Game On: Gaming Programming For Libraries

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven a mental health crisis as many have dealt with isolation, grief, and loneliness. Gaming can provide a shared experience and a way to fill this void. Libraries have done wonderful teen gaming programs over the last year. However, there is also an adult audience for video games.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven a mental health crisis as many have dealt with isolation, grief, and loneliness. Gaming can provide a shared experience and a way to fill this void. Libraries have done wonderful teen gaming programs over the last year. However, there is also an adult audience for video games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 64 percent of adults play video games, primarily to relax, to connect with friends and family, and for mental stimulation. These teen gaming programs can be adapted and expanded to families or adults.



For libraries looking to start or expand their video gaming programming, console gaming is the cheapest option. Played on a television or a handheld device, the Nintendo Switch ($299) is the best-selling console for the last several years. Compared to Xbox and Playstation, the Switch’s processing power and graphics are limited, with up to 1080p resolution in docked mode and a maximum of 60 frames per second (fps). With some models, it has been shown that after frequent use, the Switch’s Joy Cons have known drifting issues, so consider purchasing Nintendo Pro Controllers.

When building out your library’s collection, Nintendo’s exclusives are a must because of their many family games. Mario Odyssey and Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury features everyone’s favorite platforming plumber. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a continuation of the racing genre with Nintendo’s cast of characters. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a multiplayer fighter with over 78 playable characters across the gaming spectrum, including Nintendo classics, Final Fantasy, and Minecraft. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an open-world action-adventure in which Link explores Hyrule, kills enemies, and solves puzzles. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a casual simulation game where players plant flowers, craft furniture, decorate their houses, and collect fish and bugs. Octopath Traveler and Bravely Default 2 will appeal to those interested in turn-based role-playing games (RPGs). Splatoon 2 is Nintendo’s version of a first-person shooter, with players shooting pink or green ink rather than bullets. Other popular exclusives are Luigi’s Mansion 3, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and Pokémon: Sword and Shield.

Released in November 2020, the Playstation 5 (PS5) is the hottest console on the market and is extremely difficult to find. The PS5 has a regular edition ($500) that includes an optical drive for physical games, DVDs and Blu-rays, and a digital edition ($400) specifically for digital download games. PS5 can run up to 4K resolution and 120 fps and is backward compatible for PS4 games. There are reports of drifting issues on some PS5 controllers.

Playstation exclusives include numerous story-driven action-adventures. In God of War, Kratos and his son set off to spread the ashes of his deceased wife, while fighting monsters from Scandinavian folklore. In the survival horror “Last of Us” series, Joel and Ellie cross a postapocalyptic America filled with zombie-like humans. Spider-Man: Miles Morales will appeal to fans of the Marvel universe. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot: On the Run are great nostalgic 3D platformers. Persona 5 is a highly stylized RPG with social simulation elements where players explore dungeons by night and form relationships by day. For a racer akin to Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing is the best option. MLB: The Show 21 is a popular baseball franchise, while Gran Turismo Sport is a realistic racer. Other recommended exclusives are Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Ghost of Tsushima, and Demon Souls.

The Xbox Series X and S replaced the Xbox One in November 2020. The Series X ($499) has a Blu-ray player and 4K resolution, while the digital-only Series S ($299) has 1440p resolution. Both include solid state drives. The Series X and S have backward compatibility for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games as well as officially licensed Xbox One accessories.

Xbox’s best-known franchise is the first-person shooter “Halo,” in which Master Chief protects humanity from aliens known as the Covenant. Halo Infinite is scheduled to release later in 2021, but the Halo: Master Chief Collection and the multiplayer Halo 5: Guardians are currently available. Take on the role of pirates in the open-world, action-adventure Sea of Thieves as you find treasure, fire the cannons, and fight skeletons. Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Motorsport are realistic racers. In Microsoft Flight Simulator, released in July, players take the controls of various-size aircraft and fly throughout the world encountering multiple landmarks and landscapes. Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps will appeal to those interested in 2D platformers. Other notable games are the “Gears of War” franchise and Sunset Overdrive.

