I was delighted (and oddly, albeit slightly, “discomfited”) to see the following ad in my emailbox recently:
Brodart is a company that has for decades specialized in library equipment, supplies, and furniture. (Note that I have no affiliation whatsoever with Brodart, save that I have used its mylar dustjacket covers for years, with their lovely, non-reactive plastic which prevent books’ covers from deteriorating as they do, and makes them all shiny to boot – sorry: you know, books, the kind one can hold and read and flip the pages of? But I digress). Education and gaming is not an “easy” partnership (as some would have us believe, but I don’t mean to imply that it need or should be), perhaps especially when administrators (of public educational institutions) are fighting politicians interested only in privatizing education) and parents (who are constantly looking for the next media scapegoat to explain their underachieving and generally apathetic children) are involved in the conversation. Yet here it is, “Gaming at Your Library,” which pleases me (and, I admit, somewhat dismays me as a gamer and as a library-goer).
For a mere $1345 (extracted from educational institutions with exceedingly difficult budget and cashflow problems, no doubt), your university library can get the “Brodart Solutions Gaming Station” (perhaps to put alongside its carrels?), the “wedge-shaped mobile gaming station with ganging capability.” Ganging capability. I know what that means, but tell me, does that or does that not sound off? The station also comes equipped with “locking cabinet” which “keeps gaming equipment safe and secure.” Well that’s good. But I suppose it also conceivably implies something about that equipment or the people who desire it. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of the ganging and potential theft that’s unnerving. (I’m sure, too, that clients will veritably demand that they receive their ganging-capable, lockable, wedge-shaped, mobile gaming station with the Victorian finish – no, I’m not making that up.)
A colleague of mine was equally as fascinated by the library-gaming development that the advertisement implies, and was specifically intrigued by the physicality of the station: that is, many students (I still hesitate to say “the majority of”) feel neither responsibility nor compulsion to physically enter a university library, and many gamers have no need of physically occupying the same space to play. My colleague says, “The ad implies the importance of attending to the physicality of places (and how we inhabit those places) and bodies as well as points to possible tension between gaming and academics. (To be clear, I do not see them as mutually exclusive).” Hear, hear! I wonder – should these gaming stations become commonplace in library spaces (about which I admit serious doubts) – if it may herald a return to those tabletop Pac-Man and Space Invaders games that used to appear in pizza parlors (in the days before one simply ordered one’s pizza online). I, for one, adore face-to-face gaming, even when not playing multiplayer titles. Perhaps such an endeavor as Brodart’s can put, in a limited way, the “connect” back in the term “connected.”