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Leveling Up Support of Gaming Programs

by Patrice Jane Williams


Abstract: Needed diversity in the gaming community has been a topic with the boom of video games over the decades. However, there is also a need for researching the diversity in library gaming programs. A millennial librarian attempts to contemplate the question, "What are libraries doing to level up support of gaming programs in diverse communities and specifically in HBCUs?"


Main Menu: Introduction


I bring attention to the needed support of the gaming community when it concerns the library. There were multiple questions I had when writing this. The first question is "how many gaming programs, majors, or studies departments are established in HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)?". The second question is "how many libraries in general are supporting this type of education?". Of course, both of these questions would require more heavy research but I am making observations of the increase of Esports programs at HBCUs from the past few years. "Leveling Up Support of Gaming Programs" is a response to the question of "Where are the internship or scholarship opportunities in the gaming industry for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) gamers and what are libraries doing to help the process?"  However, due to the recent events of HBCUs creating these Esports and gaming related programs I have not come across reports, statistics, or programs of how libraries are supporting these types of gaming career programs. Coming from a unique HBCU library in Atlanta that serves Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and the Interdenominational Theological Center, I noticed that many HBCUs are behind giant tech universities, like Georgia Tech, when it comes to the gaming industry. Over the course of the pandemic, many HBCUs have started up their own Esports programs, have established Esports teams or started degree programs, such as Benedict College. The HBCU Esports League is the first of its kind to promote and support game industry careers for Black and African American students.


According to Kroski, "Games and Gaming events of all types are actively being used in libraries as a vehicle to pass along valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) information literacy, and critical-thinking skills" (2020, preface). Personally, I have also used gaming in my information literacy instruction sessions in Humanities as well. Using games is a great way for faculty and students to interact with materials at the library. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder what libraries that have new and old gaming programs on their campuses are doing to support these gamers.


Main Quest: Growing Diverse Gaming Community


The concentration of game studies in academia has grown over the past decade and so has the gaming community. According to Clement, African Americans spend about 19.8 minutes daily playing video games for leisure, while other ethnicities also play a few more minutes each day (2022, "Average daily time spent playing games and using computer for leisure per capita in the United States in 2021, by ethnicity"). From the data visualization it can be inferred that gaming has become a large part of people's lives. If a percentage of patrons are gamers that come into libraries, the questions should then be asked are their gaming information needs being serviced.  Despite the assumption that games are for younger users or only for leisure, the game industry has become one of the main forms of entertainment and Esports has also become a viable career for gamers. In addition, Clement also brings forth the wide age range that makes up the current gaming community with the highest percentage, 36% between the ages of 18-34, but 6% age 65 and over (2022, "Distribution of video gamers in the United States in 2022, by age group"). With the highest percent age range being when most people tend to go to college, it makes me wonder how the shape of library programs will progress with this new information.


Furthermore, the majority of library gaming programs I have come across are for outreach events. However, I would like to know more about the gaming technology workshops or career building type of events. In support of newly developed programs at the HBCUs my library serves, I have been researching technologies and information on how our library can support the virtual reality project, Metaversity, at Morehouse College, our student Esports teams, and looking for gaming partnerships inside and outside the community. According to the Games and Gaming Round Table of ALA, there is a mission for academic and school libraries to provide support for these types of gaming programs: "School & academic libraries have a mission to curriculum support. Games provide stories and information, presented in a new format, that encourage critical thinking and problem solving and accomplish objectives of curriculum frameworks and meet AASL standards" (Games and Gaming Round Table, "Why have games in libraries?"). This is subject liaison development and I think it is important to think about what type of training for future and current librarians need to support this capacity. I know many libraries have differences when it comes to access to gaming technologies but is there a way the profession can certify basic gaming knowledge?


Side Quest: What is currently popular in the gaming world and why should we care?


