Jane McGonigal was on the Colbert Report the other night touting her new book Reality is Broken, in which she argues that game-playing is not only productive, but an activity to be encouraged. She’s an intriguing individual, and you can read more about her, including her appearance at South by Southwest 2008, in an IM interview on the blog Geek Gestalt.
I have to admit that I once entered physical therapy for a joint problem caused by playing solitaire to excess. Ultimately, I had to delete the game from my computer, and now I play solitaire the old-fashioned way (with real cards) and limit my online gaming to WordRacer and Fowl Words. Indeed, I do believe that games are worthwhile and often created board games when I was a school librarian as a way to make content delivery more fun.
So what does any of this have to do with Government Information? Well, the government funds an awful lot of research, and gaming definitely figures in some of it. If you go to the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) in the Alkek Library’s Research Databases and do an advanced search on the terms “games” and “learning,” the Department of Defense will be a frequent source agency in the results list. Just be sure to check with the Government Information staff if you find a report you’re interested in … you may save yourself the “nominal charge” for reports from the NTIS archives if the item is already in our depository collection.
Scientists are also turning to games and gamers to broaden their research base, as noted in the recent blog post “Leveraging research funds.” Jane McGonigal gave a nod to EteRNA in the aforementioned IM interview, too. Of course, librarians who have been following the professional literature won’t be surprised by any of this, as the American Library Association actively promotes gaming, particularly as a tool for increasing literacy.
However, I was most intrigued by what I found in CQ Researcher: an article on video games that attempts to give a balanced view of the pros and the cons of gaming. While CQ Researcher is a commercial product, it is similar to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in that it attempts to give relatively unbiased, in-depth information on controversial topics. The CRS reports are technically for members of Congress so that they can make informed votes on legislation, and unfortunately they are not a part of the Federal Depository Library Program. However, it is possible to find CRS reports from sources such as opencrs.com and the University of North Texas.
So read Jane McGonigal’s book, which states its conclusion in the subtitle, or do some research and come to your own conclusions about whether video games make us better and have the power to change the world.