Running a Game Convention at Your Library

Game conventions come in all shapes and sizes… from small local shows all the way up to the sprawling PAX expos held every year in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, and Philadelphia. In a bid to move beyond “Game Nights,” many public libraries are now in the business of running their own game conventions.

Believe it or not, this task isn’t as hard as you might think. Especially because there’s no one way to organize a game convention at your library, and there’s actually many different approaches you can try…

  • Partner with a local game shop to host demonstrations of new games.
  • Recruit local game developers to show off their latest projects.
  • Ask for volunteers in your community willing to share their game knowledge.
  • Or some combination of all three!

But the best way to get ideas for your game convention might be to reach out to librarians who have done it in the past.

List of Library-Organized Game Conventions
Here’s a small selection of libraries who have organized their own game convention. If you’d like your convention added to the list, please let me know…

Location: Lockport Branch of White Oak Library in Lockport, Illinois
Links: Convention Website | Contact Page

Made In Rochester Game Festival
Location: Irondequoit Public Library in Rochester, New York
Links: Convention Website | Contact Page

Location: Bethpage Public Library in Bethpage, New York
Links: Convention Website | Contact Page

Location: Waccamaw Neck Branch of Georgetown County Library in Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Links: Convention Website | Contact Page

VGL Review… Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

I’m sure you’re already very familiar with Mario Kart 8, especially if your library has a publicly-available Wii U console or a circulating collection of Wii U games. But Nintendo has decided to fill out the Switch’s launch window with an enhanced and updated version of the game known as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

I recently reviewed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Warp Zoned, and it’s safe to say the game is just as essential the second time around:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers all of the same options as its original Wii U incarnation from 2014. Recognizing that many players who purchase Deluxe also owned it on the Wii U, Nintendo has unlocked all characters and courses from the get-go, as well as the 200cc Class and Mirror Mode. All the DLC content, even the Mercedes Benz Pack, is also included at the start, and Nintendo added more than a dozen new kart parts and five new characters (Splatoon‘s Inklings, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr.).

But all of this is just a prelude to the return of Battle Mode. Yes, Mario Kart 8 technically had a Battle Mode, but the jousting-style minigame was a huge disappointment, and I’m still baffled as to why Nintendo decided to do that to one of the franchise’s signature features. Thankfully, the Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe erases that horrible memory with multiple match types, all of which are exciting in their own way.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an all-caps MUST HAVE for all collections, and it’s now available for the Nintendo Switch.

VGL Review… Batman: The Telltale Series

batmanthetelltaleseriesTelltale Games has embarked on their biggest project yet with the release of the premiere episode of Batman: The Telltale Series. Following both Batman and Bruce Wayne, the publisher wants to tell the kind of Batman story that you don’t often see in games.

I recently reviewed Batman: The Telltale Series for Warp Zoned, and while some of the scenes drag a bit (especially the lectures from Alfred), I can’t wait to explore more of Gotham City in the future:

I’ve never played a Telltale game before, but Batman: The Telltale Series felt like a good jumping off point for their patented combination of dialogue choices and Quick Time Events. Even with the inclusion of a “Finishing Move” meter, it felt like the Quick Time Events were a bit pointless. But I liked that the conversation choices let me mold my Batman into a noble hero, rather than the psychopath he’s sometimes depicted as (even if many of the choices do boil down to “Punch A Mobster” versus “Punch A Mobster Really Hard”).

The first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series is currently available to download for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

A “Season Pass Disc,” which contains the first episode and a one-time download code for future episodes, is also now available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

VGL Review… Tumblestone

tumblestoneTumblestone, which I recently reviewed for Warp Zoned, is the best puzzle game to hit consoles and the PC in years. If your patrons are puzzle fans, consider it a must have for your collection.

And with an intense four-player battle mode, Tumblestone is also great fit for open gaming programs:

Developed by the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, Tumblestone’s closest cousin in the puzzle genre is probably Bust-A-Move, a Bubble Bobble spinoff that rose to fame in the 90s. Like Bust-A-Move, Tumblestone players will run back and forth along the bottom of the well while rows of blocks loom above. But instead of connecting three similarly-colored circles, Tumblestone players will attempt to clear the board by shooting three matching blocks in a row.

Tumblestone is now available to download for the PC, Wii U, and Xbox One. If you own an Xbox One, and you’re an Xbox Gold subscriber, it’s also available as a free download through August 15.