It should be noted that the Esports (e-Sports, eSports, E-Sports, ESPORTS) industry has grown tremendously. With the rapid increase of technology and access to the internet, streaming has become a popular way to create extra revenue for many people, and is also a form of entertainment just like physical sports. The Esports industry is already a multi-million dollar industry with peak revenue currently estimated at a billion and expected to grow more; the industry has already shown continuous growth over the past few years: "It [Esports] is a billion-dollar industry, it's growing every year, and there is more opportunities, especially for African Americans and people of color in esports," said Dr. Paula Shelby, head of Benedict College's Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, to WACH Fox 57 News" (Benedict College, 2022, "Benedict College Becomes First HBCU With Esports Degree And Gaming Room"). It is not unexpected that this popular form of entertainment is generating a lot of revenue. From players to viewers, advertisements, sponsorships, merchandise, and much more, there are opportunities for businesses and gamers to generate revenue. For example, the 2022 League of Legends World Championship alone has a prize pool of 2.23 million dollars (Gough, 2022, "League of Legends World Championships prize pool from 2012 to 2022"). Moreover, Esports players earned 27.35 million dollars in prize winnings in the year 2021 (Gough, 2022, "eSports earnings in the U.S. 2012-2021, by prize winnings"). Since Esports and gaming culture are a significant part of our society now, it is imperative that the library science profession develops more training to meet the demand of gaming patrons.


Leveling Up Support


As I come to the conclusion of my observations I want to acknowledge the great work that has been done to include games and gaming within libraries. I think there have been great strides with individuals, organizations, and the work from ALA's Games and Gaming Round Table to spread the educational value and joy of playing games. Games and gaming programs are now more common events within libraries that I did not see growing up. Despite that, I think the library and information science profession can level up support by:

  • Developing library and information courses for games and gaming awareness
  • Developing certificates or programs for librarians for gaming technologies
  • For school and academic libraries, increase interest and awareness of Esports and other gaming programs to library staff

I hope that as a gamer and a librarian I will see more research about supporting gaming programs in libraries.


References


Benedict College. (2022, August 12). Benedict College Becomes First HBCU With Esports Degree And Gaming Room. https://www.benedict.edu/benedict-college-becomes-first-hbcu-with-esports-degree-and-gaming-room/


Clement, J. ( 2022, October 17). Average daily time spent playing games and using computer for leisure per capita in the United States in 2021, by ethnicity. Statista.  https://www.statista.com/statistics/502155/average-daily-time-playing-games-and-computer-use-usa-by-ethnicity/


__. (2022, October 17). Distribution of video gamers in the United States in 2022, by age group. Statistahttps://www.statista.com/statistics/189582/age-of-us-video-game-players/


Games and Gaming Round Table. Why have games in libraries?. Accessed December 14, 2022. https://games.ala.org/why-have-games-in-libraries/


Gough, C. (2022, August 15). eSports earnings in the U.S. 2012-2021, by prize winnings. Statista.  https://www.statista.com/statistics/1326699/earning-esports-usa/


__. (2022, August 15). League of Legends World Championships prize pool from 2012 to 2022. Statista.  https://www.statista.com/statistics/749024/league-of-legends-championships-prize-pool/#:~:text=In%202022%2C%20the%20League%20of,million%20U.S.%20dollars%20in%202018.


HBCU Esports League. (2020, October 25). First-Ever HBCU Esports League Launches to Provide New Opportunities in Gaming to Collegiate Gamershttps://www.hbcuesports.gg/blog/leagueannouncement


Kroski, E. (Ed.). (2020). 52 Ready-to-use gaming programs for libraries. ALA Editions.


Copyright 2022 by © Patrice Jane Williams.


About the Author:


Patrice Jane Williams is the Humanities Librarian at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, located in the heart of Atlanta. Patrice serves as the subject liaison for English and Music Studies and as peer support for African American, Africana, and African Diaspora Studies. She has a Master's degree in Library & Information Science and a B.A of English from Valdosta State University.