I'm a little less murky today and so feel more prepared to explore the topic of online gaming. So without further ado...
1. It is our responsibility to provide resources that are useful and/or desired to our users. It is not our job to dictate to them what they should find useful, or what they should desire. This stance on my part probably comes as no surprise. Years back, when I was in grad school, there was a spunky DIY lass named Violet who handcrafted an amazing zine called The free-press death ship. I was and remain a huge admirer of Violet because I'm sure it was no small feat to create this publication. Violet was a prickly pear and she saved the bulk of her ire for the institution of the public library. That's right--she hated public libraries something fierce. But I admire the hell out of anyone who's willing to devote what must have been hundreds of hours to a publication the bulk of which was spent on complaining about the Dewey Decimal system, or ISBNs. I distinctly remember that one of her contributors reported that a public library had de-accessioned (weeded) most of its classical LP collection to make room for Spanish language materials. This made the whole FPDS bunch hopping mad. That LP collection had some gems in it! And those dumb mouth-breathing librarians weeded it to make way for some stupid Spanish trade fiction! Or something! Well, now, you see where I'm going with this don't you? I have a hunch those LPs weren't racking up the circulation numbers. I have a hunch the ethnic demographic of that certain branch had seen some big changes. And I bet those librarians were just audacious enough to provide their user (taxpayer) base with materials they wanted and needed. There's a connection here. Libraries are always saying they want to draw in the youth audience. We do great with kids and adults, but there's a big gap in between and we need to do more than just hope that the little ones that were at story hour when they were 5 come back again someday in adulthood. Online gaming is one way to do this. For the youth audience, online gaming is what they are using. Whether we like it or not is irrelevant.
2. We should like it. Online gaming is, indeed, literacy activity:
"In recent years, researchers and educators have put forth the notion that playing videogames requires learners to enact a form of literacy that is qualitatively different from, yet as sophisticated as traditional academic literacy (Gee, 2003a; Squire, 2005, 2008; Steinkuehler, 2008). On their way to becoming videogame-literate, players engage series of complex problem-solving activities that require them to think strategically as well as engage on highly interactive cycles of hypothesis generation and testing akin to those that take place in science and good composition (Gee, 2003a, p. 90)." http://www.glsconference.org/2008/session.html?id=40
Note the Steinkuehler reference. The Metronet lecture I attended was conducted by her (Constance Steinkuehler) and Kurt Squire. They are professors at the University of Wisconsin--Madison.
Here are her Powerpoint slides:
Steinkuehler makes an incredibly compelling argument for the value of online gaming in general and, in particular, for online gaming in the public library. Slide 74 of her presentation annotates a typical online gaming exchange and makes clear its relevance as a literacy activity.
3. But aren't online gamers crazy? Aren't they always screaming for Mountain Dew and playing until they drop from exhaustion? At the Metronet lecture, someone in the audience asked a question along these lines to Steinkuehler and without missing a beat she shrugged and said something to the effect of: addictive behavior is addictive behavior. People get compulsive about knitting. That's a behavior issue, which the library needs to have policies in place to address. It is not, in and of itself, an issue around online gaming. In many ways this is a simplistic answer--I'm aware of that. But I think she has a point. Misbehavior is misbehavior.
Let's also not forget that the bulk of online gamers are, in fact, NOT annoying teenagers. The teenagers are just the loud ones.
There's a lot going on here with this issue. But I do think that providing people with a controlled space for online gaming in the public library is a good thing.