Beyond console exclusives, there are popular franchises across multiple platforms. Kill off monsters and upgrade weapons and armor in the action role-playing “Monster Hunter” series. Hunt, rob banks, and collect bounties in Red Dead Redemption 2, set in the old American West. Civilization 6 is a turn-based strategy game where players expand, explore, exploit, and exterminate in an effort to take over the world. In the first-person shooter franchise “Call of Duty,” players take on the role of soldiers or spies during World War II, the Cold War, and the future. Dance in sync to the latest music in the fun, multiplayer “Just Dance” series. “Assassin’s Creed” is an open-world action-adventure RPG where players switch between present day and their ancestors’ lives. Mortal Kombat 11 and Dragonball Fighter Z are 2D fighting games.

Sports games have a wide appeal for multiple audiences. Libraries should collect these latest EA Sport games: FIFA 21 (soccer), NBA 2K21 (basketball), NHL 21 (hockey), and Madden NFL 21 (football). Dirt 5 is an off-road rally racer. Tony Hawk: Pro-Skater 1+2 is a 2020 recent remake of these classic skateboarding games.



COVID-19 has put indoor library programs on hold. However, there are ways to host video game programs outside. In summer 2020, Tazewell County Public Library, VA, hosted trivia at a local park with the Kahoot! app. Librarians read questions with a microphone while teams played in their cars. The Kahoot! app allowed players to quickly get results. The Kahoot! app is free but does require a subscription fee to accommodate more teams. The Pottsboro Area Library, TX, hosted a Smash Bros tournament outside by projecting onto a wall with kids playing from their cars.

Starting a library walking program with augmented reality games, such as Pokémon Go or Jurassic World Alive, is another healthy, COVID-19-safe way to interact with patrons.

Tournaments are a fun way to engage with your video game audience. Racing, sports, and fighting genres lend themselves to tournaments, but even puzzle-based games, such as Tetris Effect or Puyo Puyo Tetris, can be played competitively. For smaller, one-day events, consider a single- or double-elimination tournament using free brackets from or a bracket generator from You can run a season’s worth of competitive games with “FIFA” or “Madden.” For these events, it’s important to wipe down controllers between each use, even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiplayer modes provide a cooperative experience. The popular battle royale Fortnite can be played in online co-op in duos or squad (up to four players) game modes. Fortnite has the added advantage of being accessible through multiple platforms, including PC, all consoles, and mobile. Host a Fortnite event where groups team up to win the victory royale. Pottsboro Area Library’s e-sports team competes in the first-person shooter Overwatch, which plays up to six people. For a nonshooter co-op, work together to overcome obstacles and race against the clock to make dishes in Overcooked: All You Can Eat. Or, move furniture and boxes out of your house and onto trucks, while dealing with exaggerated physics in Moving Out. Expect lots of laughing and shouting for any multiplayer game.

Retro gaming nights add a nostalgia factor that will appeal to Gen X and millennial adults. There are multiple ways to play retro games. When using the original console, you will need an analogue-HDMI converter. There are also collections on current consoles, such as The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and Konami’s Arcade Collection. Over the past several years, NES Classic, SNES Classic, and Sega Genesis Mini are a few retro game consoles released with a compilation of various games.

Watch parties of popular e-sports events and speedrunning are easy ways to increase enthusiasm among your video game audience. According to the 2020 Year in Review by Nielsen Superdata, 55 percent of adults ages 18–24 watched gaming content on Twitch or YouTube. Popular e-sport events include Blizzcon, IEM Katowice, and the League of Legends World Championship. Games Done Quick hosts an annual speedrunning marathon that benefits charities.

Although video games can be perceived as a solo experience, they have the potential to build bonds within a larger community. And when indoor programming resumes, libraries can be ready to further support and grow their local gaming community.



