Versus Mode: Can libraries extend the value of a video game?

Paul doesn’t know that I’m doing this, so we’ll see if he responds.  He and I have been a tad busy this summer with a variety of things, so we haven’t been as active with our Versus Mode as we would have liked.  This is my first attempt to revive the series.

In a recent post, Opposable Thumbs explored the topic of what appears to be the shrinking gaming dollar.  These days, games for the XBOX 360 and PS3 cost around 60 bucks each.  That’s a lot of money for a video game, and in some cases, the games are shorter, not longer, than the games of the previous console generation.  Do the newer games offer additional value to merit the $60 price tag?  Do the fancier graphics make the price tag easier to swallow, even if there is not as much gameplay?  These are some of the questions gamers have to wrestle with when deciding if and when to buy a title.  Personally, I have yet to get a PS3 or a XBOX360, although I will likely get a PS3 someday.  I’m holding off for a cheaper price on the console and also cheaper prices on games.  Most of my games that I have on my PS2 and my PSP were bought as greatest hits titles with the discounted price of around 20 dollars.  WIth the cheaper prices, my dollar goes a lot farther.  As an example, I recently paid 15 bucks for Ratchet & Clank:  Going Commando.  The game took me about 20 hours to beat, so I definitely got a huge return for my buck.  While I don’t necessarily get to play the brand new titles as soon as they are released, if I wait  while, I can get two or three games for the price of one.

By contrast, a new version of Ratchet & Clank is available on the PlayStation Network as a downloadable title.  It currently lists for $14.99.  The game is not to be a full game, but merely a shorter experience.  The full version of the latest game, Ratchet & Clank:Tools of Destruction, retails for 60 bucks.  While the downloadable title offers a good experience, the question is whether its worth the money.  As Opposable Thumbs says:

But, for all that is good about the title, there’s no getting around the fact that the game is short. My first run through, with most of the secrets uncovered, ran just over 3 hours. That’s $14.99 for 3 hours of gameplay. To me, there’s nothing wrong with that; Quest for Booty is a highly-polished title from a great studio with some unique ideas. I could regurgitate the arguments comparing the price of the game to the cost of a movie in the theaters or a cheap meal, but the fact of the matter is that no amount of protest will prevent some people from skipping over a $15 game

As with most blog posts, the comments in the post are good to look at for getting some insight into this debate.  The question as it applies to libraries is this: Should more libraries be circulating video games in an effort to extend the value of a video game?  Isn’t that what libraries are all about?  Don’t we buy books, movies, music, and other media so that more people may use them as often as they wish?  Won’t our dollar go a lot further if libraries buy a game and have it played so much that it won’t play any more?  I can understand why many academic libraries are hesitant to buy games as many still think they are not research material, but how do we get past this barrier?  How do we realign our budgets to allow the purchase of games at the expense of books, movies, or cds?

Learning from Grand Theft Auto

GTA IIIChris Kohler, from Wired, confesses to have never played a Grand Theft Auto video game. I’m in the same boat, although I did have a brief stint with GTA: San Andreas, and am currently working on GTA: Liberty Series Stories on my PSP. In preparation for the arrival of GTA IV at the end of April, he’s working his way through some of the GTA series. In this post, he writes about his experiences with 2001’s GTA III. While he talk mostly about the gameplay mechanics and story, one thing of note is that he discusses how the game makes him learn. I’ve quoted an excerpt from his post below:

in this mission, you have to drive to a parking lot, grab somebody’s car, take it to a chop shop where a car bomb is put in it, drive it back to the lot, arm the bomb and run.

Sounds easy enough when it’s described to you. But there are several reasons why it isn’t, and each one of these problems (that a player is likely to run into) teaches you something critical about the gameplay.

  • The cops might pick you up. The parking lot isn’t far from the garage where you get the mission, but situated right between them is the Liberty City police station. Since the mission is timed, and the fastest way to the parking lot is right through a little grassy area that nice people do not drive on, you’re likely to just go straight over it. Then blow a red light. Then maybe wing somebody. All perfectly OK, unless you’re in full view of the cops. More than once, my Wanted level shot up to two stars just by driving by here like a jackass. Lesson learned: Drive carefully.
  • You can ruin the car pretty easily. If Mike Lips walks out of the Italian restaurant to find his car’s windshield busted and the hood missing, what’s he going to think? He’s certainly not going to jump in and start the engine, triggering his demise. So if you have any collisions on the way to the chop shop, you’ll need to take the car to the repair shop and get it fixed up. This kills two birds with one stone: It teaches you how to drive a car and not ruin it, first of all, and it also reminds you where the repair shop is, because knowing how to use it is an important part of the game otherwise — if you get your car repaired, the cops can’t find you anymore.
  • You have to park the car perfectly. On my second try, I got the car back with time to spare, but pulled it in the wrong way. The game told me I had to park correctly, so I tried to, but the car I’d originally arrived in was blocking the way and I couldn’t get it right. Then, while trying to adjust the car’s position, I slammed it into the wall and now it was busted up. Mission failed. What did this teach me? The next time I did this mission, I parked the first car way outside the lot, thus leaving myself a clean path to pull the bomb-car in next time.

Once you successfully make it out of this mission, you’ll have learned a great deal about the rules of the game. As such, accomplishing all of this was a great feeling.

Yes, while the Grand Theft Auto series is controversial and a bit violent, this excerpt is a prime example the learning process in video games.