HHH: Video Games & Esports

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Hello! Henry here. I’m happy to highlight a new high-tech hot topic. It’s historically been a hobby, but now it’s headlong become a hardcore habit, heavily hitting the right buttons on people’s hearts. Today I’m talking about…

Video Games & Esports


NEWSFLASH!

Two weeks ago, Google announced it was getting into the gaming business with its own platform called Stadia to come out this year:

Logo for Google Stadia

A week later, Apple announced it was launching its own gaming platform this year called Apple Arcade (along with other new services such as a credit card and streaming TV channel).

Logo for Apple Arcade

What’s so special about these two tech giants’ gaming platforms? Typically video games require special hardware called consoles, but Google and Apple are each promising their platforms will remove the need for players to buy separate consoles and will instead put games on what people already own – their phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and TVs.

Google Stadia will actually run through the Google Chrome browser, which will stream the games live over your broadband. It will be integrated both with Google’s voice assistant so you can get help from the AI during challenging parts of the game you’re playing, and with YouTube (owned by Google) so you can easily share out a live stream of your gameplay.

Meanwhile, Apple Arcade will be an app that will run on Apple devices. It will be like a Netflix of games – an all-you-can-play service via a single subscription.

Details are still slim about both platforms, especially Google’s – but we do know Stadia will require an Internet connection, which means no playing offline. As for what internet speeds you’ll need to support Stadia, Google recommends 25 megabits per second – the same speed that Netflix has suggested to watch their streaming content. Most of the libraries in Texas don’t even reach this 25 Mbps download requirement for all patrons sharing their network WiFi bandwidth.

So why should I care?

What impact will two of the biggest industry names in the world entering the gaming market have on our communities and our libraries? What does gaming have to do with libraries anyway?

A lot actually. Both games and libraries are more connected than you might think. As ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries points out:

  • Both promote interest-driven learning and self-directed discovery.
  • Both help improve social skills. ALA writes, “Equally important, libraries as public gathering spaces can capitalize on the benefits of co-play, helping to improve players’ social skills by encouraging play together, in small groups, or large classes. The social setting of the library may also encourage users to be reflective in their play, building awareness, asking questions, and processing what is being learned through play.”
  • Both support digital literacy. Games help and encourage people to learn how systems (like interfaces and computers) work. These are crucial, next generation job skills, and libraries being in the business of assisting their communities with workforce development are wise to take notice.

For these reasons and many others, libraries – even here in Texas – have recently started offering esports programming.

Esports?

The Future Today Institute (FTI) publishes an annual report on emerging technology trends, and for the first time in 2019, they’ve included esports – competitive digital gaming with all the trappings of traditional sports. They write that, “advancements in both gaming technology and streaming capabilities have led to an astronomical rise in its popularity and perceived legitimacy in recent years.” And they predict it’s primed to continue as a major cultural phenomenon. According to a market report by Newzoo, global esports revenues have reached $906 million in 2018, a year-on-year growth of +38%. The ridiculously popular game Fortnite is a big reason for this. Viewership of esports tournaments may soon rival those for the NFL. FTI points out esports results in a more engaged audience because it’s so accessible – the skills needed to compete are more attainable than classic athletic sports, “closing the gulf between fans and competitors.

Screenshot from Simpsons episode featuring esports

What does the rise of esports mean for libraries?

I’m glad you asked! There’s a lot to explore here.

I’ve actually asked someone who successfully runs an esports program for their public library to conduct a free webinar for us on the topic of esports and libraries next month on April 25th . Hope you’ll join me! Here are the details and the link to register below:

Title: Get in the Game: Esports and Libraries

When: Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM CDT

Description:
Have you heard of esports but want to learn more? Ever wonder if esports could be featured in libraries? Interested in reaching and engaging more patrons through gaming and esports? Are you intrigued by a program offering which attracts a broad cross section of patrons of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic standing? Let’s take an in-depth look at esports and its community and discuss ways to build more games-related programming in libraries. Join our webinar with Tristan Wheeler (Outreach and Programming Services, Cleveland Public Library in Ohio) for an introduction to the Cleveland Public Library GAMING & ESPORTS event series. Discover how the world of libraries meets all things gaming and learn why a program like this is important to his library and could be for yours!

CE Credit: 1.5 hours

Register now for this free webinar from TSLAC!

Let’s play with the idea! See you April 25.

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