Libraries can reach their online gaming communities via Discord and Twitch. Discord is a free text and voice chat service accessed via app or a web browser. Librarians can create a server with separate channels. One channel can schedule sessions of Among Us, while another can exchange Dodo Codes in Animal Crossing. For an online Rocket League tournament hosted by Middleborough Public Library, MA, Chris Dargelis indicated that Discord allowed organizers to chat with gamers and troubleshoot connectivity issues. Dianne Connery of Pottsboro Area Library uses Discord to communicate with high schoolers in the library’s e-sports program, who tend to prefer it to email.

Twitch is a live streaming service where gamers interact with their community. Tyler Hixson of Brooklyn Public Library hosts a weekly Twitch stream of retro and contemporary games. He has a regular audience of 10–20 viewers whom he converses with through Twitch chat. In March, he highlighted games designed by women in honor of Women’s History Month. To get started, Playstation and Xbox can broadcast straight to a Twitch account. For PCs, connect a Twitch account to streaming software, such as Twitch Studio, Open Broadcasting System (OBS), or XSplit. Streaming with a Nintendo Switch or older console requires linking a PC to a capture card, such as the Elgato HD60S, and connecting to the Twitch account with a streaming software. Twitch’s Creator Camp offers recommendations for moderating your community, choosing hardware, and streaming via consoles and PC.

When considering programming, online multiplayers are great ways to team up with your community of gamers. Besides Fortnite, other battle royale shooters include PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds), Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) are a team-vs.-team game where each person plays as a character with unique abilities. Each team defends their home base while destroying their opponents’ base. Popular MOBAs include League of Legends, Dota, and Heroes of the Storm.

STREAM TEAM (l.-r.): Middleborough P.L., MA’s online Rocket League Tournament, and Brooklyn P.L.’s weekly Twitch stream, where patrons can play new and older games help keep communities connected

There are numerous casual multiplayers. In the social deduction game Among Us, four to 10 crewmates race to complete tasks on a spaceship before an alien impostor kills off fellow crewmates. Wendy Bittel and Lucy Chin-Parker of Granville Public Library, OH, run sessions of Among Us with teens using Zoom to communicate during the lobby and voting period. Communicating through the Nintendo Switch app, the author hosted Animal Crossing: New Horizons meetups on librarians’ islands, giving away DIY recipes, resources, and items. Although there were a few technical issues, each meetup was attended by over a dozen individuals, including kids, teens, and adults. “The Jackbox Party” series is conducive to library programs as only one copy is needed, while others log in through a mobile browser with a code. This series has numerous trivia, hidden identity, and bluffing minigames. Genshin Impact and Sky: Children of the Light are popular, free mobile games that have co-op multiplayer experiences.

In order to begin hosting or streaming multiplayer games, libraries will need to consider the costs. For consoles, there are subscription fees. Nintendo Switch Online is $19.99 annually, while Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus are $59.99, respectively. Hardware and internet connectivity must also be a consideration. In terms of minimum internet speeds, look for download speeds between 3–6 Mbps and upload speeds of between .5–1 Mbps with a ping below 150ms. The five-person e-sports team at Pottsboro Area Library needs 10 Mbps of bandwidth. WiFi connections can increase lag, so connect consoles or PCs via a wired ethernet cable directly to a router. For Nintendo Switch, a wireless LAN adapter is needed to connect via ethernet.

Gaming computers are more expensive than consoles. A 4-core chip processor will satisfy some gaming needs, but a 6- or 8-core processor is recommended, such as the AMD 3600 or AMD 3700. 8GB of RAM meets the minimum requirements for popular online games, including Fortnite and PUBG, but 16GB is highly recommended. Priced at $329, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 is the newest, lower-end graphic card on the market. Be aware that there is a current chip shortage for GPUs and CPUs. Steam is the best marketplace for purchasing PC games.



Designer board games and tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs) have exploded into the mainstream over the last decade. Dungeon & Dragons Fifth Edition (D&D 5e) has benefited from the popularity of Twitch streaming series Critical Role. Taking place in a fantasy setting, the Dungeon Master crafts a setting and story. D&D 5e relies heavily on dice rolls, character stats, and combat. The D&D Starter Set and the D&D Essential Kit have all the basic necessary supplies for new players and Dungeon Masters. The website of D&D’s publisher Wizards of the Coast provides access to basic rules as well as free character sheets. The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual are essentials for any library collection.

