaming. Not quite a blog, ICv2 (icv2.com) is another general information source that touches on gaming in addition to comics, movies, animé and other pop culture. Topics relate predominantly to high school age teens and older users. Most of the information is available in printed guides released every month, and there is an online newsletter that covers many of the key stories. Serious Side of Gaming Once you have a general idea of the games your teens are playing and those that will be released soon, you may want to subscribe to a few blogs that focus on the more serious side of gaming. One of the most respected gaming bloggers is Andrew Bub, aka Gamer Dad (gamingwithchildren.com). His blog is dedicated to educating parents on gaming issues, but many of his posts highlight resources that can be used safely in library programs and classrooms. Be sure to read his August 5, 2008 post in which he discusses why he promotes video games rather than reading (gamingwithchildren.com/2008-08-05/videogames-vs-reading). Game Politics (gamepolitics.com) takes a serious stand on the benefits of gaming, commenting on many of the news articles that report on the harmful effects of gaming. While the commentary is biased, this site can inform you about anti-gaming legislation in your area and provide credible sources you can use to defend gaming in your school or library. Something Different One of my favorite blogs is The Escapist magazine (escapistmagazine.com), an online zine and blog that is released once a week. While many blogs bombard readers with gaming news, you can read stories here about real gamers. Each issue focuses on a specific theme and is usually not time sensitive. Before subscribing to these blogs, take some time and consider a few important things. How much time do you want to spend on this each day? Look for blogs that will fit within your time frame. Also, consider the blog's purpose, how often it updates, and its primary audience. Have fun!
Jami Schwarzwalder is teen librarian at Pierce County Library System, South Hill Branch, WA

Gaming Blogs at a Glance

1up (1up.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written by game designers and other industry professionals for the general public. The Escapist (escapistmagazine.com): Updates weekly. Written for gamers by gamers and amateur journalists. Gamasutra (gamasutra.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written for game developers. GamePolitics (gamepolitics.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written for anyone interested in the crossover between politics and video games. Hosted by the Entertainment Consumers Association. Gamer Dad (gamingwithchildren.com): Updates almost daily. Written for parents and/or caregivers. Gaming in Libraries (gaming.ala.org/news): Updates semi-regularly. Written for librarians who offer or are considering providing gaming to patrons of all ages. ICv2 (icv2.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written for librarians and businesses. Joystiq (joystiq.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written for average gamers to cut through the hype and offer a unique focus on gamer culture. Kotaku (kotaku.com): Updates multiple times a day. Written for gamers from all over the world. Library Gamer (librarygamer.wordpress.com): Updates a few times each month. Written primarily for school media specialists. Ypulse (ypuylse.com): Updates daily. Written for media and marketing professionals.

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