Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tournament of Champions

This past weekend our library hosted our second Super Smash Bros. Brawl Tournament. The first tournament was held on American Library Association's National Gaming Day and the response was so great, we decided to have another. Though many of the tournament participants already own the game and have been playing it steadily since it was released a couple years ago, they love coming together to test their skills and see who can emerge victorious.

We were able to provide some small prizes for the first tournament, but we didn't have the ability to purchase incentives for our second event. However, that didn't deter any of the players from participating. When I announced we didn't have prizes, the most negative response I got was an "Awww, man!" That said, I did bring a plate of my famous chocolate chip cookies for the players to enjoy, which was more than enough to entice people to join the tournament. It never helps to have a little extra incentive!

One of the coolest things about video game programs (and heck, many other types of library programs, for that matter) is that they bring together individuals who may have nothing else in common other than their love for games. Despite the fact that a lot of the kids and teens who took part in the tournament weren't necessarily "friends," it didn't take long before they were all cheering for one another and there was positive energy flowing through the room.

Many libraries already hold gaming events, but more should do so! Tournaments are pretty darn easy to run, and with a decent amount of promotion, you'll likely get a healthy number of attendees. As with any program or event, good planning and preparation are critical, but it's also very easy to find "assistants" to volunteer to run the event with you. For example, I had one attendee who didn't want to enter the tournament but was happy to sit by me and provide play-by-play as the battles played out. Setting the ground rules up front (such as "No booing, only cheering") will help to keep things friendly and fun.

One final bit of advice: Don't do the old "bait and switch" routine. I'll wait until a later time to discuss whether or not video games qualify as a "legitimate" library resource (hint: they are), but there is a popular idea amongst librarians that video games should be used to lure kids and teens into the library so they'll start using "real" resources like books.

Don't do that.

Kids and teens aren't stupid, and they'll smell your scheme a mile away. You'll scare them off! If you are going to offer a gaming program, do just that--no strings attached. And, chances are, some of the attendees at your gaming events will eventually expand their horizons into making use of other areas of library service. But that won't happen if you're a phony!