There are numerous TTRPGs for those seeking a different setting, tone, or style of play. Investigate the dark arts, go insane, and defeat the Old Ones in the 1920s-style Lovecraftian mythos Call of Cthulhu. Revolving around the works of Jane Austen, Good Society emphasizes crafting a collaborative story rather than mechanics, dice rolling, and combat. Similar to the TV series Stranger Things, Kids on Bikes embraces classic teen horror and dark fantasy tropes, while encouraging players to find unique solutions to challenges. For science fiction RPGs from popular media, consider Star Wars: Age of Rebellion or Altered Carbon: The Roleplaying Game.

For in-person TTRPG programming, set-up is as simple as laying out character sheets and sets of dice. For tactical combat, a grid map and tokens to represent monsters and characters will prove useful. For virtual programs, a game master can run a session through any video chat service using an approach called “theater of the mind,” which encourages more descriptive actions. D&D Beyond is a useful online D&D resource for tracking character sheets, rules, and monster stats. Roll20 is a free video chat service that allows for gridded combat and the uploading of various assets. Natalie DeJonghe of Oak Lawn Public Library has found success using Foundry VTT, which has a subscription fee, in conjunction with her personal D&D Beyond account. and have useful resources for a variety of gaming systems. In order to encourage a safe space and set boundaries, I recommend using strategies like John Stavropoulos’s X-card or Beau Sheldon’s Script Change RPG Toolbox.

When creating a collection of board games for circulation or programming, libraries should offer a wide selection of themes, mechanics, difficulty levels, and player counts. Build routes to score points in the 10–15 minute Ticket To Ride: New York. The cooperative card game The Mind challenges a group to play cards in sequential order, face up, with limited communication. Skull is a fun bluffing party game, while 5-Minute Dungeon is a chaotic real-time cooperative game. Collect vegetables to score the most victory points in Point Salad. Azul and Sagrada are beautiful drafting games.

Board games of medium or heavy difficulty include Wingspan, an engine builder with beautiful artwork of North American birds. With the goal of gaining the most victory points, actions include attracting birds to habitats, laying eggs, feeding birds, and drawing cards. In the Jack the Ripper–inspired Whitehall Mystery, one player drops body parts throughout London and hides their movement from the other players on a tension-filled chase. In the worker placement game Caverna, players take actions to gather food, dig into the mountain, feed their families, and go on expeditions. Root is an asymmetric war game where factions of cute woodland creatures compete to control the forest. For additional selections, see The Everything Tabletop Games Book, by Bebo.

A casual meet-up is the easiest in-person program. Starting meet-ups with an icebreaker, like Happy Salmon or Codenames, can reduce social anxiety for newcomers. Highlighting one specific game per meet-up allows attendees to learn basic mechanics and become comfortable with the library’s collection. Tournaments can engage a particular game’s dedicated audience; tournament play is well-suited to chess and Yu-Gi-Oh! and is adaptable to checkers, Scrabble, and Magic the Gathering.

Jessica Spears and Benjamin Perry of Brooklyn Public Library run virtual board game programs through Boardgame Arena and Zoom. They prefer BoardGame Arena over Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator because it has a gentler learning curve for new players. They also recommended using other free online platforms like the website

Whether in-person or online, console or PC, gaming programming is a great way to connect with patrons of all ages. Given the ever-increasing popularity of games, offering programs, support, access, and community cultivation is a sure way to expand libraries’ patron bases.

Chris Wilkes, Assistant Director, Tazewell Cty. Public Library, VA, enjoys TTRPGs, board games, and video games. His current gaming obsession is Slay the Spire. 



As Forbes reports, Activision Blizzard, the company that develops the “Call of Duty” franchise and the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run, and Overwatch games, has recently been served a lawsuit for ongoing sexual assault and sexual harassment that culminated in the suicide of a female employee, following years of reports of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The CEO of the company has resigned. The New York Times reports as well that the CEO of Riot Games, the publisher of League of Legends, is under investigation for gender discrimination.

