Friday, November 9, 2012

I have wonderful co-workers and an amazing director. I say this because they let me do crazy things like video game tournaments at the library. About once a year we have a big tournament of whatever game is hot that season. This summer I decided I wanted to take that concept and go big. I mean VERY big. As in a tournament series that spanned months (and consoles), leading up to a championship at the end of the summer. Each round the winners would be put through to the championship, and also get a small prize.

But I'm going to be honest with you guys... this program was kind of a flop. We had a lot of great things planned for this series... awesome prizes, a great line-up of games. And the kids who did come had a lot of fun, but we only  got about 10 kids each time, making it barely worth the effort. (Note I said barely... any time we have teens that deem our program good enough to show up for, I count it as a success.)

I know video game programs can work. We had one tournament a few years ago (Halo 3) where we had around 40 kids. So having a great video game program hosted by a library is do-able. We just need to perfect the formula.

Attendance complaints aside, though, our series was a lot of fun. We did an event for Soul Calibur, Mario Kart, and then our final championship. To make the championship event challenging, we introduced the newer generations to retro games they wouldn't have much experience with, such as Pong or Duck Hunt. It was kind of a "Video Games Through the Ages" event, because we eventually played through all the generations of consoles until we finally got to the 360, PS3, and Wii.

Our basic set-up for a tournament utilizes as many TVs and consoles as we can get our hands on. We've got a great group of teens that really want these tournaments to work, and will often let us borrow their equipment for at least a day, if not two. The actual tournament play is quite casual. We usually tell them they have to play a set number of rounds, and they have to make sure they rotate between all the participants. We let them have a few practice rounds, and when they're ready to do a tournament match, they tell us and we send a "ref" over. The "ref" watches them play, then reports who won. Winner gets 10 points, loser gets 0. This isn't the most refined method, but it's relatively simple, and we can get away with it because we have such a small group. 

Don't you love that beautiful trophy? This treasure was given to the winner of the championship, along with some cash. We always try to add some cheesy fun into the tournaments to keep the mood light.

One thing I think we should have done differently is to have more teens involved in the planning process. I've found that when teens have their hands in the initial plans, they are more invested in the final outcome. Also, it helps that they come out of the planning meetings feeling like equals. I also wish I had upped the PR. I used to sub and work at the library, and I noticed that when I was in their school life more often, I could remind them of things, or drum up excitement. I don't sub anymore, so I've been trying to think of other ways to keep them updated on whats going on. Maybe bigger and more flashy posters would do the trick. One with blinking lights and annoying music and a dancing elephant? Haha. 
We're doing another tournament this winter (Black Ops II, we think) so I'll try to apply these lets and let you know how it turns out. :]

If you're interested in trying to put together your own tournament series, I highly suggest checking out the book Gamers ... in the Library?! by Eli Neiburger. Even if you have no experience with video games whatsoever, this book will guide you through the planning process step by step. With everything from room arrangement tips to a set up check list, It's a must-have resource for anyone planning a tournament.

My advice for the day: You want to survive the zombie apocalypse, make sure you have a gamer for a friend. I've found that they pretty much all know the rules for surviving a zombie horde.

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