Tumblestone will also be available to download for the PS3, PS4, and Vita later this month, and a disc version will be released for the PS4 and Wii U in August.

Pokemon Go and Your Library

Unlike a traditional Pokemon game, Pokemon Go asks players to use the GPS function on their smartphone (iOS or Android) to find Pokemon out in the real world. In addition to searching for Pokemon that appear randomly on the map, players can also use Pokemon Go to find “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms” in their quest to become an accomplished Trainer. It’s easy to think of Pokemon Go as an app that’s very similar to geocaching with a virtual prize at the end, but this gameplay description from The Pokemon Company is very helpful… Continue reading

VGL Review… Superhot

superhotSuperhot is an amazing puzzle-based first person shooter that was recently released for the PC and Xbox One. Trapped in a VR world, players have to carefully plan their shots to take out a group of rapidly approaching Red Guys, but the twist is that time only moves when you do.

Superhot’s only available as a digital download right now, so it would be hard to add to a circulating collection, but here’s a review of the game I wrote for Warp Zoned:

“Time Moves Only When You Move.”

The developers behind Superhot know exactly what their minimalist first-person shooter is all about, and this succinct summation of the game’s hook is the perfect way to describe it to anyone unfamiliar with the game. It also tells prospective players that Superhot isn’t just a fast-paced arcade shooter (though it can be). Instead, it’s a deliberately-paced puzzle game where methodically figuring out the correct series of actions to complete each level is the only way to move forward. Even if you’ve never played a first person shooter before, it’s possible to pick up Superhot and understand what the game’s devilish AI has in store for you.

VGL Review… Mega Man Legacy Collection

megamnalegacycollectionOriginally released for the NES from 1987 through 1993, Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collection (PC, PS4, Xbox One) brought the first six games from the Mega Man franchise together in a single package. Players of a certain age (thirthysomethings, mostly) will thoroughly enjoy the side-scrolling platformers, preserved here with redrawn graphics and a high definition sheen.

I recently reviewed the Mega Man Legacy Collection for Warp Zoned, and while it was difficult to completely suppress my nostalgic love for the Mega Man franchise, I think the games in the compilation hold up well today for patrons looking to revisit them and new fans trying them out for the first time:

It’s impossible to look at a compilation like the Mega Man Legacy Collection without wondering how much influence my own memories have on my opinion of it. It’s not an unfair question. In my youth, I worshiped the six NES games that made up the “Mega Man Classic” universe (Mega Man, Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, Mega Man 4, Mega Man 5, and Mega Man 6). I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever be able to think of them objectively. Has the potent mixture of childhood nostalgia and muscle memory forever clouded my judgment? But I also have to wonder: does it matter?

The Mega Man Legacy Collection is currently available as a download-only title for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One. You’ll be able to add it to a circulating collection sometime next year, when the compilation will also be released as a retail disc/cartridge for the PS4, Xbox One, and 3DS.

How to Build a Quality Circulating Game Collection in 5 Minutes

Minute 1… Choose Your Platforms
Dozens of video game platforms have been released since the 1970s, though only a handful are active at a time. Personally, I think supporting as many platforms as possible is the best course of action, but that’s not always possible. If you are forced to limit the number of platforms in your collection, the best way to choose is to go directly to your patrons and ask them what platforms they’d like to see on the library shelves.

Minute 2… Visit Metacritic
Metacritic is a review aggreagator that averages together hundreds of reviews to produce a “Metascore” for every game. While not perfect, the “Metascore” is a reasonable approximation of the overall critical consensus for every game. So point your mouse here and get to it: Metacritic.

Minute 3… Make a List of the Top 10 Titles on Each Platform You Chose
Metacritic also provides a list of the top-ranked titles on each platform broken down further into a “games released in the past 90 days” list and an “all time” list. Cruising down each list and pulling out the top ten for every platform you want to collect. This process will give you a wide selection of games that covers multiple genres and player preferences. Basically, you’re picking a little something for everything.

Minute 4… Order the Games on Your List
You’ve picked your games, so it’s time to do it, hit that “Buy” button.

Minute 5… Bask in a Job Well Done
Obviously, there’s more to building a game collection than all this. But this process will give you a good base collection that you can then supplement in the future with additional titles. Like the ones I select every week as “The Video Game Librarian Pick of the Week.”