Given these recent lawsuits as well as the increase of hate raids on Twitch, it’s important to have a conversation about bias in the gaming community. While many of the game developers are facing massive backlash, the misogyny, racism, ableism, and other prejudices in gaming extend well beyond the corporate lobbies and infiltrate in-game lobbies as well as Twitch streams and other social media.

When playing online multiplayer games, consider turning off in-game communications with members who are not in your party. This includes verbal comms as well as text comms. Doing so will help protect the individuals in your gaming group from slurs or reiterations of harmful stereotypes. It is important to emphasize that gaming is for everyone.—Anja Webb is Assistant Editor, LJ & SLJ.



Whether your library is planning to host an e-sports team or just install the latest consoles, vendors offer a range of furniture, fixtures, and equipment for your library gaming space.  

Atlantis Gaming Station. The Library Store.
This three-sided unit can be used to mount three separate 40-inch flat-screen TVs, enabling up to three multiplayer games to be played simultaneously—useful for casual gaming tournaments. Each side also features separate cubbies for gaming consoles; AV ports for DVD or Blu-ray players for when the station isn’t being used for games; shelves for games and accessories; and locking storage cabinets for equipment such as gaming guitars, remotes, headphones, specialty controllers, and more.

Esports Solutions. Spectrum Industries, Inc.
For libraries working with an e-sports program, Spectrum Industries, a partner of library supplier Demco, offers desks, seating, gaming stations, and “shoutcaster” stations designed for competitive play. A line of desks includes the Esports Evolution Electric “Sit-To-Stand” desk, an ADA-compliant desk with a push-button control that saves up to four height presets for sitting or standing players. Other options include the Esports Meta-Bank and Shadow-Bank Desks, both of which feature convex, tiltable workspaces. Spectrum offers four different types of ergonomic gaming chairs as well, including the Esports Genova Chair, available in six different colors to match a team’s branding. The OM5 Deluxe Esports Chair’s body-activated design is made to adjust to any user without the use of levers. The Esports Xpressions Gaming Chair features gel-cushioned adjustable armrests and repositionable memory foam cushions for the back and neck. And the Esports Curve Gaming Chair offers contoured lumbar support and pneumatic seat height adjustment. Both the Xpressions and Curve chairs can be outfitted with customizable stitched logo panels, and the Xpressions chair can include base inserts that match team colors.

Euro Metal Series. Kidzpace Interactive.
These durable, locking metal cabinets include a 23-inch monitor, attached dual controllers, and an Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch console preloaded with between 10 and 20 games. Kidzpace Interactive also offers the option to purchase the cabinet, monitor, and attached controllers for use with an existing console system. The cabinets are available in 17 different colors—in addition to a maple veneer finish version—to match the décor or theme of any teen or children’s space, and can be installed in a variety of ways: mounted to a wall or post, or attached to one of Kidzpace’s Mobile Pedestal carts or fixed Carousel and Euro Triangle structures. Separately, the company offers The Edge, a line of plug-and-play, stand-alone video game kiosks, also with a 23-inch screen, attached dual controllers, and a console preloaded with games. All units are designed to be easy to clean.

Touch2Play. Kidzpace Interactive.
These systems feature a large selection of proprietary card, sports, action, word, math, puzzle, and problem-solving games for all ages. Touch2Play Max features 70 preloaded games with a 21-inch HD monitor. These units can be wall mounted, attached to tabletops, or installed on one of the company’s carts or multi-unit structures. The smaller Touch2Play Pro line includes a 15-inch monitor with 40 games. Touch2Play Tables are 43-inch HD touchscreens in a tabletop configuration. Available with a dual leg base, as a mobile table on coasters, or with a fixed platform base, these units are all waterproof and designed for multiplayer interaction with 14 games and activities. The Toddler Touch2Play is a wall-mounted system with a durable 50-inch touchscreen and 10 easy games and activities for children ages two to six.—Matt Enis is Senior Editor, Technology, LJ.

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