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Games: Focusing on artistic and cultural value

Always working to meet faculty and student needs, VCU Libraries collects video games that have significant artistic and cultural value to meet the growing interest of students and faculty in the fields of animation, multimedia, digital worlds and gaming. The impetus of the collection, which started with 11 games, came from a faculty request to add both board and digital games to support a course.

The early collection (2014) features games across various platforms, and additional new releases are expected to be added soon. The games in the collection include critically acclaimed titles such as “Journey,” “Flower,” “The Last of Us,” “Shadow of the Colossus,” “Katamari Damacy,” “BioShock” and “Child of Eden.”

In 2015–16, the libraries began to collect games only available as downloads — important for representation of smaller, independent game developers. “Never Alone” and “Firewatch” are two significant titles. Also new is an “Alienware” gaming PC. This super powerful computer is located in The Workshop. A diverse collection of a dozen games includes “Papers Please” and “That Dragon Cancer.” These works are catalogued and they appear in library records, only for in-house use. This is significant because many libraries avoid downloads, which limits the collection parameters, or they don’t catalog games and instead rely on a finding aid. VCU Libraries catalogers developed creative, flexible workflows to manage these new-age materials.

“There’s a great interest in video games and virtual worlds in the School of the Arts and across the campus,” said Arts Collections Librarian Emily Davis Winthrop. “Gaming is emerging as a key area of research. We hope that this collection will support the growing research interests of our patrons and provide inspiration for the many creative endeavors occurring across campus.”

“We are purchasing games for research, teaching and learning — not necessarily for entertainment,” Davis Winthrop said. “We’re looking for games that have certain aesthetics, that are important to the history of video games and that have significant artistic direction, unique narrative or cerebral gameplay.”

ABOUT THE GAMING ROOM

The library’s Innovative Media department provides hardware support for the gaming collection and game developers in a dedicated gaming and group viewing room in The Workshop. Six video game consoles — Sony’s PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2; Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii U — provide users with the means to explore a wide range of game worlds. For computer-based games, the room is equipped with a high-end Alienware Area 51 gaming PC with gaming keyboard and mouse. Games and videos are displayed on a 47-inch, high-definition, 3D-capable LED monitor, and sound is supported by an LG wi-fi streaming sound bar with wireless subwoofer. Users reserve time in the room through an online scheduling system, checkout games and components at the information desk and seek help from knowledgeable staff about hardware, software and game play.

Collections of Distinction: Current focus areas

The “Collections of Distinction” initiative focuses on expanding and improving collections that provide crucial and unique materials for teaching, research, discovery and enjoyment.

Collections of Distinction exemplify VCU’s mission to inspire and foster creative ideas that celebrate diversity, inclusiveness and engagement on campus and beyond. Supporting established or emerging areas of research, Collections of Distinction receive funds to strengthen knowledge in the identified areas — with the goal of elevating them to national and international stature. At the fundamental level, however, they support and foster teaching, research and discovery by VCU’s faculty and students.

Current Collections of Distinction

  • Economic Botany/Medicinal Plants
  • Experimental Digital Animation
  • Forensic Science
  • Leadership Education
  • Poetry
  • Special Education and Disability Policy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Want to know more or discuss the Collections of Distinction program at VCU Libraries? Contact Karen Cary, head, Collection Analysis and Investment.